Stress management can be difficult. It asks a lot of us. It forces us to slow down, to step back, to disengage (for a brief time) from the 'electric current' of modern life.
It asks us to prioritise self-care in a culture that doesn't value it.
It is a difficult term to define, simply: '...Stress typically describes a negative concept that can have an impact on one's mental and physical well-being...' wikipedia definition.
Our adrenals secrete hormones - such as cortisol, that regulate the stress response. Because of this, the adrenals are what determine our tolerance to stress and are also most affected by stress.
We are aware of the obvious forms of stress that affect our adrenal glands: overscheduled lives, arguments, unhealthy relationships, financial problems, moving house etc. But other factors not commonly considered when people think of 'stress' place just as much of a burden on our adrenals daily. These include:
- blood sugar swings,
- gut dysfunction
- food intolerances (particularly gluten)
- environmental toxins
- autoimmune problems
- overtraining and
We are familiar with some of the common symptoms of stress, including: fatigue, headaches, decreased immunity, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, sugar and caffeine cravings etc.
Why then is this so harmful to the body? When stress is chronic and prolonged. Recent research shows that chronic stress can not only increase absolute cortisol levels, but importantly it disrupts the natural rhythm. And it's this broken cortisol rhytm that wreaks havoc on the body, for example:
- raises our blood sugar levels
- weakens our immune system
- makes our gut leaky
- makes us hungry and crave sugar
- reduces our aility to burn fat
- reduces our hormone levels eg DHEA, testosterone, growth hormone and TSH (thyroid stimulating hormones) levels
- increases our belly fat and makes our liver fatty
- causes depression, anxiety and mood imbalances
- contributes to cardiovascular disease
Managing stress is my priority in terms of taking my health up a level, here's what I did last week and it really worked:
- I said no. It felt like I was losing control, but it was the single best thing I did.
- played my first game of tennis in a very long time, with a great bunch of girls I don't see enough of,
- dinner at xwray cafe with my husband - we talked!
- spent the weekend at home on my own, without my family - very strange feeling, but unbelievably restorative
- rode my bike, not my car and decreased my speed of life
- slept - 10 hours
- I had a massage booked also, but after my weekend, didn't need it!
- loved every moment (guilt free)
I went full bore into self care, a bit self absorptive perhaps, not really. We give a lot of our time, this needs to be replenished, otherwise 'the well runs dry'. I hadn't been incorporating self-care daily, so now I'm aiming for every second day, something to re-energise and switch off, preferably everyday - (taking my own advice).
In addition to these choices to help reduce stress, Dr Kresser, also suggests:
- avoid people who stress you out
- turn off the news (or at least limit your exposure to it)
- give up pointless arguments
- escape the tyranny of your to-do list
We are all different in what levels and the types of stress we tolerate, but if it's constant, one thing is for sure, it catches up on us.
The other side of stress is mitigating the harmful effects of stress you can't avoid. Here are some helpful strategies:
- reframe the situation
- lower your standards, especially important for you perfectionists out there
- practice acceptance
- be grateful
- cultivate empathy
- manage your time
And above all, bring more pleasure, joy and fun into your life. Nurture your self, your soul and reap the healthy rewards.
Click on this link to read this full article by Dr Chris Kresser,'manage your stress'