Whilst a healthy diet, nutrients and herbs are a key part of managing stress it is important to consider lifestyle factors which may be contributing to your stress load. In this issue we explore recommendations to help you cope with the demands of daily life in our ever increasingly busy world.
We have two branches to our nervous system our “Fight or Flight” sympathetic branch which is mediated by adrenaline and cortisol from our adrenal glands and our “Rest and Digest” parasympathetic branch which is where we should be when we are consuming meals and winding down at night in preparation for sleep.
Unfortunately too many of us are spending most of our time in “Fight or Flight” which if left unchecked may lead to issues like high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, pain, low energy, diabetes, immune problems and “burn out” or fatigue syndromes.
Here are some ways to help you balance your nervous system:
Take the time each morning to play your favourite song or think about something or someone that you appreciate or something that makes you smile or laugh. Research shows that laughter and appreciation or gratitude reduce our cortisol and increase our immune system and endorphins.
Practice some regular form of relaxation, mindfulness or meditation on a regular basis. One easy strategy is to take some time to practice deep breathing for at least 5 minutes at the beginning and end of your day. If you suffer from anxiety or mood swings it may be useful to try some of the many meditation apps available or consult a professional to help you develop some stress management practices and other techniques like emotional freedom technique (EFT). These very simple strategies will take you out of your “Fight or Flight” mode and into “Rest and Digest”.
Ensure that you take time out from your daily activities or work day at meal times to stop and focus on your food rather than work through your lunch break and eat your meals on the go. This is very important to ensure your blood supply is available to your digestive organs to enable you to absorb the nutrients from your food.
Spend Time in Nature
Make sure you spend time outdoors in nature in the bush or at the beach. The latest research shows that spending time at the beach and in salt water grounds the body and reduces the detrimental effects of radiation. It also reduces inflammation, reduces detrimental stress hormones like cortisol and has a positive effect on our mood. Similarly spending time in the bush or forested environments “Forest Bathing” has the effect of reducing stress hormones, improving “feel good” endorphins and improving immune function.
Nurture Your Soul
Instead of filling your diary with appointments and endless tasks, make sure you diarise time out to do the things you love and spend time with those that you love as well as quality time alone. Taking 30 minutes during the day to sit down with a cup of tea or healthy juice and record your goals and tasks for the day is beneficial for balancing our stress response.
Disconnect from Electronic Devices
There is a growing body of research demonstrating that electronic devices like mobile phones, iPads, computers and wireless routers are having detrimental effects on our health and our sleep. These devices not only emit radiation which is damaging to our DNA but emit blue light which reduces melatonin our key sleep hormone which is also important for immune and antioxidant health. Here are some strategies to help reduce these effects:
Stop using electronic devices a few hours before bed if possible. If this is not an option you can get blue light blocking glasses;
Switch your phone to airplane mode before going to bed;
Keep wifi devices including phones away from your body where possible and use hands-free mode or a headset when making phone calls or using your device for other purposes;
Do some form of regular exercise at least four times per week. The most beneficial forms of exercise for reducing stress and improving immune function are yoga, tai chi, and walking especially outside in nature;
If you are feeling overwhelmed by stress, anxiety, mood swings or low energy, don’t wait, contact a health professional like myself or a professional counsellor or psychologist to formulate a tailor made stress management plan.
Click here for an infographic to help reminder you how to beat stress.