by Jenna Milazzo
According to the American Psychological Association, Chronic stress has been linked to the 6th major leading cause of death in the United States. Wow! If you’re like me, you’ll hear this statistic and get too stressed about being stressed. Although we can’t eliminate stress altogether, you’ll be happy to hear that we definitely can manage it and help our bodies through stressful times.
Before we get into ways to cope through stress, first let’s take a deeper dive into what happens to our bodies during a stressful event. You have probably heard of the term “fight or flight” at some point in your life. Fight or flight happens when we are in a really stressful situation or traumatic experience (ex: you see a bear and run for life) and your body will produce high levels of cortisol- this is good and appropriate for these situations, but the problem is when we become chronically stressed and our body continues to make more cortisol than it can release (which then causes many other health issues).
Simple ways to manage stress that won’t break your bank:
1.) Do activities that are calming to your central nervous system: Diaphragmatic breathing (watch this video here to learn how to practice diaphragmatic breathing) Try taking a bath using epsom salts and essential oils or use a diffuser to diffuse calming oils like lavender, frankincense, or chamomile. Go for a walk in the neighborhood or park. Journal. Call a good friend who will listen to you. Cry. (Yes I said it, crying helps release cortisol levels from your body).
2.) Spend time in nature. Spending time in nature helps reduce heart rate, muscle tension, and stress hormones (aka: cortisol). If you can’t be in nature because the weather doesn’t permit it, you can still purchase house plants, listen to nature sounds or waves, and visualize beautiful places in your mind.
3.) Change your perspective. It can be hard in the moment, but focusing on how hard your situation is for too long can cause even more unnecessary stress. Instead, practice gratitude. When we practice gratitude it actually releases chemicals in our brain that make us feel happy.
4.) Exercise! You don’t need to go to the gym or run a marathon here. Simple movement for at least 20 minutes a day is a good goal to shoot for. In fact, over-exercising is a thing that can lead to producing too much cortisol- make sure you don’t over-do it!
5.) Eat healthy. Stay hydrated! Avoid refined sugars, alcohol, processed meat and foods that contain MSG. Opt for organic grass fed meat, fresh cooked vegetables, foods high in omega fats (such as avocados, eggs, olive oil, nuts/seeds, olives and wild caught fish), and foods high in B vitamins (which the body uses to convert to energy).
6.) Take supplements that help your body manage stress: Omega 3 fatty acids (such as a fish oil or Cod Liver Oil), Herbs such as Ashwaganda and Licorice Root, Magnesium Glycinate, Vitamin D3 and a B-Complex vitamins. Always check with your doctor before starting any new supplements.
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