We all know stress is an inevitable part of life.
But did you know HOW you manage stress plays an important role in your overall health and well-being?
While we may not have control over the many variable stressors in our lives, we DO have control over preventing them from negatively impacting our health!
The key is not only using these steps to support an already stressed body, but also using them to better prepare your body from future stressors as well!
How to Support a Stressed Body & Better Manage Stress:
1) Eat Enough Food for Your Body
During periods of increased stress, the body uses nutrients more rapidly in order to meet the increased needs of the metabolism. A stressed body typically uses more carbohydrates, proteins and fatty acids – resulting in a greater need for more food.
Excessive and/or long-term calorie restriction ("dieting") is also an additional stressor on the body. If it's not properly fueled with enough energy (food), disturbances in body processes such as hormone production and regulation, sleep, digestion, blood sugar balance and more can occur.
2) Utilize Gentle Exercise
Exercise is shown to have a tremendous effect on both mood improvement and the ability to handle stressful life situations. While the effects of exercise result in short-term stress, our bodies quickly adapt in which an established exercise routine becomes a helpful stress-reducer.
Incorporating even gentle movement, such as yoga or walking, is an easy way to include physical activity in your day for stress relief!
Note: exercising too frequently or too intensely for your body or life situation can sometimes produce a higher stress response for some.
3) Support the Adrenal Glands
The adrenals are glands which regulate the body's stress response by producing hormones like cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine.
Through these hormones, the adrenal glands also play a pivotal role in regulating metabolism, blood pressure, energy levels, libido and the immune system.
However, when the body is consistently responding to high amounts of stress,
the adrenals can sometimes become fatigued in which they're unable to produce optimal amounts of these crucial hormones.
Practices such as limiting added sugar and consuming adequate amounts of
sea salt & potassium can help provide the adrenal glands with additional support!
4) Practice Breathwork and/or Deep Breathing
By intentionally changing and slowing the rhythm of our breath, we send a signal to the brain which stimulates physiological benefits such as lowered heart rate and blood pressure which aid in relaxing a stressed body.
Deep breathing also stimulates the vagus nerve, which triggers the parasympathetic nervous system to help return our bodies to a "rest & digest" state. Triggering this system not only promotes a sense of calm, but is also important for efficient
body function, health and healing.
5) Spend More Time in Nature
A study conducted by the Frontiers in Psychology found spending as little as 20-30 minutes in nature per day was associated with lowered cortisol (stress hormone) levels.
Dedicating roughly two hours per week in nature is a realistic goal for most to help reap
the impactful psychological and physiological benefits the outdoors has to offer!
6) Replenish Potential Nutrient Losses
An overproduction of the stress hormone cortisol, commonly found in those suffering from long-term or high amounts of stress, can deplete the body of vital nutrients.
Some of the most prevalent nutrients lost during stressful periods include:
vitamins C & B and minerals zinc, calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium.
Reducing stress is the best way to prevent these losses from occurring, however, including foods rich in these vitamins and minerals can also help prevent deficiencies.
7) Build a Strong Immune System
Long-term and/or high stress levels in the body are known to weaken the immune system, not only reducing our ability to fight illness and infections, but also making us more susceptible to them.
Practices such as prioritizing gut health, eating a nutrient-rich diet with adequate protein, limiting added sugars, and getting enough quality sleep can all be helpful in keeping your immune system strong!
As with most health changes, the best way to start is by incorporating them gradually, one step at a time. The last thing you want when it comes to stress is to cause yourself MORE OF IT by working towards anything which currently feels too heavy for you.
Simply do your best, and don’t worry about the rest (until/unless you feel ready.)