Chronic stress seems to plague most of us as we live life in chronic chaos. Between juggling career demands, family and household responsibilities, community alliances, our need for social connections, and of course personal care, nourishment, conditioning, adequate rest, and rejuvenating relaxation, managing stress is a vital component to ensuring great overall health and well-being. Research shows that over 40% of all North Americans suffer from adverse stress-related health disorders, and stress is related to our leading causes of death including heart disease and cancer. It is also a major contributor to workplace absenteeism and decreased productivity. In order to manage our stress load and nurture our well-being there are some very basic essentials and “makes-sense” sustainable lifestyle habits to incorporate.
THE VERY BASICS FOR MANAGING STRESS AND NURTURING ENERGY:
Mindful thinking – our thoughts create our experience. Consciously witnessing and re-framing negative or limiting thinking to thoughts congruent with our intentions and objectives (happy thoughts over negative ones) positively impacts our neurological and neurovascular systems.
Breathing – our breath rate has immense impact upon our stress and energy levels. It is essential for us to be mindful of our breathing by consciously inhaling long and deep and exhaling slowly and completely.
Hydration – drinking one glass of purified water per hour enhances energy levels, brain functioning, clarity, digestion, toxin release, and so much more.
Blood sugar and hormonal stability – maintaining balanced blood sugar levels enables the adrenals to function more effectively and assist in stabilizing hormones.
Most of us are oblivious to our negative self-image, destructive self-talk. and sabotaging behavior. With over 80,000 thoughts per day, approximately 98 percent are the same thoughts running repeatedly over and over and most of these are negative. This wreaks havoc on both our minds and our bodies. Numerous sages inform us of the power of our thoughts. The law of attraction! Buddha tells us: “We are what we think.”
Improving our breathing habits has been proven to enhance our sleep, reduce stress levels, improve our thinking, and boost our energy. There are numerous options available to assist in developing improved breathing techniques. Yoga practice, Qi gong, and Energy Medicine are popular choices. References and guides are available in numerous formats—including magazine articles, books, CDs, and videos—teaching proper techniques. There are even apps that regularly remind us to breathe consciously.
Staying hydrated with clean filtered water is a familiar concept to most yet practiced by too few! Find a system that works for you such a investing in a high quality, environmentally safe bottle and covering it in six or eight elastics and removing one for each bottle drank, aiming to get them all off by the day’s end. Flavor the water with fun options like organic rose or orange essence, mint chlorophyll, Angostura bitters, or the more familiar flavor boosts such as a splash of juice or cucumber, celery, or mint. People are often more likely to consume higher amounts of a water with a taste they enjoy.
BALANCED BLOOD SUGAR AND HORMONAL LEVELS:
When we live in a constant state of stress our adrenals become depleted and disrupt our hormonal balance. Chronic stress effects two very important hormones, DHEA and cortisol, two of our most abundant hormones and produced by the adrenals.
DHEA is responsible for our cellular health and plays a major role in the production of the adrenal hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Most are familiar with cortisol, the infamous fight, flight, or freeze hormone. It has the ability to increase blood glucose levels during high stress scenarios in order to protect us from perceived harm which is wonderful. When we live with chronic stress, however, cortisol levels are in overdrive, causing excess production. This raises insulin levels, blood pressure, fat deposits, brain damage, and cravings for sugar. In addition it depletes the immune system, our number one defense against disease.
Adding to the challenge: as cortisol levels rise, serotonin—the feel good hormone—plummets, frequently triggering carbohydrate cravings to re-boost the serotonin. Serotonin is formed in the brain from the amino acid tryptophan after we eat carbohydrates. While some quality carbohydrate intake is needed for normal serotonin production, high levels of chronic stress typically trigger cravings for starches such as bread, potatoes, and sugary foods. Excessive intake of these spikes blood sugar levels. These starches and sugars need to be eaten in moderation in order to control hormonal and blood sugar levels as well as body weight and diabetes risk. Stress management and proper nourishment is crucial in reducing these carbohydrate cravings.
Maintaining balance of these hormones is an essential component in nurturing our well-being. When balanced we are healthier physically, mentally and emotionally, enabling more peaceful everyday living.
SUGGESTIONS TO ASSIST IN SUSTAINING BALANCE:
Consume a variety of nutrient dense foods to ensure an appropriate amount of protein, quality carbs, essential fatty acids, and adequate fiber aligned with your individual health, lifestyle, and personal objectives.
Avoid severe calorically restrictive diets as well as consumption of nutrient-void processed foods such as the numerous packaged low fat/trans fat and artificially sweetened foods. These wreak havoc.
Avoid the warrior attitude, all or nothing approach to physical training, opting for regular, shorter workouts at a challenging level of intensity interspersed with enjoyable recreational activities. While exercise can be beneficial with stress management, an excess can add to the problem.
Ensure adequate sleep: ideally seven to eight hours that is deep and restorative. Sleep deprivation raises cortisol levels.
Stay well hydrated with purified water, herbal teas, and chlorophyll rich beverages, avoiding caffeine and alcohol or keeping it to a minimum.
Nurture an alkaline state: stress, poor diet, sleep deprivation, excess external stimulation, and sedentary lifestyles are acidifying! Maintaining a slightly alkaline state is supportive in reducing cortisol production.
While we know stress is a reality in our lives, the above strategies provide us with coping skills to better manage the demands of our busy pace. If you still experience a constant state of feeling overwhelmed or are plagued with lingering health issues, consulting with a professional health care provider for diet and lifestyle support is suggested. We are intended to thrive and joyfully embrace our lives with vibrant health—reach out if you need support.