STRESS: What it could be doing to you and how to deal with it.
A lot of us are clued up on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle through our diet and exercise.
But did you know, that it may be stress that is stopping your progress?
Cortisol is a hormone that has a wide range of uses throughout your body, such as metabolism, immune response and blood sugar management. However, when highly elevated (through chronic stress) it can have disastrous effects on the body. Although this blog post is about some of the negative affects cortisol can have on our body, it should not be demonized. It is very important in helping our body respond to stress, and situations when we need our flight or fight reaction.
If you are overly stressed, this could be one of the main reason you are unable to reach your goals.
Below are a few tips and tricks to help minimize the amount of stress in your life.
I am starting with the most important. Sleep.
Sleep is an amazing free ‘supplement’ that we all have access to. A lot of us have no idea of the power that those Vitamin Z’s can have. Sleep is vital to keep your body and mind functioning correctly. As soon as we are over-tired or lacking in sleep, our cortisol levels will rise.
If you are someone who struggles with getting enough sleep then follow the simple steps below.
- TURN OFF
Our brains have an internal clock that sets itself based on the rising and setting of the sun, it knows that when it is dark, it is time to go to bed and when it is light, it is time to wake up. The hormone melatonin is released when it gets dark which lets us know it’s time to sleep.
As we now live in an electronic world, we spend a lot of time at night looking at bright computer, TV and phone screens. The ‘blue light’produced by electronic devices prevents melatonin release, stopping you from sleeping.
Turn off your phone/TV/devices at least half an hour before bed. I-phones now have a ‘night-mode’ option which changes the blue light to a warm yellow screen to reduce disruption and help you to sleep.
- CARB UP
Eat carbohydrates before bed. Did you know carbs help your body release the feel-good hormone serotonin? Serotonin increases the sensation of calmness and relaxation. So, make sure that with your dinner, you are eating carbohydrates to help you not only get to sleep but sleep better.
- EARLY NIGHTS
Try your best to be in bed before 10 pm. I am always in bed by 9:30 pm (during the week). My Fitbit watch has a gentle reminder, telling me ‘it’s time to start winding down.’ This way you will get 8 hours’ sleep, which is said to be the amount our body’s need (although this can vary from person to person). Your body will soon get into a routine, meaning you’ll no longer need an alarm clock as you will naturally wake up around 6 am.
When we are stressed our body immediately turns on our ‘fight or flight response.’ Our heart rate goes up, we have an increased feeling of anxiety, our muscles become tense and our breathing accelerates. However, if we can learn to control our breathing in a calm manner this will have huge benefits towards stress control and reduction. It sounds ridiculously simple. But, by doing a 4-second breath in and a 4-second breath out we will immediately have an increased sense of calmness. Try it!
We now live in a world where a lot of the time we are either hearing or seeing bad news. This can put us in a negative head space, which over time can increase our stress load dramatically.
Instead of reading the newspaper, or watching the news last thing before you go to bed or first thing in the morning. Try switching to something more uplifting. A good book, magazine, insightful podcast, calming music, yoga, writing or walking. Having the last or first thing we see, hear or read as positive will immediately make us feel better and lower our stress levels. Before I go to bed, I like to either think or say out loud to a partner/friend/family member, 3 things I am grateful for that day. This leaves me with a positive mindset before bed.
These are the 3 steps I try and live by. By making these small lifestyle changes one step at a time, you will live a less stressful life.
With the help of more sleep, a calmer and more positive outlook, you may be amazed how much easier it is to lead a healthier and happier life.