It is estimated that nearly 80% of adults in America suffer adrenal insufficiency. In other words: chronic and extreme stress that breaks down the the natural cycles of hormone production thus leading to a long list of issues including a crapped-out metabolism, weight gain, headaches, insomnia, anxiety, cravings, muscle cramping, fatigue, and suppressed immune system. If you have ever felt that your health is on a downward spiral and you cannot get control of it, you could possibly be suffering from chronic stress. Can you think of WHAT causes you the most stress? Try writing down a list including traffic, long lines, working late, relational conflict, pollution, neighbor’s dog crapped in your yard, gained 4lbs, kids are too loud, ripped a hole in your favorite jeans, burned dinner, stubbed your toe, friends blew you off, your favorite tv show didn’t record, only got 4 hours of sleep, you feel the flu coming on, rent is due, gas prices went up….
Stress is not taken as seriously as it should be. Most of us believe that stress is unavoidable and therefore should not interfere with HOW we continue our lives because something that is so “unavoidable” cannot be used as an excuse. Shit happens! That’s life! We ignore the warning signs our body is giving us and attribute them to things such as genetics, or bad luck. And again, we avoid preventable measures or slowing down or even just simple change because we believe we will die one way or another. Due to statistics, our death will come as a result of heart disease, diabetes or cancer. And that is just life! (is it?) We are living in such a way that we truly believe there is nothing we can do about our demise. And in that same sense, we mock those who take preventable measures to reduce their health risks because it goes against our belief system… and makes us uncomfortable. Everyone gets sick! Everyone dies! Spending all that energy and time to avoid something you cannot prevent is a waste, and trying to avoid something you can’t is just stupid. Right?
The majority of chronic illness (experts say 85% and others say 90%) is brought on by poor nutrition and lack of physical activity. HOW do we change this? First, we have to understand and agree with it. We are not the victims of our genetics… health-wise. Physiologically… yes, we are often the victims of genetics. I wanted to be 5’7.
I believe genetics determines what sport you play. Not how you will die.
One way to prevent a long list of health issues is to analyze your stress levels and stop pushing yourself with the idea that you cannot avoid stress. No, you can’t avoid it (unless you live on an island with population: 1), but you can reduce it and change how you react to it. And change has to be accompanied with a positive faith…. in yourself. I know what you’re thinking… stress is everywhere and NO you cannot avoid it. And I don’t have TIME to sit down and meditate or go to a Yoga class or get a massage. Those are luxuries I cannot afford to indulge in!
Bologna. (or…. BULLSHIT)
When you are sitting in the drive-thru pharmacy, waiting behind 6 other cars to pick up your medication for hypertension, I bet you’d wish that TIME was actually spent in other ways, correct? But you don’t have TIME for that because you’re too busy picking up medications, sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office or driving up north in traffic to see a specialist regarding these chronic migraines. There are better ways to spend your ‘spare’ time. Here are some simple ways to reduce your stress and CHANGE how you react to environmental, emotional, and physical stress (which, in the long run) will keep you OUT of the doctors’ office and pharmacy drive-thru:
1. BREATHE. Most people do not realize this but they are breathing ALL WRONG. Stop right now and pay attention to how you breathe. Take 3 breaths. Is your chest rising as you inhale? Yes? You’re doing it wrong. Your BELLY should rise, not your chest. Now try again. Take 3 breaths. This time be intentional about inhaling from the gut, not your chest. 1 – 2 – 3. How was that? You definitely got more out of that didn’t you? If you can be intentional about that everyday, you will notice a HUGE difference. When we are stressed emotionally, or working out… we often HOLD our breath. You probably don’t even notice this. But we do. Notice your breathing next time you are writing an important email. After you hit “send”… did you take a deep breath? Probably because you were holding your breath through the emotional and mentally draining act of typing the perfect email to your boss. Who thought that writing AN EMAIL would cause so much stress? It does! Be intentional about your breathing.
2. CLOSE YOUR EYES. Even if you don’t fall asleep, napping is the perfect way to re-center. Do you have a break room in your office? Use it! Do you work from home? Go lay down for 15 minutes. It’s better than trolling the news wires on your break, increasing even MORE stressful thoughts and visuals. Who needs to know how many people died today? Turn that crap off and go to a happy place. Lay down or even simply put your feet up and CLOSE YOUR EYES. If you still can’t relax, try visual breathing. Close your eyes and visualize something soothing with each breath. For instance, imagine you are on a boat near the shore of the ocean and each time you inhale a wave brings you up, and each exhale the wave passes and you go down. Or another good one is to pretend there is a light bulb in your stomach and with each inhale the light slowly burns brighter, and when you exhale the bulb light begins to dim. These types of visuals can literally shut the brain off and even if its only for 5 minutes, you’ll find yourself re-focused afterwards.
