No one is exempt from stress, especially these days as the world as a collective has experienced an additional load of stress.
The pandemic has impacted each of us in different ways whether it be financially, physically, emotionally, or mentally in some capacity.
Now stress isn't necessarily bad, in fact it can be good.
Also known as hormetic stress, this is the kind of stress that doesn't kill you but makes you stronger by triggering response mechanisms in the body that can actually make you more resilient. Exercise is a prime example of good stress, as long as it is reasonable of course....other beneficial stressors include intermittent fasting, hypoxia (oxygen deprivation), sunlight, and hot-cold therapy.
The problem is nowadays, this stress response is continuous. When we activate the stress response too often and for too long, our internal resources become depleted and we thus become less resilient to stress.
When this continues our health can take a real hit. In fact, up to 90% of doctor's visits may be related to stress.
Of course we can't entirely eliminate stress however we can help to mitigate the effects of stress and ultimately increase our resilience.
So what can you do to manage your stress and promote relaxation?
We share some of our top tips below:
A topic that cannot be overlooked to manage stress!
Optimizing your nutrition by nourishing your body adequately will help to minimize the stress load on the adrenal glands, our main organs responsible for responding to stress.
Chronic stress can result in HPA axis dysfunction which can down regulate hormone production and cause all sorts of problems in the body. Nutrition will be a key factor in your recovery and managing stress efficiently.
This means keeping your blood sugar balanced with regular wholesome meals, and making sure you are including a variety of nutrient rich foods in your diet. Particularly beneficial nutrients for the adrenal glands and to support the stress response include vitamin B6, vitamin B5, vitamin C, and magnesium.
I like to recommend loading up on foods such as leafy greens, citrus fruits, raw nuts and seeds, legumes, and avocados which are particularly rich sources of the nutrients needed for optimal adrenal function.
If you ain't sleeping, you ain't repairing. Sleep is the time for regeneration of the body, and this means the right amount and quality.
Not only can stress interfere with sleep but lack of sleep can also promote stress. Poor sleep can have a significant impact on energy but also mood, concentration, and cognitive function. And this doesn't mean an all nighter! Even partial sleep deprivation can be enough to increase emotional and mental exhaustion (1).
Many report that their stress increases when the length and quality of their sleep decreases. And most people report inadequate or poor quality sleep as a regular occurrence.
This becomes a bigger problem when lack of sleep becomes a consistent issue. Improving your sleep is one of the most impactful things you can work on to improve your overall physical and mental health, and it's free!
Having trouble with sleep? Check out our blog on how to get a good night sleep.
Expose yourself to natural light
What does sunlight have to do with stress? A lot!
Exposure to natural light during the day can do wonders for your physical and mental health by regulating the circadian rhythm. This can not only increase energy but also improve mood, alertness, and productivity by triggering mood enhancing brain chemicals.
Research suggests that the light exposure determined by our daily schedules impacts our mood, cognitive performance, and overall well-being (2).
We also know that lack of daylight is associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder during the winter months.
If you can get outside early in the day that's always the best option, however simply opening up the curtains or sticking your head out the window also works!
What if it's cloudy and rainy where you live most of the year? Look into investing in a light box, a way of bringing the sun into your home.
Getting sunlight exposure in the early part of the day will also support optimal melatonin production at night time, as long as you are also minimizing artificial light in the evening, so you can get a good night's sleep.
Exercise is a well known stress reliever as it can raise endorphins, reduce stress hormones, get blood flow moving, and shift your attention to the present. Movement provides not only physical benefits as we know but also mental benefits.
However, the appropriate type of movement needs to be emphasized here, as more intense workouts such as crossfit, heavy lifting and cardio can actually increase stress if you are overdoing it or already depleted.
Some examples of movement that are more regenerative include pilates, walking, and restorative yoga.
The most important factor to exercise is making it sustainable, so do something you enjoy and that ultimately feels good! If you feel completely exhausted or depleted after your workout, you probably overdid it.
Meditation has started to regain popularity recently, and for good reason! There are really endless benefits to this practice which may seem intimidating at first but there is really not much to it. The best part? It's accessible to anyone at any time.
Meditation is a practice used to promote overall calm, inner peace, and wellbeing by focusing your attention on the present moment and quieting the mind from its internal chatter.
In the state of meditation, with the focus turning inwards rather than outwards, accumulated stressors are removed, energy is increased, and there is an overall positive effect on health such as decreased anxiety and depression, strengthened immunity, increase of blood flow to the brain, improved memory and focus, and decreased blood pressure and heart rate, stress hormones, and even pain (3).
Okay so where do you start? Read our step by step guide to meditating here.
There are many forms of meditation therefore we recommend exploring them for yourself and applying what works for you. Our best advice? Be patient with yourself and turn it into a daily practice if you would like to reap the most benefits.
Similar to meditation, breath work is also an effective way to shift the body out of the stress response into the parasympathetic, or relaxed state. In fact it's one of the most effective and quickest ways to lower stress.
Breathing techniques can shift the body physically by reducing stress hormones but also producing an overall calm state in the mind. This is why breath work can be a fantastic way to move into meditation especially if you have trouble winding down.
Breathwork has even been shown to help treat cases of PTSD, anxiety, and depression (4)
First time trying breathwork? This is a great place to start.
About the Author
Laurence Annez is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and Health Coach, specializing in PCOS and women's hormones. She also holds a degree in Creative Writing and has extensive experience writing on health and wellness topics. Laurence's mission is to inspire and motivate individuals to take control of their own health and reach their ultimate health goals.