It’s is a major epidemic these days and with our super busy lifestyles everyone is at risk of majorly taxing our bodies with excess stress. And so many symptoms you may be experiencing could by caused by or contributed to by stress.
Did you know that stress can weaken your immune system, shorten your lifespan, contribute to sexual dysfunction and make you fat?
Yep, stress can be nasty!
And because it effects everyone’s body differently its really hard to pinpoint if your symptom or health concern is actually caused by stress.
I have already talked about HERE how the brain is way more productive and creative when positive than when negative, neutral or stressed. Negative emotions and anxious feelings can really run havoc on your body and mind, and if you are like most people you have been stressed out for so long, your body has almost forgotten how to relax.
Some Possible Effects on Your Body From Stress!!
Stress can cause all of the following!
- Memory problems, poor judgment & an inability to concentrate
- Constant worrying, moodiness, having a short temper as well as depression
- A sense of loneliness and isolation
Although the cognitive & emotional symptoms may seem more obvious there are also Physical symptoms that stress often is the cause of. Symptoms such as:
- Weight gain
- Aches and pains
- Diarrhea, constipation, nausea or dizziness
- Frequently sick with colds
But feeling stressed out isn’t normal and doesn’t have to be an every day occurrence. I’m going to go through some strategies below to help you reduce stress and also some techniques to use when you are feeling stressed to try and reduce the effect that has on your body and mind.
Ok so what do we do about it?
So now that we know stress is a serious issue I want to go through 4 ways that you can start to reduce your stress levels and start feeling happy once more.
So the first thing I want to talk about just briefly is nutrition. Because I feel that what I eat has such an impact on my ability to deal with stress throughout the day and although this is going to be different for different people I wanted to touch on why some foods may be contributing to how much stress you are feeling and why some foods may actually help you feel more in control and able to deal better with ordinarily stressful situations.
One of the biggest things that affect my moods and how I deal with stress personally is how much sugar I am consuming.
Reasearch as shown that ‘Poor blood sugar balance is often the single biggest factor in people suffering mood swings, depression and anxiety. Having big blood sugar swings lessens your ability to cope with stress.
Highly processed foods and foods high in sugar play havoc with your blood sugar balance as they create blood sugar surges followed by a crash. Try to reduce the amount of processed foods and especially refined sugary foods and see how it affects your stress levels.
And then look to add into your diet some stress reducing foods such as more greens and healthy fats.
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish such as salmon and tuna, can prevent surges in stress hormones and Avocados are loaded with B vitamins, which stress quickly depletes and which your body needs in order to maintain healthy nerves and brain cells.
Stress can actually weaken our immune system so upping our intake of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, we can boost our immune system and help us to feel less stressed out. Try spinach for some extra magnesium, which can help to regulate your body’s level of cortisol which is our stress hormone and some asparagus which contains a natural mood lightener folic acid.
2. Have fun
This is the most basic and easiest way to reduce your stress level. It sounds simple, but many people don’t practice it enough. To me, this means spending time with my husband hiking or mountain biking, cooking, playing with my nephews or going to the beach.
These days its too easy for us to forget about having fun. We have so much on our schedules fun gets pushed to the very end of the priority list. However see if you can schedule in some fun time like you schedule in your meetings. It’s a massive stress reliever and so actually part of prioritising your health.
A systematic review published in the journal Depression and Anxiety in 2012 showed that meditation significantly reduces levels of stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline.
Adrenaline activates the amygdala, which causes us to panic over things not worth panicking about, and unnecessarily high cortisol levels cause widespread physical damage and disease. Regulating production of these hormones through meditation is really awesome for your health.
Through meditation you also learn to become more mindful and work towards mastering your emotions which helps you become less reactive.The goal of meditation is to become more mindful, be more directive and choiceful with your attention and responsive (not reactive) to your thoughts. Meditation allows you to identify, observe, and master your emotions. Instead of blindly reacting to outside stimuli, you can optimize your thought process and react as you see fit.
Several ways to practice mediation are counting, reciting mantras, breathing, practicing mindfulness and positive self talk. There are also a range of apps out there that can help you get started with meditation. Im currently using one called headspace which is working really well for me and has lots of different meditation programs you can do in as little as 10 minutes per day.
Meditation can also:
- The practice can lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation associated with chronic disease.
- It can enhance immune function and lessen fatigue,
- ease anxiety and depression, down regulate stress hormones, improve mood, resolve sleep difficulties, and boost self-esteem.
- It can strengthen memory and problem solving skills, sharpen concentration, improve decision-making, and slow the deterioration of cognitive abilities that comes with age.
So there are so many benefits of meditation and you really don’t have to practice it for long per day. Even just 10 minutes can lead to some really good outcomes for your body.
4. Pranayama Yoga
I am a big fan of yoga. For a number of reasons. For me I used have really bad knee pain that stopped me running and back pain that made it really hard for me to sit in a chair for long periods of time but after about 6 months of yoga practice. And yes it did take a while, all my complaints just started to get better. No more sore knees or back and the aches and pains have never come back. But although yoga is awesome for your body its also a great way to get some movement and stress relief into your day.
One of the big benefits of yoga is that you are taught how to breathe.
You need to learn how to breathe. Most people suck in air using the intercostal muscles of their chest. The right way to breathe is with your diaphragm, also known as belly breathing. This kind of breathing helps you relax and control your heart rate.
Taking some deep breaths even without the yoga class however is also beneficial. Try doing the following a few times each day or if you feel stressed.
Breathe in to the diaphragm through the back of the throat for 4 seconds
- Hold for 4 seconds
- Breathe out slowly through the back of the throat for 6 seconds
- Hold empty breath for 2 or more seconds
At first, it is common to feel like you’re going to die when you hold your lungs without air in them for even a second or two. But then your brain rewires itself to be calmer as you keep practicing slow breathing.
Your challenge for today is to try just one of the stress relieving strategies above. Even if it’s just taking a couple of deep breaths in a stressful situation.
Want To Get Better Results, In Less Time With More Accountability?
Well to cut out the guess work I have put together a 7 day Clean Living Challenge to help keep you accountable and supported as you get started on your journey. This free 7 day program will help you:
- Learn how to recognize what foods work for you and what foods don’t
- Discover how to destress your body including tips for first time meditators
- Start feeling healthy & happy again with actionable strategies
- Get back into the kitchen with fast, healthy & tasty meal plans
- Progress towards food freedom. No more worrying about what to eat and when. No more willpower required.