Get Rid Of Stress: 7 Lifestyle Changes To Consider
STRESS! As I’m writing this, I’m in the middle of a move [to a different state!] + starting my career in a few weeks, leaving a city I love — I am stressed to say the least. The difference is, these are all stresses that are good changes, + things I am embracing. A different mindset towards stress has the power to completely get rid of your stress + that’s one of the things I want to address — perspective. Let me start first with the physiology of stress:
This video does an incredible job of explaining stress in lay-terms, + I urge you all to watch it!
But first, let me discuss one of the stress hormones in detail: cortisol. Cortisol rises with acute stress, like running late, getting into a fender bender, or a child crying. In normal physiologic processes, cortisol should go back down after the stressful event is over. However, our stressful events never seem to end, + we are constantly in overdrive. This means that our cortisol is constantly elevated. Our fight or flight response is constantly on, raising epinephrine, raising cortisol.
When cortisol is constantly raised, our adrenal glands go into overdrive. They keep pumping out cortisol but to no avail, + eventually other systems are affected. The immune system is downregulated when cortisol is elevated, blood sugar elevates with cortisol, decreased libido occurs + even fat physiologically is not lost on the body when cortisol is there. Cortisol is a fight or flight response, so in fight or flight, our bodies last priority is to regulate blood sugar, lose fat, have sex or fight a disease. In our population, we are mostly all on overdrive, so that is a primary reason our health as a whole is in the tank.
Let’s talk about the two different kinds of stress — eustress + distress. Eustress is beneficial stress, such as running a race, a new workout challenge, or going on a date. Distress is the negative stress. Think… a death in the family, illness, or major traumatic loss. This is where perspective comes in.
We all have stress + there is absolutely no way to get around it, but we can change how we react to it. Take my examples in my life right now. Sure they are very stressful + scary, but also exciting + with positive outcomes. I could choose to look at them completely negatively, but what is the point of that? One must embrace the eustress + think of the positive outcomes that can come from them, even if it takes some digging! Sometimes, it can be difficult to find the silver lining in distress, but it is there. This may take more time to find, but once the mindset switches, the results switch as well. Stress is inevitable, but it is key to step back + change your mindset towards it to get rid of your stress.
Now, of course we can’t just walk away from all stress in our lives. And, our body physiologically cannot differentiate eustress from distress. We see all stress the same, + that is why mindset + adaptation to stress is key. I always tell patients: we can’t change stress, but we can change the way our body handles it. Physiologically, if we change our adaptation, cortisol can lower. This is where lifestyle changes come into play to get rid of your stress:
#1] Mindset Shift
Think about how you react to the stress, write it down, + anything negative — switch that mindset. Look at it in any positive way you can. Although you may think you’re lying to yourself about the positives [+ you may be to an extent], if you see them written down or visualized, your body begins to perceive it as a normal experience, not stress.
This is one that I myself still struggle with, but meditating doesn’t have to be sitting in a chair for an hour chanting “ohm.” When a stressful situation arises, take a step back, deep breath, visualize what is going on, + visualize how you will change it in a positive manner. Even if the situation cannot be altered, your mindset can.
Ashwaganda + rhodiola are two adaptogenic herbs that can work wonders. Adaptogenic herbs modulate the adrenal gland function to help the body adapt to stress as best as possible, + normalize adrenal function. **Talk to a healthcare provider first before taking these herbs, because it is key to find certain times of day to take them, as well as dosages.
#4] Passionflower Tea
Passionflower tea is an incredible herbal tea that has proven calming effects on the body, but be careful to take it before you sit down to study — it can sometimes be too calming!
#5] Infrared sauna
This is key for those of you who struggle with seasonal affective disorder. You can read about the benefits of infrared sauna here!
Everyone should go read the book “Spark” right now. It is a book of how the physiology of exercise affects the brain + holy cow is exercise powerful. As we all know, exercise increases serotonin which combats cortisol. However, there is a slight problem with over-exercising. For those of you with extreme adrenal fatigue, the type of exercise you do is key to get rid of your stress. But that is an entirely different topic that could take up an entire post on its own! So bottom line, listen to your body with the types of exercise you do.
#7] Good Food
Constant stress = cortisol rising = perpetuates inflammatory processes in the body. By eating good, nutritious food that helps lower inflammation, the body can better combat high cortisol levels + help streamline more focused, clear thoughts without an inflammatory response affecting the brain. See? Healthy food is not only good for gut health + physique, but the brain too.
Once again, we all know stress is about as inevitable as it gets, but the way we handle it is key. Remember, take a step back, deep breath + tell yourself the best quote — “Don’t take life too seriously, none of us are getting out alive anyways.”
With positive vibes,