Whether it’s deadlines, work goals, sickness, or a mixture of other issues, stress is bound to arise in life, regardless of how hard you try to avoid it. While moderate amounts of stress are necessary, as they light the fire within us to accomplish our goals rather than lay on the couch all day, too much can be detrimental to our health if not controlled properly.
Why is Stress Detrimental?High levels of stress induce cortisol, a steroid hormone, to be released by the adrenal cortex. Cortisol’s main role is to release glucose into the blood, which was helpful during the times when we were being chased by angry animals in our loincloths, however, this response is often times not called for our current lifestyles.
Elevated cortisol levels long term can lead to lowered testosterone in both men and women, increased fat storage, muscle loss, heightened appetite, reduced immunity, and many other health issues.
How Can We Take Charge of Our Stress?
While there are a multitude of ways in which we can decrease stress, I am going to outline and focus on three; what we consume, how we move our bodies, and sufficient and efficient rest.
What Should and Shouldn’t We Consume?
As for eliminating, it is strongly recommended to either cut down or cut out caffeine, alcohol, overly processed sugars, and highly refined foods, as these can be stimulating to the body, and cause even more stress.
Focus on whole, nourishing, organic, local foods. With that being said, an emphasis should be placed on B vitamins, Vitamin C, Calcium, and Magnesium. By including lots of dark leafy green vegetables, fruits, and nuts and seeds, you are increasing your chance of hitting your target in these categories.
How Should We Move?
Exercise has been shown to not only lessen to impact of elevated cortisol, but it also releases feel good neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. While long endurance style runs can be beneficial to our health, they can often lead to an increased stress load on the body. Remember, stress can be physical as well. It is recommended that we focus on high intensity interval training, or low impact exercise around nature, which is simultaneously grounding.
How to Efficiently Rest?
It’s crucial to not only get a long enough sleep, but to also have a good night’s sleep. Stimulation should be avoided a couple of hours before bed, which means putting the work away, steering clear of high sugar/caffeinated food and beverages, and dimming the lights. To further enhance a calming mood, take a hot bath, light your woodlot candle, or create an ashwagandha tonic.
I want to emphasize that it’s okay to take a breath, and focus on yourself. By doing this, you are creating more energy within yourself, and will notice that your productivity overall will rise.
The Cortisol Connection, Shawn Talbott, PH.D.