Chronic stress is very common these days, and it is taking a toll on our health. Many people will let the stress pile up until it reaches to a point their body breaks down. I know this first hand. Almost 7 years ago I started to realize something wasn’t right with my health. I started going to visit different types of doctors to figure out what was going on with me. I went to a gastroenterologist for digestive issues I was having, I went to a women’s doctor who specialized in hormones for what I suspected was a hormone imbalance, I went to an endocrinologist, a herbal specialist, a holistic nutritionist, a fertility specialist, a chiropractor, and an acupuncturist. As you can see I was determined to figure things out and turned to both Eastern and Western medicine looking for answers. It took me a total of about 3 years to figure out I had hypothyroidism and PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and to start to get them back into balance.
I say all this because I believe that stress had a big role to play in my body imbalance and why I dealt with what I did. I was working out hard (and putting my body under stress), not sleeping enough (I had to be at the gym by 5:30/6am every day to start training) and I lived on a lot of sugary coffee and energy drinks (hello adrenal killers), and I believe my birth control may have played a factor in this too (not really stress related like the others).
I’m not saying stress alone caused my health issues, but I do think it played a big role. I also think it plays a big role in many different kinds of health issues as well, and can slowly be breaking our bodies down if we don’t do something about it. I started to look for ways for my body to de-stress and rebalance and did a lot of things to do so. Here are the top 4 that I did, and then I added a few more:
Walking. Now this may seem so easy, but at the same time it is so hard to make time to do! When I say walking, I’m not talking about busting out a big power walk. I am talking about a leisure walk that will help reduce cortisol (stress hormone). This can be done at any time throughout the day to get benefits. It can be broken up a couple times a day as well (a 10 minute walk 3x per day can do wonders!)
2. Sleeping more. Oh how this one can be so hard! And it’s not because I don’t love sleep, I am definitely a fan. Demands of our lives make it so hard to get enough sleep which can cause all sorts of issues. Adults need 7-8 hours of sleep each night for proper body function. This allows the body to rest and reset, and hormones to get back in balance. During sleep is also when muscles recover from workouts. Chronic lack of sleep increases cortisol all day (it is supposed to be high in the morning and drop steadily throughout the day), and can make it hard to find that hormone balance, and can also be the culprit of weight gain.
3. Herbal Adaptogens. These are some of my favorite little stress busters! I discovered them in my quest for balance 6 years ago and I have not turned away from them since! These herbal adaptogens are plants that survive and thrive some of the harshest conditions on the planet. They were first studied by Russian scientists and used on their cosmonauts, military, and Olympic athletes. Some examples of these amazing little plants are: Wolfberry, Ashwagandha, Bacopa, Rhodiola, Eleuthero root, & Schizandra. Adaptogens have even been nicknamed “stress vaccines” because they are so effective at helping your body fight stress. I am a fan and I take 1-3 servings of them (in a liquid form) on a daily basis when I am not pregnant. (Some herbs can be very powerful and are not tested on pregnant women so should be used with caution if pregnant or nursing). Let’s just say I am missing these a lot right now! Two more months until little boy is here though. 😉
4. Acupuncture. To some people, acupuncture may seem like a completely strange treatment, and I thought it was a little crazy at first too. Since I was at a point I was willing to try anything, I thought I would give it a go. The more I learned about acupuncture the more fascinated I was with it. It helps to bring your body back into balance by keeping the energy (qi, pronounced “chee”) and can help so many issues that we deal with, including stress. For anyone local to Orlando, I went to Janine at West Orlando Acupuncture, and she was incredible! If you would like to know more about my story and experience, just ask me and I am more than happy to share it with you!
5. Massage. Who doesn’t love getting massages? Often times we think of them as just a luxury, but what if they are actually beneficial to our health? I recommend fairly regular massage sessions for my clients because they work their muscles out really hard and massages to help them relax. Most people also tend to carry their stress in their neck muscles. This is because of several reasons. One is many people sit at a computer, or are driving a lot of the day and the upright position of one or both arms can cause the neck muscles to tighten up. Another is if the core muscles are weak, the next group of muscles that takes the stress of daily movement or exercise is usually the neck. Tension headaches can be caused when you are over stressed and these muscles tighten up on you. Even if it’s not a formal massage, but getting your spouse, significant other, or friend to even give you a small massage on a regular basis can help! (Tell them it’s for your health!)
6. (Salt) Baths. I used to hate taking baths, but now 3 pregnancies later I find them very relaxing and de-stressing after a long day. I have more recently been interested in salt baths. I have used epsom salts for a while now because the magnesium is great for relaxing tight and tired muscles, but have started to learn more about the benefits of using Himalayan salt in baths too. I have just started researching these and since I am pregnant, I have not tried these yet. I look forward to trying them in a couple months! I would love to hear from anyone who has done these brine salt baths.
7. Essential Oils. These have become very popular over the last couple years, and with good reason- they can have a lot of health benefits.I bought a couple of these years ago, but never really learned a lot about them I recently started using some of the Young Living oils because I wanted to use some of them for myself and my kids for various reasons. Some of these oils are great for helping relieve stress. You can apply some topically or diffuse them in a room that you are in. Aromatherapy has been around for a while, and has shown some great health benefits and stress relief is definitely one of them. Some oils are awesome for relaxing, and some are great for a good pick me up! I am still learning a lot about these as well and I love learning more about these fascinating plants.
All of the above mentioned are natural remedies for our chronic stress issues. Sometimes the symptoms of chronic stress show up as different ailments, but they are all stemmed from it. If changing the source of your stress is not physically doable right now, then helping your body better manage it is a must for your health.
Have you or do you currently do any of the above mentioned to manage your stress? What other stress relievers are your favorites that I should add to this?