Let’s Talk About Stress

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Several of my friends and acquaintances have recently talked to me about how stressful and busy their January has been so far. And I agree with them. I’ve taken on a lot of new responsibilities, but also still have all the usual ones. It’s been a flurry of activity. The coziness and fun of the holidays is long gone, and here in the frozen north, we are now left with a lot of winter still to enjoy endure.

So, how do we not just cope, but thrive? That’s the key, isn’t it? We don’t want to just slog our way through our days.

If we are constantly stressed out, we will have too much cortisol, the “stress hormone”, pumping through our systems. This can lead to disruptions in sleep, metabolism, energy levels, blood sugar regulation and serotonin levels (which help keep our mood stable), amongst other maladies. However, cortisol isn’t the enemy. In fact, it’s a necessary hormone for a lot of reasons. It will give us a quick burst of energy in the event of an emergency (like running away from an attacker). It helps up our immunity and resistance to pain in acute situations. But it’s when we have constantly high levels of cortisol that our bodies do not function properly.

So how do we keep our stress levels in check? Here are some things I recommend:

  • Turn off the news. Now more than ever, it’s important to periodically turn off the 24 hour/day news channels full of constantly “Breaking News”. This goes for Twitter and other social media. Turn off your phone. Turn off talk radio. Turn off the t.v. It’s called a news fast, and I think it’s vital to our mental well being.
  • Exercise. This doesn’t necessarily mean running full steam on the treadmill or doing extreme cardio classes. If your stress levels are really high, high-intensity exercise probably isn’t your best bet. Activities like yoga, barre, hiking outside and swimming might be better for the time being.
  • Rest. Give yourself some time off. Read a book, have a cup of tea, take a nap. Get 8 hours of sleep a night. Seriously.
  • Get plenty of sunshine. Even in the dead of winter, getting outside and seeing the sun is important. Even on my most anxious of days, if I walk the dog in the fresh air and sunshine, I always feel better. Check out my post about the importance of getting outside here.
  • Magnesium. You can read the post on magnesium I wrote last year. (Never take a supplement or over the counter medication without approval from your practitioner). I take 200 mg of magnesium citrate each night before bed. It helps relax my muscles and my nervous system. Start small on dosing, as it can cause, ahem, loose stools.
  • Cut back on alcohol. I know. But it works.
  • Eat regularly. Skipped meals can cause blood sugar irregularities and contribute to excess cortisol. Make sure you keep your blood sugar in check by eating regularly.
  • Meditate. Check out my post on meditation here. I swear by it.
  • Give yourself a break. It sounds so superficial, but you *must* take time for yourself if you hope to have the energy to take care of everyone else in your life.  Whatever helps you feel calm and centered, do it on a regular basis.

We live in a culture where being constantly busy and stressed is valued. Why is that? It’s silly. We’ll all wake up in our 80’s or 90’s (God willing) and wonder what the heck happened.

I’m constantly struggling with maintaining some sort of homeostasis, just like everyone else. Just because I have all these tools doesn’t mean I’ve mastered any of it. But it has helped me to identify where I can make some tweaks and changes. Maybe this post will help you too!

Is there something that works for you that I haven’t listed? Please leave a comment! And as always, please share this post if you liked it. You can also sign up to receive all my posts in your email inbox. How great is that?! Just click where it says “Follow Blog Via Email”.

 

 

Confessional

You know those confessionals that contestants in reality shows step into?  They sit down and pour their hearts out for all the world to hear.  Yeah, I would never do that.

I will, however, tell you what my New Year has been like so far.

  • I’ve said “no” to lots of things simply because I didn’t feel like saying “yes”.  I consider that a good thing.  It’s something I’ve been working on for, well my whole life.
  • I’ve continued to have a green smoothie nearly every day, and because of that I know I’m giving myself the benefit of high-quality nutrition.  It’s easy in winter to slip into eating only comfort foods.  I’m glad this has become a habit that I want to continue.
  • I’ve gotten some great outdoor exercise with friends in the form of snowshoeing and playing platform tennis.  The sunshine and fresh air really help my mood and disposition.
  • I have been enjoying my cooking adventures and have gotten some positive feedback from my family, which always makes me happy.

BUT

  • I’ll start by admitting that I haven’t been to yoga in like 9 months.  I know better.  I mean, I REALLY KNOW BETTER. Yoga for me is like popping some sort of magical focus and well-being pill.  It smooths out the edges and helps me think clearly and gives me a sense of equanimity I wouldn’t have otherwise.  So why haven’t I been?  It’s that thing of where you don’t do something and you don’t do something and you don’t do something and then all of a sudden it’s been so long it feels weird to go back.  Yeah, I need to get over that.
  • In exchange for my absence, I feel scattered and have had trouble focusing on my Nutrition Consultant schoolwork.  My notes are in like four different physical places.  I missed a crucial slide in a lecture.
  • I also have less energy and generally feel pretty blasé. This happens in winter.  I know this. Which is why I go to yoga.  My husband today said “You need to go back to yoga” and I’m like, “yeah, duh”.

So, who wants to place bets on how long it’ll take me to get into the studio again?  I’m pretty stubborn.

I’d love to hear from you.  How do you tackle those obstacles?  What things do you do that help with focus and energy? How is your 2016 going so far?

And one more thing before I go.  There are two blogs that I absolutely love.  The first, Word Savvy, is written by a good friend who is a brilliant writer and overall fantastic person.  Her musings on life and academia and literature always make me happy.

The second, Pronto Pup, is the most hilarious food blog you’ll ever encounter.  It’s dry and witty and totally NSFW in the best ways.  It is guaranteed to make you laugh and possibly snort, too.

Until next time!