Since we are all busy bees in our busy lives and some of us were lucky enough to have a relaxing vacations and are now getting ready to “come back to reality”, I wanted to talk about stress in order to remind ourselves how stress can affect us, how to deal with stress, and how to keep stress away as much as possible–like you did while on vacation.
Some of us (if not most of us) usually deal with various sources of ‘pollution’ in our daily lives: our commute, job, relationship, family, financial situation, etc. We all have ‘things’ in our lives that cause more stress than any resemblance of joy. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why is it that we’ve seemed to had forgotten to “stop and smell the roses”?
Thanks to (or unfortunate to) the way we are connected and available to anyone through our phones and/or computers, it is actually getting harder for some of us–myself included–to find a moment in our day to have some real down time and be able to decompress from whatever it is that tormented our day; as brief as it might have been. I sometimes find my off-time to be overran by working hours–and I know of other people who experience this same situation on a daily basis–as if the days were getting shorter and shorter leaving us with not enough time to go over our daily “To-Do” list or finish the pending work that has been piling up from previous days, even weeks.
I’ve also noticed that, due to fear of losing a job/gig or losing a client, we have seemed to have forgotten that saying “no” to people is OK sometimes. We can’t always be available to everyone all the same time!
Because of these and many other situations, it is no surprise that “stress” has become a household name and, unfortunately, part of everyday life for many of us today.
Yes, stress is vital for our survival. It is essentially a response, a reflex, to any situation identified as a threat to our existence. Have you ever heard of the phrase “fight or flight”? When under a threat, our ancestors had to make a split decision to either run for safety or fight their way out of danger. Currently, how we perceive and manage stress, however, varies in each individual. What one person might consider and perceive as an extremely stressful situation, another might not even notice or have any significant reaction to it. For some, stressful situations–such as working under pressure–provide fuel in their profession and may even improve their performance. For others, unfortunately this is not the case.
Each person has a different capacity to handle the total stress load, and each person’s capacity varies over time and events. I’m going to get a little ‘technical’ here because I want you to get a little glimpse of what goes on in our body when it deals with stress.
Every organ and system in the body is affected by the total stress load. Changes occur in fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, heart and cardiovascular system, and sex drive. We also suffer from stress at the biochemical and cellular levels–even body shape may transform in some way. Yeap, being stressed all the time is not good if you are trying to lose those extra pounds. Too much stress, (physical, emotional, environmental, psychological or a combination of these) can exhaust the adrenal glands (the glands located on top of the kidneys which regulate that “fight or flight” response) which can cause a decrease in the production of adrenal hormones, especially cortisol, which helps our body how to deal with our blood sugar levels: glucose in our system.
I’m not trying to throw big words at you but, pretty much, stress can trigger your body to go into fatigue to a point where your body either is always ‘screaming’ because it thinks all things are out of wake, or actually ‘numbing’ the response mechanisms in our body due to constant strain of our system.
That being said, stress can push us to exceed our personal limits; it can interfere with our workout goals and our health by weakening our immune system; so if anything, we need to practice some self love and give ourselves some daily time to de-stress. Relaxing actually helps your body (and mind) to get the most out of any hard work it follows. Everyone is different and finds relaxation in different places but a few popular ways to get rid of stress are:
Take a few minutes to really turn your mind off and breath. Really take the time to notice how you are breathing and try to go to a happy place for as short as 5 minutes. You’ll notice that something this simple can make a big difference on the rest of your day.
Mindfulness meditation. If you are not in the mood to meditate, try some deep breathing for at least 15 minutes. You could start by doing it twice a week, and you might find yourself doing if more often than that.
Take a walk outside. By yourself or with a loved one, your dog or a friend. No phone, no emails. Smell the flowers, get some vitamin D on your arms and just be.
Take a bath with some Epsom salts a couple of times a week.
Listen to some music. Dance. Let go!
Read a book
Get your nails done, get a massage, whatever activity relaxes and calms your body and mind, set a goal to do it once a week, at least.
I know some of us enjoy a good wine after a long day but try why not try an elixir with adaptogens instead. (Adaptogenic herbs support our whole neuroendocrine system, especially adrenal function, and can help to counteract and regulate the adverse effects of stress) You could enjoy the hot chocolate recipe I shared a while ago which contains maca; since it’s summer and hot AF, skip the heating of your nut milk and enjoy it cold. To amp up the adaptogens in it even more, try adding ¼ tsp ashwagandha to it.
If you think that you don’t have the time for any of these, then find the time. Don’t check instagram for the fourth time today. Let your email inbox collect your emails; they are not going to go anywhere. If you have kids, leave the kids with their Dad, granny, or aunt, and self indulge a little. Stress can make your life miserable. This is your health, and this is your life! Make yourself a priority.
Every couple of weeks, I will be posting nutrition and wellness advice, recipes, and interesting findings worth sharing with all of you. I know that we all have different interests and needs so I will try to cover different topics with every post. I would love to read your feedback so I encourage you to share your thoughts and/or questions in the comments section below.
If you would like to know more about me, please visit my website Alimental G.