Strategies for Dealing with Stress
How do we de-stress? Recently I took the class Making Yourself Stress Hardy: Nutrition and Strategies taught by our nutritionist, Yvonne Niedstadt (one of my very favorite speakers at The Ranch by the way.) It’s no secret that stress is a huge factor in our lives nowadays. Yvonne joked in class, referring to these times as the age of complexity or the age of information overload, not enough time or even the age of anxiety. Yes, we don’t have wooly mammoths chasing us, and most of us are not literally running for our lives on a daily basis, but stress has taken on a whole other meaning in our more modern lives. It’s become chronic.
According to Robert Sampolsky PhD, animals in the wild who are chased by predators and survive shake off their stress in a matter of minutes, even doing a collective shudder within the herd, then going back to their daily lives. We as humans can learn something from this. We tend to hold on to things and internalize, rather than shake off our stress. Chronic stress can lead to disease, and too much cortisol (the stress hormone) can actually cause autoimmune diseases.
How do you know if you’re chronically stressed? Well, there are a number of indicators, but one of the most prevalent ones are tension headaches– tension held in your jaw all the way down into your shoulders. Other signals are a dry mouth, sweaty palms, butterflies, rapid heart beat and shallow breath. Have you ever felt any of these symptoms? They’re actually pretty common today in the U.S., however that doesn’t mean we should ignore them! If you’re chronically having any of these symptoms, it’s time to look at how to de-stress your life.
10 ways to reduce stress in your life…here we go!
- Hands down, exercise is the most important factor. No matter what, fit exercise into your schedule. Exercise releases beta endorphins, reduces high levels of cortisol output and keeps us calm.
- Maintain deep abdominal yoga breathing during stressful times. According to Yvonne, meditative breathing can change our gene expression by up regulating the positive genes. It also keeps us calm. I can attest to this, it works!
- Get some sun. Sun has gotten such a bad rap in the last 30 years, but it’s a necessity for our health. Sunlight reduces stress hormones and lifts us out of the blues.
- Turn off the news and turn on a funny movie. Laughter can do wonders for stress. Deep belly laughter lifts our spirits and often makes us forget about the things we stress about.
- Don’t forget about your Omega 3 fatty acids from wild fatty fish, seaweed and algae, all greens grown in soil, flax, omega 3 eggs and chia seeds. Omega 3’s help keep our nervous system calm in high pressure situations.
- Get a massage on a regular basis and cuddle with your partner or furry friend. Touch can be powerful healing medicine.
- Reduce your intake of alcohol and coffee. Alcohol disrupts sleep and dehydrates us while the caffeine from coffee can put us on edge. Neither put us in the ideal state for handling stressful situations.
- Eat a whole food healthy diet free of processed foods like sugar and refined flour. Instead fill up on complex carbohydrates like veggies, legumes and whole grains, which help trigger serotonin, our brain’s own anti-depressant.
- Develop a consistent sleep routine throughout the week. How much more stressed do we feel when we don’t get enough sleep? It’s so important to get a regular night’s sleep– seven to eight hours a night to help our body rest and rebuild.
- Lastly, I’d like to mention a quote that Yvonne said in class. “Don’t take life so seriously. It’s not a permanent condition!” When you really think about the things that we stress about each day, you discover that they’re probably not that important in the whole scheme of things.
Stress is something that is part of our lives, but doesn’t it feel good to know that how you handle it can greatly improve your outlook on life? Here’s a quote that I heard recently that I think fits perfectly within this topic:
“Life is 10% what you make it and 90% how you take it.” -Irving Berlin