STRESS! We know it all too well. We all experience it on a daily basis at work, at home, and everywhere we go. In the AMC business, many are preparing for the busy meeting season along with site visits for future events which can mean lots of travel and deadlines. Stress, in manageable doses, can actually provide the needed motivation and energy needed to survive these seasons. So…stress in and of itself is not the enemy. Our reaction to it, however, is key!
Author Andrew Bernstein said “The truth is that stress doesn’t come from your boss, your kids, your spouse, traffic jams, health challenges, or other circumstances. It comes from your thoughts about your circumstances.”
Before, I offer a few ideas on stress reduction, I must provide the disclaimer that I have in no way mastered a state of total inner peace! As one of the newest members of the AMPED team, this is my first ever blog post, which in and of itself has generated a considerable spike in cortisol levels and therefore qualifies me to speak on the topic — right?! Actually I have had a long-time passion for natural health solutions and organic, clean eating.
First a little chemistry. Stress is, in part, the result of heightened levels of cortisol. What is cortisol? DrAxe.com offers the following explanation:
“The adrenal gland, following signals from the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, is responsible for the secretion of cortisol, a type of essential glucocorticoid steroid hormone. Cortisol levels are highest in the morning around 7 a.m. and lowest at night (called a diurnal rhythm). Cortisol is also present in both chronically stressed individuals and those who are perfectly healthy. This vital hormone possesses dozens of different purposes within the body and makes numerous chemical interactions every single day.”
In fact, we depend on cortisol production in order to respond to our surroundings, stay motivated, and to stay awake. However, overproduction can lead to “brain fog”, mood swings, and fatigue and insomnia-just to name a few. Chronic, long-term elevated levels of cortisol can lead to high blood pressure, compromised immune system and a whole host of diseases. Okay, enough about cortisol for now.
Natural solutions to help curb everyday stress are numerous so I will simply mention a few I have incorporated or whose effectiveness I have closely witnessed on someone else.
1. Exercise - Most of us have experienced the positive mental effects and energy boost from regular, moderate exercise. Just a caution that the risks of overtraining are as great as doing no exercise at all.
2. Acupuncture - Can help reduce symptoms like pain, insomnia, headaches.
3. Essential Oils - Breathing in lavender, ylang ylang, bergamot, and frankincense, for instance, can effectively help with sleep, cortisol reduction, balance hormone levels and improve immunity.
4. Deep breathing exercises.
5. Humor - Laughter is, of course, the best medicine. According to the Mayo Clinic, it enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
6. The great outdoors - Simply getting out in the natural world around us and unplugging can promote relaxation. Also, a daily dose of unfiltered sunshine hitting our skin creates a reaction that allows our skin cells to manufacture vitamin D. The growing list of diseases and conditions linked to vitamin D deficiencies warrants further investigation of specific sun exposure guidelines recommended for your skin type and where you live. Regardless, it is well documented that light therapy boosts immunity and mood, thus reducing stress.
7. Sleep - Adequate and quality sleep allow the body’s cortisol levels to naturally drop in the evening and rise again in the morning giving us energy. Those with chronically high stress will likely experience the opposite by being “wired” at night and fatigued all day.
8. Adaptogenic herbs and superfoods - They have the ability to help balance blood pressure and blood sugar levels which in turn help lower fatigue and provide a natural antidepressant.
One superfood we almost all love is Cocoa. Yes, CHOCOLATE, for example, has been used for thousands of years to promote better overall health. Keep in mind, choosing dark, minimally processed chocolate will yield the maximum benefit. (This of course goes for all food — choosing unprocessed or minimally processed fresh, organic, seasonal, grass-fed meats, and wild caught fish whenever possible will give your body the proper nourishment to combat stress.)
Avocado is another superfood that has gained popularity for good reason. It is a healthy fat, containing 20 essential nutrients including fiber, potassium, vitamin E, B vitamins, and folic acid. It acts as a natural hormone balancer which helps protect the heart and improve mood. Whether you love avocado or you avoid it, give the following recipe for Chocolate Avocado Spread a try and you just might change your mind! (recipe-courtesy of erikaelizabethnutrition.com).
There you have it! A few of my favorite ideas to consider as you approach the busy meeting/travel season! Lastly, credits to some of my favorite sources in natural health: JJ Virgin, Dr. Axe, holistic nutritionist Erika Peterson, Dr. Mercola and many more that influence the choices I make.
What’s one of your go-to stress reduction tips?