How to Promote Health When You’re Stressed
The truth is a lot of these devices, products, and supplements are not going to help the root cause of our stress levels. Stress can be defined as the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional responses. Stress can come from negative thoughts in our brain, a current stressful environment, health issues, and stressful past events in our lives. We can store these life experiences in our bodies, and they can begin to show up in physical symptoms.
For a lot of us, we are going through multiple experiences of stress in 2020. This year we are experiencing changes globally from how we do business to how we live our personal lives, without us having much choice or control over it. For these reasons, the changes in 2020 come with a higher stress level, especially if you are an at-home working parent with two children in a virtual online school.
Will stress make you more susceptible to getting sick and have an effect on your immune system? Yes. So what can you do about it? Instead of fanaticizing when this whole thing will be over or buying into marketing gimmicks around stress, I’ll show you how you can create an environment that is positive and supportive during these times and help you move on with life along during a pandemic. These tips will help promote health when you are stressed.
What to Eat
Paying extra close attention to your nutrition during this time of stress is key. Consuming balanced meals containing protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and fiber are important to keep your blood sugar levels and macronutrients balanced. Eating a diet based on whole foods is vital for achieving these natural sources of nutrients, and a way to promote health with you’re stressed. We know that your immune system’s health is mainly your gut bacteria, so taking a probiotic while consuming dietary fiber, both soluble and insoluble, is important. This will help with keeping a balance of good bacteria in your gut happy while maintaining a healthy immune system.
Especially in times of stress, It’s critical to stay away from processed foods as they will not support your immune system and healthy bacteria in your gut. Eating processed foods cause inflammation in the body, lowering your immune systems’ ability to defend itself against harmful diseases. Once you start taking out processed foods, you will see and feel a big difference in your whole body. This simple point is huge to promote health when you’re stressed.
It’s also important to hydrate and make sure you are drinking enough water. I have had many clients dislike the taste of water and have had a hard time maintaining a consistent habit of drinking it. One trick you can do is adding slice citrus as a flavor like lime, orange, or lemon. This can help entice you to drink water and stay away from flavored waters, which tend to have added sugars and chemicals. It’s ideal to drink roughly 10-15 cups of water a day, basically until your urine is clear is a good rule of thumb.
Laugh Away the Stress
Laughing improves your immune system and increases endorphins in your brain. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity overall. By contrast, positive thoughts and laughing can release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially other illnesses. So watch a funny movie, stand-up comedian, or show that suits your style of humor.
Get Plenty of Sleep
From time to time, our brain is so ramped up due to stressing about the past or the future. In turn, we can have a hard time getting a good night of rest. Our increased levels of stress hormones like cortisol stimulate alertness and keep us awake as our brains try to solve the many issues of our daily lives before bed or during sleep, rather than focusing on winding down and relaxing. Nights like these can disrupt sleep cycles and put us in a mood for the next day.
But if we need to increase the quality of sleep, what do we do? Set a sleep routine. Turn off any device like your phone or TV about 1 hour before bed to limit the light from these devices keeping your brain awake and alert. You can also turn down the lights in your home to create a more relaxed environment.
You can keep a journal next to your bed and write down anything that you fear forgetting for the next day, thoughts, or ideas if you are having a hard time relaxing your mind. Once you’re in bed with a window of 7-9 hours to sleep, you can practice box breathing as a way to calm your body down and tune into the present moment. I wrote more about this subject in another blog all about how sleep boosts your immunity naturally.
Listen to an Inspiring Podcast or Audiobook
Stimulating your brain on a subject you love and opening your mind to new ideas is critical when we feel stressed. This helps us bring our focus to what matters and not focusing on what we can’t control. The content is also important because depending on what we listen to and what media is around us, we will absorb that energy (both negative or positive).
For example, if you are constantly watching the news or getting the latest on the pandemic, it can cause your body to be stressed out and in a state of fight or flight. This then will lower your immune system’s ability to work while your stress hormones are being released in your body. It can create a state of fear and uncertainty, which can lead to other behavior that sabotages your journey towards creating a more stress-free life.
Taking in nature can be very healing and centering on reducing stress. Observing the trees, birds, wind, or ocean waves can help us change our focus to what’s in our immediate environment and away from future or past thoughts.
Being outside for 20-30 minutes three times a week does improve our mood and stress levels. If you can’t make it outside, you can play some nature sounds indoors as a way to help listen to an environment that echo’s nature. I love listening to rainforest sounds or ocean waves as I wake up and make my coffee every morning to center myself for my day ahead and start in a relaxed state.
Ah, yes, that word again that is flooded in the stress management industry, presence. Practicing presence helps you feel that you are in the moment, accepting the now as it happens and rolling with what arrives your way. Easier said than done, right? Well, it’s more of a state being than a choice to either fight reality or denies it.
Presence is always happening, but your mind can choose to resist it or accept it. How do you want to experience what’s happening around you? How you experience it is how your life will be both positive or negative. One easy way to bring yourself into the present moment is to observe a plant, animal, or anything relating to nature. How the light hits the leaves of a tree or how the branches sway in the wind. These are easy ways to bring you into the now. I also love Dr. Joe Dispenza’s meditations and this guided space meditation you can follow along with.
I Deliberately listed this one last because not every time we are going through something that’s stressful, it is a good idea to add more stress to the equation in terms of exercise. I just advise this because some people go after intense exercise as a distraction away from what’s happening.
Exercise can also be very healing, depending on what kind of style you are doing. I always ask what I am trying to promote the style of exercise I am doing. Studies show that exercising outside, breathwork, and adding control to your body can all reduce stress. The more we learn how to connect with our body and keep a consistent schedule for movement, we have more control and confidence in our abilities as our level of stress decreases.
There you have it, some simple ways you can improve your stress levels with how you move through life! Remember that all we have is this moment, enjoy it! If you are searching for an at-home workout program make sure you check out my Foundations program! It has 60 full body workouts and focuses on Pilates, Resistance band exercises as well as mobility!