Stressed out ???

A guide to getting off the roller coaster

We are told that stress is bad... to avoid it at all costs.. and we are encouraged to treat it with medication or supplementation. But is this really the best solution?


Here are a few tips that I have gained through specialised knowledge in the biochemistry of the stress response, years of clinical practice and personal experience. 


What is stress?

Put simply, stress is simply the response that we have in relation to something that our mind perceives to be a threat to our survival. This can be mental, emotional or physical. Our brain biochemistry can not decipher the difference between real and imagined danger. Even when a threat is not ‘real’ it can manifest as real in our mind-body. And for this reason, whether we think it is real or not is irrelevant. Any stressor is real to the person experiencing it. You are validated in your experience. Some stress can be beneficial, but prolonged stress can be debilitating and left unchecked or ignored will lead to physical manifestation of disease.


When is stress ok?

We are designed to endure some short term stress, and this is our bodys response to survival. So, a physical stress such as an injury can activate our immune response healing. Short term mental or emotional stress is also beneficial. When we think of stress it is usually the mental / emotional kind. This helps us to stay alert to danger, to ensure our survival. So, for example if we are faced with a sabre toothed tiger, our bodies need to interpret this as danger, and produce the necessary chemicals in our body to enable us to escape. This activates the HPA axis, sympathetic nervous system, release of stress hormones such as cortisol, catecholamines and adrenaline. So, when faced with such a perceived danger, the blood supply shuts down to all non-essential to immediate survival systems, namely, the digestive system, immune system and reproductive system. Our heart beats faster to move circulation to our limbs to enable us to fight or flee the danger. Our liver breaks down glycogen for energy and regulates cholesterol for hormone production. Humans are designed to be in the sympathetic nervous system state around 5% of our lives. After the danger has passed, our adrenals switch off cortisol, and HPA axis is balanced as we pass into parasympathetic nervous system response - the rest and digest (where we are designed to spend 95% of our lives). 


When is stress not ok?

When we experience this response for more than a few weeks or months or longer, the prolonged response is considered to be at toxic levels. This prolonged stress response can cause harm to our mind-body and our digestive system, our liver, reproduction and immunity. Suppression of the immune system for long periods of time causes imbalance and results in a myriad of health issues. 


What can we do to get off the stress rollercoaster?

Top 10 tips: 

1. Breathe deeply. When we are stressed we tend to breathe in a shallow way through the upper chest. Breathe in through the nose all the way into your belly. Allow the shoulders to drop and feel the belly expand. Breathe out through your mouth, allowing your belly to recede. You may wish to place a hand on your belly to feel it expand and recede and place the other on your upper chest to allow stillness there. 

2. Yoga and meditation have been shown to decrease overall cortisol, resulting in decreases in stress response and better health.

3. Social contact and random acts of kindness will reduce cortisol secretion, thereby reducing stress response. This has a positive flow on effect to those we come into contact with also.

4. Exercise in the mornings when our cortisol levels are naturally higher will make use of this hormone to promote healthy metabolic actions. And in the evening, of course the cortisol is naturally lower, allowing us to relax and sleep, which further promotes good health. 

5. Sleep. Much research has now shown unequivocally that sleep is required for good health. We tend to sacrifice sleep for everything! We sacrifice sleep for work, for our social life, for engaging with stress promoting activities such as watching tv. Increasing sleep to around 8-9 hours has been shown to reduce stress hormones and promote health. 

6. Switch the TV off. And leave it off. It’s full of bad news and this tends to be repeated over and over until our subconscious accepts the bad news as normal. All this promotes stress hormones to circulate in our body in response to this perceived threat. Don’t worry, you won’t miss out. If something bad happens someone will always tell you! 

7. Leave your phone at home. Practice leaving your phone at home when you are out exercising or socialising with friends and family. You will be more connected and this will promote engagement of the parasympathetic nervous system. This also lowers your exposure to EMF which has a beneficial effect on your body at the cellular level. 

8. Grounding : see the article on grounding! This is an age old practice of simply walking on the earth, sand or grass. There is science behind it also if 100,000s of thousands of years of practice isn’t enough to convince you. Try walking at the shoreline if you’re near the sea or along a nature trail. Take time to be in the moment. 

9. Nutrition : ensure adequate hydration : see article on water. Water is the most important macronutrient and responsible for every metabolic process in the body. By increasing foods high in certain minerals that will allow stress relief. Eg foods naturally higher in magnesium and calcium such as bananas, almonds, soy and raw cacao will help us feel calmer. Conversely consuming caffeinated beverages has been shown to increase anxiety and negative emotions causing stress. 

10. Positive mindset development is crucial. We all have the tools that we need to cope with anything that life throws at us. We just need to believe that we have the tools and that we know where to find them. Sometimes looking at the deeper cause of an emotion or block can be the key you need to move forward. If you need help finding those tools, get in touch. Positive mindset mentoring can provide the light you need to see in the shadows. 

Reach out if you'd like some more information.