Don't let stress get the best of you! Get ahead of it and relax with these great tips!
Stress is an unavoidable part of life. We all experience stress in one form or another on a daily basis. Through life experiences, we all develop our own ways to cope (or not cope) with stress. If left unchecked, the chronic stress can develop into physical and emotional imbalances that can weigh heavily on ourselves and on those around us. Since we are constantly being bombarded with various forms of stress, we need to have ways of offsetting the damages. Thankfully, through some simple diet, supplementation, and lifestyle adjustments, we can help our bodies and mental states relax and let go of the stressors of daily life.
Physical and Emotional Impacts of Stress
There are many different physiological changes that happen within our bodies when we experience a stressful situation. These changes can be felt throughout the entire body, starting from the top. When we experience tension, the first impact is within the hypothalamus of the brain. This tiny center in the brain signals the stress hormones that trigger the “fight-or-flight” response, to be released by the adrenal glands. The cortisol and adrenaline, known as the stress hormones released by the adrenals, work by constricting the blood vessels, increasing blood pressure.
During times of stress, our bodies also produce more glucose and testosterone to help give the body a boost of energy, and the ability to take action and defend itself from the stressor. This can lead to insulin resistance and hormonal and reproductive imbalances in both men and women. With chronic stress, the immune system gets turned on into overdrive which can lead to a prolonged recovery time from injury or illness.
Emotionally and mentally, stress can take a nasty toll on the body. With prolonged states of stress, we become agitated, depressed, anxious, angry, exhausted, and simply on edge. This does not just impact our own lives, but it weighs heavily and impacts those around us as well. If we are constantly stressed and unable to enjoy the little moments in life, we take it out on those we love. Even though it is not intentional to bring those around us down as well, it is nearly impossible to shield others from our emotionally charged states.
When the body experiences temporary moments of stress, these are fantastic mechanisms that our bodies have developed! However, as we have become a society of constant work and pressure, these stress-hormones become over-worked and create malfunctions within the body. Under normal circumstances, our central nervous system returns the body to its normal state once the stress is removed. But what if the stress is something that we are exposed to on a regular basis? Our bodies are never able to return to a normal state if we are constantly exposed to stress.
Physical Symptoms of Stress:
Risk of stroke
Risk of heart attack
Increased risk of ulcers
Increased risk of type 2 diabetes
Alcohol and/or drug abuse
High blood sugar
High blood pressure
Irregular menstrual cycles
Lowered sex drive
Often overlooked when it comes to mental and emotional health is the basic concept of proper nutrition. Leading busy lives, it is easy and convenient to stop at a fast-food joint for a quick bite. Unfortunately, there aren’t many healthy options at drive-thru’s. When we choose unhealthy foods such as processed or greasy foods, things with high sugar content, and foods with added chemicals, we are actually depleting our bodies of the important vitamins and minerals necessary to lead a healthy life. These foods cause a great deal of inflammation within the body. When we experience inflammation, it can appear as mental fogginess, pain, stiffness, irritation, as well as increased depression and anxiety.
When we incorporate healthy choices into our lives, we are able to have a healthier response to the chaos around us. Our bodies are made of minerals, vitamins, and enzymes. While processed foods deplete these, natural and fresh foods enhance these! When we have a strong mineral base, our bodies are able to defend themselves against bacteria, viruses, and other harmful pathogens.
When we are putting healthy things into our bodies, we feel better. There is a strong connection between the digestive system and the mind. It is believed that the majority of the serotonin produced within our bodies actually comes from the guts. So when we are careless with our nutritional intake, our serotonin levels drop. This causes a lot of the mental/emotional imbalances that plague a large percentage of the population. Food is not the only thing to consume to help with resiliency; the most important is good quality water. It is suggested that people consume about half of their body weight in ounces every day. For example: a 120-pound man would need to drink a minimum of 60 ounces of water in a day. Many people do not drink that much water in a week!
Since healthy food choices are not always realistic for every meal with the busy lives that we lead, it may be a good idea to supplement with certain vitamins or minerals. Below are a few suggestions. However; it is important to check with a knowledgeable health care professional before beginning any supplement to ensure that there is no contraindications with other medications or conditions.
B Vitamins – great for supporting the adrenal glands that produce the stress hormones! Also play an important role in digestion and energy production.
Magnesium – the biggest mineral deficiency in the country. Usually a sign for needing magnesium is the craving of chocolate and/or constipation. Magnesium is known as the relaxer element. It helps relax the nerves, muscles, and bowels while supporting the heart as well. It is crucial in the bodies ability to use many vitamins and amino acids.
Ashwagandha - a phenomenal adaptogenic herb that helps to lower stress levels by normalizing cortisol levels within the body and increasing the body’s resistance to stress. This herb is also great for increasing energy levels, uplifts the mood, helps reduce brain fog, and supports the immune system!
Distress Remedy/Rescue Remedy - a subtle approach for emotional well-being. Flower essences are gentle remedies that are used to help navigate a variety of emotional states. Both Distress Remedy and Rescue Remedy are used for generalized feelings of anxiety and helps ease the sensation of being overwhelmed.
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Techniques and Suggestions for Lowering Stress
With the chaotic state of everyday life, sometimes we just need to take a break for a while. Supplements and dietary changes are fantastic tools to help alleviate stress and tension. But sometimes we need more. Sometimes we need to take some time for ourselves in order to purge the tension from within our bodies. There are many different self-care techniques that help reduce stress and tension tremendously! Some things can be done at home such as foot soaks, epsom salt baths, deep breathing techniques, etc. But sometimes we need to simply get away from the stressful home or work environment.
One of the best ways to help reduce stress is by getting regular massages or bodywork techniques. Massage not only helps to alleviate aches and pains, but it is also great for improving self-confidence! Regular massage work helps to balance hormone levels within the body and can lead to long term stress reduction. Sometimes just an hour on the massage table can leave you feeling like you spent a week at the beach! For those who don’t necessarily like being touched or haven’t found a massage therapist that is right for you yet, yoga and other forms of physical activity can greatly reduce tension and the negative impacts of chronic stress.
Don’t let stress stand in the way of letting you live the life you deserve. Take care of yourself and allow the body to balance itself out. Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but it doesn’t have to be the cause of an early demise. Take the precautions now to help your body, mind, and soul later. Be kind to yourself and be kind to others.