With stress now being recognised as a major contributor to chronic diseases, we really need to start prioritising our wellbeing and strengthening our resilience to stress. Stress is highly inflammatory and accelerates ageing and cognitive decline, so incorporating lifestyle techniques helps to manage our stress response, slowing down the ageing process and protecting our health.
Below are some of the signs that you may be experiencing the effects of chronic stress:
- Irritability / anxiety
- Fatigue / low energy
- Night sweats
- Hot flashes
- Sleep disturbances
- Sugar and carb cravings
- Weight gain (especially around the waist and hips)
- High blood pressure
- Memory loss / brain fog
- Low immunity as cortisol suppresses our immune system (wounds slow to heal, frequent cold and infections)
- Low libido
I understand all too well the feeling of being chronically stressed, working long hours, balancing work / homelife / family, sugar and carb cravings, squeezing in exercise and trying to eat healthily (when it seems so much easier to reach for convenience food!).
Stress and digestion
When we feel stressed, our biological response is to shut down our digestive system so that blood can be diverted from our gut to the arms and legs. This is because the body can’t perceive the difference between real and imagined danger, so it responds in the same which it would have had many moons ago when coming face to face with a sabre tooth tiger. This is to enable us to run away or fight back.
So when you are stressed out and you sit down to eat a meal, your digestive system will not be switched on which means you won’t be absorbing the nutrients in that meal as efficiently as if you were relaxed. One way you can switch on your “rest and digest” state is to stimulate your vagus nerve. You can do this by singing or humming out loud whilst making your dinner! Try also taking 3 deep breaths when you sit down to eat. You can all do this as a family, it could turn into a fun exercise 😉
Studies have suggested that practicing yoga helps to reduce inflammation in the body, which is great news for your immune system!
Learn to say no! If you need an hour or a day to yourself to recharge your batteries, then that is ok! I regularly say no to things, I really treasure my “me-time” and I find in this increasingly busy world, it is becoming more and more sacred. Pour yourself an epsom salt bath, light a nice candle, bake a yummy (healthy!) cake, go for a nice walk, book a massage or a facial. Do things that make you feel special on a regular basis (and I am directing this to the men as well!).
Mindfulness and meditation are proven to reduce anxiety and improve our response to stress. If you are new to meditation, Headspace and Insight Timer are two apps which are a great place to start.
Breathwork has also been shown to reduce our stress levels. When we are stressed we tend to breathe shallowly and quickly, so being mindful about your breath can help to negate these effects as your body needs oxygen in order to function properly. Set a reminder every hour to take 3 deep breaths. Each time you make yourself a cuppa tea, do the box method (breathe out, then breathe in for 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4, hold for 4. Repeat). No-one will even know you’re doing it!
Practice good sleep hygiene to make sure you get good quality sleep!
Reduce your coffee intake and try swapping one or two of your teas or coffees for matcha green tea. This is the powdered whole leaf (Clearspring is my favourite brand which you can buy at 100% Health in town). Matcha helps to induce an alpha brain wave state, meaning you are alert yet relaxed. It also contains l-theanine which helps to reduce anxiety. Matcha tea also helps to bind toxic compounds in the body, helps to promote a healthy bowel flora, and is excellent for promoting healthy pH levels!
If you have trouble falling asleep, then Nutri Advanced Compose LT helps to induce a good night’s sleep. Please feel free to contact me if you would like my practitioner discount!
Here are some recipe books incase you haven’t downloaded them already:
Plant-Based Stress and Anxiety Support Plan
Stress and Anxiety Support Plan
Stress in children
Now we are sadly seeing that children are stressed from a very young age, particularly autistic children. So if you have kids at home, maybe try to include them in your stress-busting techniques. http://www.cosmickids.com do yoga, relaxation and mindfulness for kids which are packed with fun too! And encourage them to have plenty of outdoor play to burn off stress and anxiety.