It is possible not only to manage the stress of your daily life with aplomb, but to thrive while stressful things rain down around you. Yes, even your extremely stressful job/school/family/situation. Yes, even without the aid of legal (or illicit) substances that help one plow through the onslaught of those things that demand attention. Stress is now regularly faulted for disease and death, which is nerve wracking when you consider that we encounter stress in every aspect of living. There are the sources that jump to mind when we hear “stress” – working, learning, relating to others, enduring rush hour traffic, having to speak in public to name a few. There are also less obvious sources of stress on our minds and bodies like our food, our cleaning products, our skincare products, our environment, the water we drink, some of the thoughts we think, even the clothing we wear, and the list goes on. So, how do we get to the “thriving while stressful things rain down” bit? Glad you asked!
Eat to support your parasympathetic nervous system. That’s the “rest and digest” side of the autonomic nervous system. When we’re under a lot of stress, even if it’s caused by happy events, the sympathetic nervous system tends to take control, causing prolonged production of the stress hormones associated with “fight or flight”, and that’s damaging to our organs. Ease that internal environment by consuming lots of leafy green vegetables, healthy fats, complete proteins, and complex carbohydrates. Those types of foods balance the blood sugar, make digestion a breeze, and nourish the organs. Substances like sugar, alcohol, and caffeine do the exact opposite.
Stay hydrated. The chemical processes your body performs all day and all night are pegged to water. Without sufficient hydration, things will begin to grind to a halt, and then the body will move into fight or flight, because it’s stressful on the body to lack the ability to do its thing. On a normal day, aim to drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water. When it’s extremely hot, or when you’re active, increase that amount of water as much as you can.
Move that body. Exercise can help reverse the damage that stress does to the brain and can actually create a feeling of relaxation in the body. Find something active to do that you enjoy, even if you only find time to do it for 15 minutes here and there throughout the day. If you’re turned off by the thought of going to a gym or an exercise class, remember that taking a walk, dancing in your kitchen, chasing your dog or toddler around the house or yard, and yard and house work are all forms of physical activity. Research has shown that regular exercise reduces anxiety and depression and increase clarity of thought and memory.
Meditate. Everyone should meditate. It requires no belief system, no equipment, no special abilities, and very little time, but it reduces stress responses drastically, especially if done regularly over time. There is time in your day for meditation, don’t even try insisting there isn’t – you can find 10-15 minutes in your day to sit quietly and practice getting your mind to focus on something incredibly boring. That is all there is to it. Use the sound of a fan, the AC in the room, the ringing in your own ears, or even listen to something like white noise or binaural beats. Set a timer for yourself and until that timer goes off, practice focusing on that sound. Every time your mind wanders, retrain it on the sound. Be nice to yourself, this takes practice. Be nice to yourself regardless.
Get good sleep. This is for advanced users, as those who are not handling stress well often feel the blow-back when it comes to sleep. Stress can cause insomnia or disrupted, poor quality sleep, so this one is last on the list. Quality sleep is a requirement for over all good health, and if you’ve not slept well, you probably started your day stressed. However, if you can fit in everything else on the list first, it is probable that sleep will find its way back to you. If that’s not the case, it’s time to seek help! Come in and get adjusted, and if you’re not already on a Nutrition Response Testing program, set up an appointment! We can help determine what’s really at the root of your failure to sleep well consistently, and help you resolve it.
Life comes with stress, but it doesn’t have to be the enemy. Here’s to everyone successfully taking it in stride!