Let’s face it stress is everywhere. Something that I find myself telling my patients on an almost daily basis is that your body cannot tell the difference between different kinds of stress. All it knows is things are not good! The causes of tress on the body can take many forms: lack of sleep, too much exercise, poor nutrition, relationship problems, work deadlines, the list goes on. There are also surprising causes that many people don’t consider; you may think that you are doing something positive for your health by exercising A LOT and eating a super restrictive diet, but that plan could be backfiring.
What happens to our bodies when we are stressed?
- A hormonal cascade initiating a sequence that ends with the stress hormone cortisol
- Cortisol is our fight or flight hormone- essentially your body thinks it is being chased by a bear
- This causes an increase in
- Blood Sugar (Not good for PCOS and Diabetes)
- Heart Rate
- Blood Pressure
- Reduced Immune System
- Frequent colds and flus
- Digestive Upset that leads to
- Female Hormonal Changes
- Reduced Fertility
- Painful Periods
- Reduced Libido
- Lack of Focus/Concentration/Memory
Another common cause of stress I see is doing everything for everyone else and putting yourself last. As they say on airplanes, you have to put on your own oxygen mask first. If you implement the following simple changes, you will have more energy to do all the things you want to do. But, you have to make yourself and your health a priority. Are you ready to put you first?
If stress is unavoidable, does that mean that there is nothing that can be done about it? Not at all. Having a baseline level of stress is good, it is when stress gets too high that problems arise.
5 Ways to Lower Your Stress Today
- Deep Breathing- The kind in which you expand your stomach when you breathe in has been shown in studies to lower cortisol, due to stimulating the vagus nerve. To get maximum relaxation effect: take a deep breath in for 4 counts, hold for 5 counts and breathe out for 6 counts. Aim for 10 of these breaths/day.
- Sleep- According to Chinese Medicine, being asleep between the hours of 10 pm- midnight allows for the adrenal glands (where cortisol is made) to repair and regulate themselves. Can’t make it there for 10 pm? Be sure to get to bed by 11 pm to take advantage of this window.
- Take a Cold Shower- Try ending your shower with a 30 second blast of cold water. You can then alternate between hot and cold three times, ending on cold. This helps to stimulate circulation and lymph and reduces cortisol. Can’t stand the cold? It just needs to be a temperature difference. Start with going from hot to luke warm and work your way up.
- Have a Sleepytime Tea….during the day- The strength of the herbs in sleepytime teas aren’t strong enough to be sedating, but they do work well for relaxation purposes, which lowers cortisol
- Pop Some Magnesium- Magnesium Bisglycinate is known as nature’s muscle relaxant. It also helps combat the effects of stress and improves sleep. Start with 200 mg, ½ hour before bed and can increase to 800 mg. If you are taking too much magnesium you will notice looser stools.
Did you know that Peppermint has been shown to reduce cortisol levels. Reduce your stress by treating yourself to one of our Peppermint Foot Creams
Are you suffering from too much stress? Have you found anything that works well for you? Please post it below in the comments
Dr Alexis is accepting new patients. To schedule your appointment, click here.
Naturopathic Medicine is covered by most extended health insurance benefits