What you need to know about managing your stress levels
by Donnalynn Civello, Resident Health + Wellness Expert
During times like these, it is completely understandable that we humans fall prey to stress. After all, we live in an extremely time-impoverished society that we ourselves have actually created. Our “to do” lists are off the charts, our work hours are longer than ever before and we are forced to do more with less resources and less time due to economic restructuring. What’s worse is our children are also overscheduled with extra curricular activities and playdates! How do we get it all in these days and what is the price our bodies pay to do so?
Virtually while we were sleeping, life seems to have sped up around us. But here’s the deal, we are where we are – no sense in complaining about the stressful lives we have painted for ourselves. Lamenting our situations will not reduce stress levels, but developing stronger coping mechanisms for managing our stress will ultimately enable us to efficiently and easefully do more with less.
Firstly, let’s talk about the stress cycle – what stress actually does to the human body. Most people are unaware of the destruction and havoc that stress creates in our systems. When we are feeling stressed out, the body naturally releases our stress hormones to help us deal. Those stress hormones – adrenaline and cortisol – are necessary for the body; in fact they are part of the “fight or flight” response mechanism. They are what enable us to keep going in the face of adversity and/or they give us the will to get through challenging situations. There is a negative drawback though… these very hormones that save us from the clutches of stress’ grip, are the same hormones that quite literally poison us. The body gets flooded with adrenaline and cortisol – too much of these hormones actually weaken the immunity system, weaken our hearts and increase fatigue, headaches and irrational behavior. These stress hormones and the subsequent mental/emotional instability begins to stimulate cravings for refined sugars and caffeine (which are stimulants) and further increase those stress hormone levels and really end up stressing us out!! There it is – the stress cycle!
How do we stay clear of the perils of the stress cycle you might be asking? There are some natural antidotes to stress and we will discuss a few of them here:
Natural Stress Relievers
Gaba is a key neurotransmitter in the body. Gaba is generally known as our “natural tranquilizers” responsible for providing a sense of calm, relaxation and overall stress tolerance. When there is a deficiency in this particular neurotransmitter, we tend to feel stressed/burned out, unable to relax or loosen up, exhibit tense muscles and often feel easily overwhelmed. GABA is also considered an amino acid. Therefore, you can take GABA directly in capsule or tablet form for rather immediate stress relief.
The second stress relief treatment I would like to discuss is MACA. Maca is also a Peruvian root vegetable and is known to be one of the most perfect foods on our planet thus putting it into the “Superfoods” category. It can be most easily found in powdered form and added to smoothies or juices for easy assimilation into the body. MACA provides raw materials needed for the body to produce serotonin which is responsible for creating a sense of emotional stability and a positive outlook. As an adaptogen, MACA is seen to lower cortisol levels which tend to interfere with normal serotonin production. Normalizing cortisol will help normalize serotonin levels in the body. MACA is the impetus by which stress levels start to diminish.
Diet Rich in B Vitamins
When you are stressed out, it is best to eat foods rich in B Vitamins which encourage natural management of stress, depression and mood swings as well as energy production. Such foods are your dark leafy greens, brown rice, lentils, and snacks of trail mix with almonds/walnuts, dark chocolate (cacao nib form), goji berries and apricots and dark chocolate covered bananas.
We have explored a few methods for naturally reducing stress levels. Despite these treatments, the most important healing recommendation I can give you with regards to stress is to let life be. Accept that there are times when you will have to work harder than others – life is cyclical like that. Stress happens yes, but it is even more important to remember not to push yourself beyond your healthy functioning capacity. If you are dealing with higher than normal expectations and your stress levels are increasing as a result, know that there are natural methods to assist you in strengthening your stress coping mechanisms so that you can rise to every challenge and get it all done with an air of ease and grace. The wise among us don’t spend time fighting their way out of stressful situations; they find a healthy and constructive way to deal with them.
* Please note that you should NEVER embark on any holistic healing therapy without first consulting your primary care physician.
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