As a fast moving society, we are learning more and more each day about how stress contributes to a variety of health conditions such as obesity, heart disease, chronic fatigue, depression, and so much more. One of the root causes of disease is chronic inflammation, something that millions of americans suffer from. Sadly, that number just continues to grow.
We are now more aware of how diet plays a role in disease and disorder, however, stress is also a major contributing factor. The hard part is that we do not realize the effects of our stress until we come across these diseases and ailments. Even when we are aware that we are under major stress, how do we change our lives to decrease it? Many people have careers, kids to take care of, and families to feed. There is always a lot of work to be done, commitments to follow through with, and unfortunately time waits for no one.
Stress: A Contributing Factor to Chronic Inflammation
A quick note on inflammation: The body’s natural inflammatory response is healthy and brings healing. When we cut ourselves, our skin may bleed, swell, and become a bit inflamed as a way of mending itself. That is the normal inflammatory response. However, when something is wrong in our bodies for a long time, say bacteria, unhealthy diet, stress, our immune systems will try to fix it. This can come in a variety of ways: our immune system attacking our joints, colons, brains, etc. This brings chronic inflammation to parts of our bodies that do not need it, resulting in diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Colitis, Chron’s, Alzheimers, and much more. Pharmaceutical drugs can help the symptoms of these diseases, but they do not target the root cause: inflammation.
To target the root cause of inflammation it is best to work with a Naturopathic Doctor. The main areas you will likely target are diet and lifestyle. You will work on things such as getting adequate sleep, eating a natural and healthy diet, eliminating food allergies, supplementing for deficiencies, and reducing overall stress.
So you may not have time or money to go to a Naturopathic Doctor, or you may just be looking for a few tweaks to your daily routine to decrease stress. Wherever you are in your stress levels, it is important to sit down and evaluate what is working, what is not, and what you could be changing. It is best to do this as a family because lets face it- we barely have time to do anything that doesn’t involve family! You don’t want to add more to your stress levels.
Here are 5 quick and easy changes to your daily routine in order to decrease stress.
5 Daily Strategies to Decrease Stress
1. Eat More Fruit
You may be thinking, “eat more fruit to reduce stress?!”
That’s right. Did you know that a large portion of our stress comes from digesting food? Every time you eat it puts stress on your digestive system. Have you ever realized that after a steak dinner you want to take a nap? All of your energy is going towards digestion. When you don’t have time to nap after meals, you may find yourself feeling sluggish, tired, and stressed. Fruit is made of fiber and water, two things that do help with digestion. It is the easiest food to digest, hence, decreasing stress levels in our digestive systems.
How to incorporate this? Fruit is best eaten in the morning or on an empty stomach. Try replacing a meal with a loaded fruit smoothie, or having some bananas and juicy watermelon for breakfast. What is your favorite fruit? Eat it! Lots of it!
2. Go To Sleep Earlier
Do you really need to scroll through Facebook and Instagram for those 30 minutes before bed? Or do you really need to watch one more episode of that TV show? Probably not. That is a fast and easy change that you can make to get to sleep 30 minutes earlier. Sleep does wonders for your physical and psychological health, thus, a huge stress decreaser. Everyone needs different amounts of sleep, and it is up to you to figure out how much sleep you need, however, going to bed earlier rather than later may play in your favor.
In her latest book, Vibe, best selling author and psychotherapist, Robin Openshaw explains that every 1 hour of sleep that you get before midnight is equivalent to 2 hours of sleep after midnight.
If we are extremely stressed, our bodies go into “Fight or Flight” mode. This is okay for times that we need it such as reaching a deadline, when we are in danger, etc. However, with the abundance of stress we have right now, our bodies are so used to just jumping to this response. For example, when you are driving to work and get cut off, and almost get into a wreck, you may experience an adrenaline rush of the “Fight or Flight” response. This may stick with you the whole day because you were already stressed to begin with, and the rude man that cut you off just made things worse. So then you are using up all of your stress reserves on a typical day that you actually don’t need it. This results in more stress.
When we are stressed and functioning in “Fight or Flight” mode, we go from stomach breathing to chest breathing. These breaths taken through our chest are shorter and faster. This short breathing has a physiological response in our bodies that brings tension and you guessed it- stress. Try it now- take quick, short breaths and see what happens in your body!
Taking a moment to take 3, 5 or 10 deep breaths can change this physiological response and relax our muscles and decrease tension in our bodies. It’s a natural and quick stress-reliever!
When we are stressed, we might feel flighty and anxious. Touch is something very grounding we can do during those times. Why do you need a grounding exercise? It brings you, your body, and your brain back to the present moment. We create so much stress by worrying about the future or the past as if it is something we are experiencing right now.
Touch is a wonderful way to ground yourself. Whether it is a touch from a loved one, hug from a friend, or even a simple massage you give yourself, it is a loving, grounding way to bring your senses back to the present.
Next time you feel flighty or anxious, ground yourself by talking and cuddling with your loved one, hugging a friend, or giving yourself a simple massage. You could also treat yourself to an actual massage! However, just rubbing your hands, arms, or feet is sufficient!
5. Say, “No”
“Yes” and “No” – two of the most powerful words that we can say. I think we all want to be the “Yes” people who welcome adventure, challenges, dates, commitments, etc. However, when we are stressed we need to know our limits.
Saying “No” to someone (anyone, including work and family members) empowers you to take care of yourself. When you are taken care of, you are empowered to take care of others, and say “Yes” to more things.
It is a very hard thing to do, but set limits for yourself. How do you know your limits? Talk with your partner or loved ones and decide together. Often times the people around us know our limits more than we do.
Well, there you are. 5 simple and easy, yet extremely powerful changes you can make to your daily routine in order to decrease stress and ultimately, avoid disease and disorder. I would love to hear your thoughts on this. What do you think is your main cause of stress? Which of these 5 things do you do, or don’t do? What do you think is missing from this list? What do you think you need the most right now? Comment below! 🙂