How are you feeling today, really? When was the last time you thought about how you are really, really feeling.? Most of us don’t. But stress is there, and chronic stress is your biggest problem because not only is it affecting your life and the little things, its contributing to bigger things long term and potentially adding extra weight!
Side note: If your constantly dropping things, losing your keys, losing your cell phone, forgetting things.... you might be stressed. (Our poor brain has to deal with our choices.)
When we choose a life of high-stress, we affect our whole system.
Stress levels that run high increase the levels of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that gets released in response to stress and low blood glucose.
So when we have to slam on the brakes to avoid being hit, when our car breaks down, when we are comparing our lives' to other peoples' or we feel bad about something we said or did a month ago, when our boss treats us poorly, or when we are in an argument, or when we spill something hot on ourselves, or look at a bill we can’t pay ......... it gets released.
When our thoughts are negative and stuck in the horror of the past, or worry and anxiety in the future, cortisol gets released. When we even think of something stressful, cortisol is released in a very protective way - it means well - it helps to prepare our body for a sudden crisis (which is rarely the case - its usually us thinking about work, a silly fight, spilling something on ourselves, or getting our car fixed that stresses us out.)
Cortisol functions to increase blood sugar and to suppress the immune system because it's a fight or flight hormone. It doesn't care about relaxing or digestion - it's main function is for survival for us.
Don’t worry, I’m getting to the good stuff (what can I do about this?) soon!
Other Negative Effects:
We know that Cortisol reduces bone formation (long term chronic stress) and the stress response has known negative effects on our immune system. Read: [5 Basic Ways to Stronger Immunity] Cortisol stimulates gastric-acid secretion (lessening our digestive systems' abilities) which is BAD news for those of us spending money on GOOD food to put in our system! The real danger of stress-triggered cortisol levels over long periods of time are a big concern. Numerous studies have linked elevated cortisol levels with impaired memory function.
Some research also shows elevated cortisol levels in Alzheimers' patients - the more cortisol, the more severe the symptoms of the disease. Increased levels of the hormone also help cause higher insulin levels so your blood sugar drops and you crave sugary, fatty foods - this leads to weight gain.
As if those all above aren't reasons enough to realize we NEED to slow down and relax, we have this culture of BUSY & RUSH (and not the good kind of Rush) where it is glorified to run around being too busy for life.
How can you slow down the Cortisol?
While necessary for survival, we still don't want cortisol surging through our body all day. We weren't meant for that.
Here’s 7 (count ‘em, seven) ways to start to combat it:
People who sit, do nothing and breathe (meditate) daily can show significant improvements in lowering both their blood pressure as well as cortisol. Try this for help. It helps us learn to focus on being in the moment rather than worry about the past or future, and that relaxes us. Meditation relaxes our nervous system. It doesn't have to be complicated, and yes, you're going to struggle with it at first. It's all part of it!
2. Get enough sleep
It's well known that getting less than what your body needs (7-9 hours) increases your cortisol levels the next day. You've stressed out your body! Taking a nap the day after can bring some balance and "catch you up" with your sleep, dropping levels back down. Yay for naps!
3. Be More Hippie
The real kind where you light incense and beeswax candles just to watch an old movie and cry because its okay to release and share your emotions. Then go make a green drink or bake something while you meditate with relaxing dingly music in the background or go plant something and then eat some sprouts and do some yoga. Connecting to your body and your environment automatically relaxes you, releasing the good kind of hormones like serotonin and dopamine so you feel yummy!
4. Eat well
Protect your body and brain by limiting intake of fried and processed foods. Eat antioxidant foods such as fruits, vegetables, seeds and fish. Beat stress by keeping your blood sugar even by eating good food regularly in small amounts, and avoiding stimulants and sugar.
Book a massage, take a yoga class, get that clean makeover as you know: time taken to enjoy wasting time, is never wasted time. It's called relaxing! It's an art. You can start re-learning it by treating yourself to things that force you to do nothing. Even when it’s hard - try.
6. Listen to Music
Enjoy your favourite album at least once a month for maintenance, weekly for growth! It calms your mind and makes you happy.
7. Slow Down
Listen to the cause of your triggers where you feel stress. What were you just thinking or talking about? Deal with the root cause of your stress by joining a support group or talking with a counselor or therapist.
I found this blog post really interesting, about how to further master the Art of Relaxation.
Learning to relax does take time and effort.
It takes you caring about it. It takes you wanting to make change. But its do-able to see immediate effects in your behaviour and feeling throughout the day. There are options for dealing with your stress - it just takes your dedication to the cause.
Enjoy relaxing, and if you're ready for help with your stress and anxiety when it comes to nutrition there is lots we can look at.
Blood sugar balancing with whole foods and the quality of foods to nourish your brain and body are a great place to start.
Holistic Nutrition works with where you are at right now - and creates you a plan based on that. My expertise is creating unique nutrition plans adapted just for you, if you're ready for change, I can help.