Our bodies are hard wired to protect us from danger. In ancient times the bear or the lion or any other predator was always lurking. Today our society has evolved and we no longer live in the wild but our bodies are wired the same. We still enter the ‘fight or flight’ mode only today the danger we feel comes from our fast paced lives, not meeting a deadline or responding to an email. Some of us live in a constant state of stress always busy.
The adrenals are part of an axis in our bodies connecting the Pituitary gland and the hypothalamus. This axis becomes unbalanced when you live in chronic stress, you lack sleep and you have an over-stimulating diet. Promoting balance of the HPA axis can make you more resilient to the effects of stress and cultivate a healthy stress response. So how do we relax and put ourselves back into the green zone which is also called the ‘rest and digest’ mode? When the body is stressed and functioning in survival mode it doesn’t digest properly. The composition of your meals and snacks will affect how you manage stress.
Train your body to digest regularly.
- Eat within one hour of waking up.
- Space your meals 3-4 hours a part if your blood sugar is unstable and 5-6 hours once your blood sugar has stablised.
- avoid snacking before bedtime, your body will start to digest while you sleep and wake you up so fast from dinnertime to breakfast
- drink at least 2 liters of water a day but not during meals except to wash down food.
- Combine all three of the macro-nutrients; protein, healthy fats and slow burning carbohydrates in every meal. East mostly low glycemic foods. Consume a widely coloured diet with dark coloured fruits and vegetables.
- Adrenals secrete a lot of Vitamin C. Chronic stress depletes Vitamin C store so be sure to replenish with either fruit or supplements.
- Avoid eating carbs and sugars by themselves and any packaged processed foods!!!
- Be aware that coffee, alcohol and tobacco greatly affect stress in a negative way. Managing your consumption so it isn’t in extreme will greatly help you manage your stress levels.
- Practice mindful meditation. For at least 10 minutes a day stop and breathe with your diaphragm.Breathing from your belly, even a few deep breathes will already tell your body it is ok to relax there isn’t any danger.
- Electronic curfew; to promote a more restful sleep, stop all screens at least one hour before bed or else you will be agitated when you go to bed.
- Practice pausing; when you feel overwhelmed and learn to say “no” or “not now” when it feels like too much.
- Daily, physical activity helps improve neuroplasticity along with all the other health benefits. I know it’s hard to exercise when you are too strung out from work, doing late hours and not sleeping enough. But even some gentle stretches before bed will help you sleep better.
On the weekends some people party hard to relieve stress, but they are only putting more stress on their bodies by overdrinking and overeating unhealthy foods. What you need to do on the weekends is rest, take walks in nature, spend time with loved ones and replenish your energy stores to meet the next weeks’ demands.