It often feels like stress is all around us! It comes in many forms, such as alcohol, tobacco, recreational drugs, poor nutrition, working too much, getting too little sleep, financial stress, worrying about your kids, bad relationships, cold weather, thinking about the future and so on. Many of us are constantly in the “fight or flight” mode that at one time helped us run away from a hungry tiger or bear. Now our stressors tend to be constant, long-lasting, and draining on our adrenals, immune system, and energy. The “tigers and bears’ of our lives just don’t seem to leave us alone! We are tried, anxious, irritable, burnt out, and crabby. We have difficulty losing weight and sleepless nights, and feel depressed and disinterested in sex. What can we do to encourage our nervous systems into the “rest and digest” mode and to put a stop on stress? Here are some ideas:
- Eat more bitter greens. Stress causes your digestive tract to shut down and bitter greens help counteract this. These foods stimulate your digestive tract and remind your gut to secrete the necessary digestive juices and enzymes. So add greens like dandelion, rapini, kale, collard greens, and Swiss chard to your salads, wraps, or smoothies. Nourishingmeals.com has some AMAZING recipes that are easy and quick to make and 100% nutritious!
- No multi-tasking at meal times! Put your cellphones, ipads, computers and TVs away and use this time to eat with your loved ones or in quiet solitude-and make sure you are sitting down! Proper digestion can only occur when you are in a relaxed state. Eliminating distractions while eating will also give your food more flavour and will help prevent you from overeating.
- Replace your caffeine and pop with herbal teas or “healthy” caffeinated drinks like green tea. Although green tea contains caffeine, it has a number of excellent health benefits. It boosts your immune system and keeps your mind relaxed yet alert. Lemon balm and chamomile tea are also pleasant tasting, caffeine free teas that help calm an overactive nervous system and bring you an inner sense of calm.
- Sleep. Your bedroom should be only for sleep and sex. Get all the bills, computers and gizmos with blinking lights out of your room. Make sure your room is completely dark while you are sleeping as even the slightest bit of light can disrupt your sleep cycles. The most optimal time to go to bed is 10pm. This is when your stress hormone, cortisol should be at its lowest, making this an optimal time to go to bed as you should naturally feel drowsy. After 10 pm, your cortisol levels start to rise, making it harder to go to sleep and confusing your hormones and sleep cycle.
- Do at least one thing daily that you truly LOVE to do. Perhaps it is enjoying your morning tea on your deck or with your spouse or kids. Maybe it is enjoying a bubble bath. It doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate, just something that you do for yourself daily that brings you enjoyment.
- Give yourself a massage. Try starting each morning by giving yourself a hand and or foot massage. Doing this is not only self-nurturing, it encourages muscle relaxation and puts your mind and body in a calm, relaxed state.
- Get some acupuncture. When we are stressed, our “qi” stagnates, meaning that our energy is not moving well in our bodies. How many people find themselves short-tempered, irritable, more prone to anger and irritability when stressed out? How many people notice sleep and digestion are disrupted? Acupuncture works beautifully to rebalance stress. Talk to your naturopathic doctor to see if you would benefit from acupuncture.
- Go for a walk. Not only is the physical activity beneficial to your health, studies show that being exposed to natural light and nature actually helps your immune system function better. Because you are exercising, your breathing also deepens. You feel calmer, blow off steam, and feel renewed.
- Acknowledge hidden stress. Ask yourself if there are stressors that you are not acknowledging such as job or relationship dissatisfaction. Perhaps there has been something you have been putting off for years that you have always wanted to do. Do it!
- Breathe. Our breath is probably the most powerful stress reduction and relaxation tool we have. It is free, simple to access and always with us. Yet how many of us use it?! The next time you are stressed, take 10-20 slow deep, mindful breaths and then check back with how you are feeling.
Hopefully many of you are starting to feel excited and hopeful that wellness and relaxation are much closer than you thought! Go ahead and make some additions to your life today that will bring you a greater sense of peace and calmness! And remember that you naturopathic doctor is always there to help you through life’s difficulties.