Stress: Taking control by restoring balance
Imagine yourself sitting on top of a mountain. The cool touch of the wind caressing your face as you sink deeper and deeper into a state of absolute bliss...
If only we could all find our inner peace by using picturesque imagery on a daily basis, the world might just look like a happier place. With our modern-day life, taking time out to let our overburdened adrenal glands take a break is a luxury we oftentimes deny ourselves.
The next couple of weeks we want to focus on mood and mental challenges we face, so I thought a good place to start at would be stress.
The negative effects of chronic stress on the body
We covered the effects of stress on the body in a previous article, but here's a quick recap.
When the body is under constant pressure, it doesn’t get the chance to switch off and heal. This continuous release of stress hormones causes damage to the body and can lead to numerous of the modern-day ailments that we suffer from today.
Long-term effects of chronic stress
- Respiratory issues
- Cardiovascular issues
- Immune system issues
- Reproductive issues
- Muscle weakness
- Memory loss in elderly persons
- Depletion of amino acids, enzymes, hormones, minerals, neurotransmitters, proteins and vitamins
What can I do to manage stress better?
There is no one way that will work for every person when it comes to the management of stress. This is a journey that each of us needs to go on themselves, yet there are some things that we can look at as a starting point:
- Be gentle with yourself
- Harness your powers of delegation
- Take time out for yourself now and again and do something just because you like it
- Identify your stressors - you can better plan to deal with something if you know what it is
- Establish healthy boundaries for yourself and others
- Discuss your fears and challenges with someone you trust
Practical ways of letting go of stress
It easy for people to say, do things that help you release stress. What sometimes does not get shared are practical ways of doing so.
Leave the worries outside
One of my coaches told me a story in a class once that has stuck with me. I share this with many people that I work with when it comes to stress management.
There was a mechanic who went to work on some cars for a rich businessman.
At the end of the day, the mechanic went to the businessman and with a rueful look asked if the businessman would mind giving him a ride to his house, since his own car had broken down. He would have to come back the next day and try to fix his car.
The businessman saw that the mechanic was troubled by all of this and agreed to take him to his home. On the way there, the mechanic shared with the businessman that life had indeed been challenging for a while and that his equipment had started malfunctioning.
When they reached the home of the mechanic, the businessman watched him walk up to a tree, stroke the leaves and immediately get a smile on his face. With this smile, he turned to the house and went inside.
The next morning, the businessman asked the mechanic what exactly made him smile when he stroked the leaves of the tree.
The mechanic replied that every time he touches the tree, he places all of his worries in it and leaves them there to be picked up the next day, because his family and home do not deserve his worries.
“And the amazing thing”, he said, “is that those worries are almost never there the next day…”
This visualisation is a powerful one that can be used in order to take a step back from stressful situations and let the effect of those situations be minimised.
3, 2, 1, Blastoff!
This exercise can be done as often as you feel the need to.
What if you could feel the stress and anxiety in your body without going into it? Feel where it would be.
Now take that stress and anxiety and put it in a box. Be aware of how that feels.
What if you could take that box and put it down next to you?
What if you put that box containing your stress and anxiety and put it outside in a rocket?
What if you could count down - 3, 2, 1, Blastoff - and send that box containing your stress and anxiety into the sun to be kept there.
How doe that make you feel?
Taking a leaf from tree-huggers and reconnecting with nature
When last did you walk barefoot? On grass? Allowing the sun to actually touch your skin?
Walking with direct contact with the earth has gotten the apt name of “Earthing” and it has been getting more and more attention from the medical community for its health benefits.
5 Health benefits from walking barefoot in nature
- Moderated heart rate variability
- Stress reduction
- Better sleep
- Reduced pain
- Better glucose regulation
Walking on sunshine
Sunshine allows us to create vitamin D, one of the most important hormones of health that there is. Vitamin D has shown to assist with:
- Protection against cancer
- Normalizing high blood pressure
- Bone health
- Immune system function
- Fighting depression
Drinking the stress away
Yeah, it is an unfortunate truth that many people grab for alcohol in order to numb themselves to the effects of stress. This is a temporary solution, since the after-effects and long-term effects of alcohol misuse puts the body under more pressure, leading to a cycle that can be extremely difficult to break.
So then why even discuss drinking stress away?
There are many delicious drinks one can make that aids the body in dealing with the chronic stress. Here are some of my favourites:
I adore turmeric! It takes top spot in my arsenal of spices for health, so I love using it in this tea right before bed.
- 800 ml water
- 6 cm ginger root, cut into thin slices
- ½ lemon - juiced
- 2.5 ml turmeric powder (or 5ml fresh turmeric)
- Bring the water to the boil.
- Add the ginger, lemon juice and turmeric, cover and let simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Strain the mixture and enjoy.
You can add some honey to sweeten the deal of healthy sleep if you want. And for a delicious alternative, replace the water with coconut milk.
Saintly sleep tea
This tea is a potent stress fighter and will help your body to let go of tension easily. St. Johns Wort can negate the pill, so be careful of that one if you are on it.
- 25ml Spearmint
- 12.5 ml St. John’s Wort
- 12.5 ml Chamomile
- 5 ml Valerian Root
- 12.5 ml Passion flower
- 2.5 ml Himalayan salt
- 12.5 ml Rosebud
Mix all of these ingredients well and keep in an airtight container
To make the tea, add a teaspoon into a diffuser and add 200 ml water.
Let steep for 3 - 4 minutes, pour and enjoy.
Which supplements can I take to help me manage stress?
The sitoindosides content in ashwagandha may help to counteract stress
- Vitamin C
May protect the body against the toxic effects of stress
Hydroxytryptophan may alleviate anxiety, improve mood through an increase in the feel-good hormone serotonin and also boost sleep through increasing brain melatonin
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
These fatty acids may inhibit inflammation and counteract the toxic effects of stress
Excessive release of cortisol due to excessive stress may be inhibited by phosphatidylserine.
- Vitamin B5
May help the body to counteract stress
- Vitamin B6
May protect the body against the toxic effects of excessive stress
- Vitamin D3
Vitamin D can help the body fight the effects of stress in numerous ways
Magnesium may alleviate stress by improving the function of the adrenal glands
Theanine may be useful for the treatment of anxiety, since it can sedate the central nervous system and generate relaxing alpha waves in the brain.
Be your own best friend
Sometimes stress is not just in the mind and inasmuch as the previous exercises and tips can be of huge benefit, also know your limitations and that it is ok to reach out for professional help. It is ok to not be ok and to buckle under stress. There are people out there who can help you with the management of your stress if you ask them.
The important thing in this story is to come down from the mountain feeling refreshed and ready to face whatever the world has to throw at you knowing you can handle it.