Updated: Nov 23, 2020
According to Harvard Medical Journal, stress is an epidemic that is responsible for 90% of all doctor visits.
Recent global events has brought up much needed self-care and self reflection. It has allowed me to release tension and anxiety that I wasn't even aware of. Can you relate to that? We spend so much of our time stressed out that we have lost touch on how it feels to just BE. Our lives are busy and hectic, without much time to slow down and de-stress. Lockdown has given many people just that, me included.
I watched the documentary Heal and it brought up some hard honest questions for myself. The film reveals the impact our thoughts and belief system have on our physical body and the biological changes it causes (watch here on the power of the placebo affect). It was an invitation to draw my attention in, become more present in the moment, observe the way I speak to myself and others, and practice gratitude more. Managing your stress levels and the relationship with your emotions has the ability to impact your health. It isn't about eliminating stress from our lives, it is about managing it and becoming more resilient to it.
In response to stress, physical or emotional, the nervous system is in the “fight-or-flight” sympathetic mode. The body is in survival mode and isn't concerned about the body's self-healing mechanisms. Your body directs energy and blood flow from any functions that aren't needed for survival such as digestion and reproduction. But when the body is at peace, i.e. when you are calm, the parasympathetic (rest and repair) nervous system takes the lead and the body’s natural self-healing mechanisms are activated. It is when our body repairs, restores, maintains, and detoxifies itself.
They body's stress response is an essential natural response, however when it becomes chronic it becomes a problem. An active stress management routine should be as important as exercise and a healthy diet. By intentionally reducing your stress levels through stress management tools, you're making dramatic changes that give you an advantage towards improving health issues such as immunity, weight management, brain health and hormone regulation.
I believe in small steps with big impact that we can incorporate into our lives. I believe we can all choose one thing we can do today for our mental health. I hope this inspires you to take better care of your mental health.
Meditation relaxes the nervous system in a way that gives the body rest, five times deeper than sleep. This rest helps the body heal itself from many things, including physical ailments, but most commonly lower stress levels and anxiety.
You don't need to meditate for hours, just 5 minutes where you focus on your breath will give you a chance to de-stress and rejuvenate. You can use meditation apps (Insight, Calm, Headspace) to help you and to maintain your practice.
Practicing gratitude by pausing to reflect on the things you're thankful for can bring more positive emotions, improve sleep, increase compassion and kindness, and will even enhance immune system. Making a gratitude list is something you can do in just 5 minutes, whenever you have the time. You could even do it with your family or partner over dinner so everyone gets the benefit.
Clear Your Space
Having a clear tidy space, helps to clear your mind. Having multiple visual stimulation can make us more distracted and for some can be really debilitating. A tidy space often makes us calmer, more relaxed and can generate a sense of creativity and motivation. You can start with one room in your house and gradually work around the whole house. I always recommend starting with your bedroom, clutter affects your quality of sleep which affects your stress levels.
Get out of your head and into your body. We spend so much time in our head, thinking, analysing and worrying. Moving the body and shifting our focus, as well as the production of hormones like endorphins from exercise, helps to lift your mood and increase your resilience to stress.
I love yoga as it combines breath and movement and it also increases productions of Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is a neurotransmitter that helps send messages between the brain and the nervous system. It has a natural calming affect and its main function is to reduce the activity of nerve cells in the nervous system.
Nutrition Your food choices impact every cell in your body and learning what to eat to maintain a healthy body is essential. Certain foods have the ability to reduce cortisol levels, improve cognitive function and support the adrenal glands.
Zinc - oysters, kale, broccoli, legumes and nuts
Magnesium - fish, avocado, dark leafy greens
Vitamin B - asparagus, leafy greens, meat and avocado
Omega 3 - salmon, nuts, seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds
Probiotic rich foods - kefir, yogurt
Herbal teas - sipping calming herbal teas throughout the day can help with stress levels. Chamomile, lemon balm, verbena and passion flower all have a calming affect on the body.
Adaptogens A unique group of medicinal plants that help support the body, regulate and enhance your stress response. They help us adapt to stressful situations, lower cortisol levels and enhance immunity.
Ashwaganda - often referred to as Indian ginseng, ashwaganda help to lower cortisol levels, improve mood and enhance immunity.
Holy Basil (Tulsi) - great for symptoms of brain fog and other cognitive issues related to stress and anxiety. It balances hormones and especially beneficial in women.
Rhodiola - if you're struggling with fatigue, this one is for you. It helps manage stress-related mental and physical fatigue.
Cordycep Mushroom - if you're anemic, always tired, gets ill often; medicinal mushroom are extremely beneficial.
There has been a welcome awareness towards mental health but there's still work to be done. Taking care of your mental health is vital for your wellbeing and for maintaining your health. Do one thing every day for yourself.