We all know stress, especially after the last 18 months. Stress is normal and can affect anyone and everyone at any time. Stress can be:
Physical: fractures, muscle injuries, blood sugar imbalances, chronic infections, even food sensitivities
Emotional or Mental: fear, excitement, worry, anxiety, or social disconnection
Chemical: environmental pollutants, smoke, heavy metals, medications/drugs, toxic food, mold
Predestined: (Things that cannot be or are difficult to change) job, family, location
Stress presents itself as digestive issues, elevated blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety, chronic infections, depressing, weight loss, and more! So, what is happening in our bodies when we encounter stress? Any kind of stress (good or bad) triggers nerve and hormonal signals that prompt the adrenal glands (the little triangular glands that sit on top of your kidneys) to release hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.
Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates blood pressure, and boosts energy supplies.
Cortisol increases glucose (sugars) in the blood stream, decreases non-essential functions (like digestive system, reproductive system, and growth), and alters immune responses. When we have constant stress, that can lead to prolonged cortisol secretion, which can cause muscle wasting, hyperglycemia, immune suppression, and an increase in belly fat.
Some chronic health conditions are related to chronic stress and high cortisol levels. These include diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, infertility, menstrual irregularities, Alzheimer’s depression, infectious disease, GI disorders, autoimmune or inflammatory disorders, increased allergies, and hormonal imbalances. These chronic diseases and more are why it is important to regulate our stress throughout the day.
But sometimes that is easier said than done, right?
Here are a few ideas that can help you de-stress:
· Breathing Exercises
· Yoga/Tai chi
· Getting adequate (7-9 hours) of sleep
· Taking mini breaks throughout the day & disconnecting
It is also a good idea to have REAL self-expectations and boundaries. Learn to forgive yourself for not being on top of everything all the time. Disorganization with intention. If you must focus on something else and leave the clean laundry in a pile in the middle of your living room, it is ok. If your work calls you to come in on your day off, you can say “no” and not feel guilty about it. Need to take a nap? Ok!
Sleep is one of the best things you can do to reduce your stress. Make sure you are getting to bed at an appropriate time for your natural body rhythms. How do you know? Do you still feel groggy in the morning? Go to bed earlier and try to have a set bedtime. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of good quality sleep on a regular schedule every night.
Teens: 8-10 hours
School-aged kids: 9-12 hours
Preschoolers: 10-13 hours (including naps)
Toddlers: 11-14 hours (including naps)
Babies: 12-16 hours (including naps)
Lack of sleep can affect mood, memory, increase blood pressure, increase stress hormone levels, compromise immunity, lead to weight gain, premature aging, diabetes, heart disease, etc.
Some other ways to reduce our stress is to get out into nature. Take a hike in the woods, surrounded by trees, and just absorb the goodness around you. Be present in the moment. You can also play! When was the last time you played tag? Or make-believe? Or a board game? Be creative! Write in a journal. Learn a new skill or hobby! Listen to music or dance!
Stress is always out there, but there are ways to manage it and have better health and wellness!
What are some small steps you can take, today?
Are you ready to pivot to functional health and wellness?