3. BE DIFFERENT! Have you noticed that your routine has turned into a rut? Every morning you wake up… slug your way to the shower, stand under the water until your eyes gain focus, get out and get dressed, grab your things, pour a cup of coffee to-go and drive the SAME way to work and sit in the same traffic, go up the same elevator. Everything about your day from the moment you wake up… is the same! That, alone, can be stressful! I speak the truth! And to test me… change it up and see how it makes you feel. Drive a different route to work tomorrow. I’m serious. Don’t think about the quickest way, just go a different way! You may notice a new gym opened up near your office, or a cool little bistro that you can try out for lunch, you might notice signs for upcoming events at parks you’ve never been to before…. because you never drive by them. LITTLE things such as this can be a huge mood booster. Try a new coffee place, order something different on the menu instead of the same thing you always do, ask a different co-worker to have a coffee break with you, listen to a different Pandora station and if you like to run for exercise… try getting on a bike instead. Doing things differently brings about different, new, and often positive perspectives. Why NOT give yourself that?
4. LAUGH. Laughter is known to reduce levels of hormones such as cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), and dopamine, while increasing endorphins. The way this helps is that when you are stressed, your cortisol and adrenaline are raised- and if they are increased at high levels for any long period of time (chronic stress >3 hours) you begin to suffer the physical effects. So by lowering your adrenaline and cortisol, you are reducing the risk of stress related symptoms and illness. Laughter also brings you a distraction from negative emotions related to stress as well as enhancing your physiological and psychological well being. Laughter can help you change your perspective about stressful situations, believe it or not. Taking time to laugh at least 10 minutes each day has shown to reduce risk for cancer and heart disease! Imagine what it can simply do for your DAY. Did you know there is a radio station now that ONLY plays stand-up comedy (this is nation-wide, so do a quick google to find your local station)? If you can’t get access to it, then download Pandora and add the “Today’s Comedy” station to the playlist. You will not regret it, I promise. Try listening to that on your way to work and gauge how that affects your day for one week. Go see a comedy show with your friends, watch a funny movie, channel surf on youtube for funny pranks, or watch America’s Funniest Home Videos with your family. Instead of recording all of those melodrama tv shows that get your blood pressure up, record the next season of Last Comic Standing or SNL.
5. GET SOME SUN. Go outside!! If you feel anger, guilt, or anxiety building up at work, home or even in the car…. stop what you’re doing and just go outside for a 10 minute break. Just some exposure to the sun is known to improve the mood, calm the mind and quiet negative emotions. Open up the sun roof in your car or just walk outside and catch a break looking at everything around you. Do a sun salutation (yoga move) for 4 deep breaths each side while exposed to the sun. Is this too hippie-granola for you? Then at least open the curtains and draw the shades in your house or office you grinch. Do it. Then tell me it did NOT work. That’s a challenge.
6. HIT YOURSELF. Yeah, that’s right. Try beating yourself up!!! No, not really. What I am referring to is called “chest tapping” or also known as EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). This technique uses acupressure meridians. A great tapping location is the chest, both on the left and right side below the collar bone area. Saying positive affirmations while tapping can help with various things such as food cravings, emotional stress, negative guilt emotions, anger, and even physical pain! Again, I dare you to try this and tell me it doesn’t work. Here’s a link on different techniques that I find useful and easier to understand than other EFT websites: http://eft.mercola.com/ . There are different areas of the body that you can do tapping. I find that the chest and top of my head work the best, but they might be different for you or for various situations.
7. YOGA. Yoga is always a good way to relieve stress but I understand that not everyone can walk away from an argument or cut out of work early to sit in a yoga class. There are some great poses you can do at home, in your spare time, that can help you re-center your thoughts and emotions. These poses help bring a little mental clarity and reduce stress while helping you relax: Shavasana, or Corpse Pose, Adhavasana, or Relaxed Pose, Stitha-Prarthanasana (Prayer Pose), or Ekapadasana (One-Leg Pose). Try doing each pose for one minute to regain some mental focus and enhance your mood. It won’t make the stress disappear, but it can change your approach and perspective of it.
As with all stressful situations, I highly encourage you to eat a natural, whole foods diet and eliminate processed sugars, carbohydrates as well as foods with chemicals and pesticides. Stick to grass fed cuts of meat and eliminate the use of food as your emotional outlet. Food is fuel. Food CAN be medicine, but like real pharmaceuticals, food is easy to abuse and misuse. Stick to physical outlets such as those listed above and get plenty of SLEEP.