2020 has been quite the year. Although mask wearing and social distancing have become the “new normal,” stress should not become the norm, too.
Thoughtfully managing self-care, sleep, nutrition and exercise is the key to controlling our body’s physical response to stress, which in turn, can keep us healthier and happier for years to come. Without proper management, too much stress can lead to an increase in colds, sleep deprivation and fatigue.
Our bodies are made to handle short bursts of stress, like when cavemen ran from predators or had to kill their own dinner. The longer, sustained stress that is very common in our fast-paced world tends to wear out the small adrenal glands that supply our bodies with the necessary hormones to manage stress appropriately.
When our adrenals are working during high-stress times, they make an increased amount of cortisol which, over time, can produce symptoms of anxiety, difficulty sleeping and weight gain. Long periods of stress can leave the adrenal glands weak and unable to keep up with the demand of higher amounts of cortisol. In this case, one may experience a decrease in energy, depressed moods and hair loss or thinning.
The good news is, there are simple ways to prevent stress from having an adverse effect on our bodies. Here are six ways to help manage stress:
- Do NOT change your exercise routine. Moderate (not too intense) exercise helps relieve stress and is often what falls by the wayside when stress creeps in. Exercise five days per week for 30 minutes each day to achieve optimal stress release.
- Eat 7-9 fruits and vegetables per day. These foods are anti-inflammatory and will help decrease the overall amount of stress on your body.
- Breathe. This sounds simple, but it takes practice and can be amazingly effective. Breathe in 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and breathe out 4 seconds. Repeat 4 times in one setting, 4 times per day.
- Take time to rest. Get at least 8 hours of sleep per night. If you have difficultly falling or staying asleep, talk to your health care provider about natural remedies to help with these symptoms.
- Set boundaries. As author Brené Brown shares, setting clear boundaries about what we are willing to do, unwilling to do, willing to take on, and unwilling to take on, is an integral part of being compassionate. Your ability to not take on too much will reduce your stress levels, too.
- Decrease the amount of alcohol and caffeine in your diet, as they can contribute to internal stress.
If this blog post has you feeling stressed about de-stressing, start by breathing in for 4 seconds…4…3…2…1…go!