Everyday Ways to Reduce Stress (that actually make an impact!)
1. Consume a breakfast with 30 grams of protein.
If you grew up in the late 80’s/early 90’s, you’ll recall the breakfast propaganda surrounding whole grains and low fat milk- ‘the perfect breakfast’ solution brought to you by cereal manufacturers. Unfortunately, this way of eating leads to that meal being converted to triglycerides (fat), with dysfunctional cortisol levels and eventually that affects the adrenal glands. When we’re consuming refined carbs first thing in the morning, we can develop insulin sensitivity and insulin resistance. When we become insulin resistant the body overproduces insulin which results in uncontrolled blood sugar. The cycle continues: the adrenal glands attempt to balance the blood sugar by making extra cortisol and cortisol levels spikes. Cortisol is a time-released hormone. It’s naturally high in the morning (to get us up and moving) and begins to taper off as the day progresses (to help us sleep). High carb breakfasts cause fatigue which can make us seek out stimulants in excess like caffeine or sugar. By having a breakfast that focuses on protein, our insulin stays balanced and low in the morning, as it should be, and we keep cortisol at healthy, natural levels throughout the day while also avoiding the fatigue.
2. Clear up infections in the body.
Infections cause stress to the body and that can lead to an increased risk of infections. If you’re someone who is prone to infections, clearing up those infections is a top priority. Recurring infections can be a symptom of chronic stress since the body is never able to fully heal and recover. Common infections like candida overgrowth can be a result of high cortisol levels as it impacts other hormones and organs in the body- including your digestive system and your immune system. If your stress levels are high and blood sugar is unbalanced, pathogenic microorganisms can proliferate and overtake good healthy microorganisms, leading to sickness. Underlying infections can be cleared up with natural remedies but it is best to work with a qualified health care provider to assess the infection you may be dealing with. You can start by reducing your sugar intake, avoiding processed foods and starting a probiotic.
3. Drastically reduce blue light exposure.
Our reliance on our devices is unavoidable- we use our laptops, computers, tablets and phones numerous times a day for every aspect of our lives. Eliminating them would do a world of good for our health, but that’s not realistic. The next best approach is to reduce exposure and repair the damage we may have caused as a result of frequent use. It’s important to note that studies have shown that increased use of electronics has led to a lowered overall well-being, increased stress levels in both adults and children and a decline in mental health- not to mention the impact screens have on our sleep patterns.
Blue light is a signal to our brain that tell us we need to be awake, alert and something in our external environment is stimulating. This interferes with our cortisol levels, which as mentioned earlier, need to gradually decline throughout the day. If we’re on our devices for too long or too late, we’re disturbing the body’s natural circadian rhythm. When sleep is affected by even just one hour, we’re more at risk of over consuming refined carbohydrates, relying on stimulants and experiencing blood sugar imbalances the next day. Not to mention the way this makes us mentally and emotionally struggle. See how everything is a synergistic system? For blue light blocking glasses and a few other helpful tools to improve sleep quality, click here.
4. Avoid procrastinating.
Procrastination is a self-imposed burden we place on ourselves time and time again. We can likely all recall several instances where procrastination has left us feeling drained, anxious, stressed out and completely frazzled. So, why do we do it? In the short-term, procrastination serves a really helpful purpose, which is relieving immediate stress. Since we get these reaffirming boosts of dopamine when we make a decision that reduces our stress hormones, it can be very challenging to overcome something like procrastination. The importance of ending the behaviour is to realize that further procrastination causes us to feel further stressed, which continues the cycle indefinitely. When we put off a task or action we not only feel the weight of it mentally, but also physically. As soon as you recall or consider the task you’re procrastinating over you feel that surge of adrenaline- and that is physically stress within the body, manifesting.
A tip (from a professional procrastinator) is to break the task or action down into simple steps with an absolute end date or time. Time expands! If you give yourself a week to finish a 2 hour task, you will take that week. You will also stress and ruminate every thing associated with that task and other commitments that week. But, if you can break it down and say: “I am working on the task today for 1 hour in the morning, from 7-8am and then again in the afternoon from 1-2pm” it sounds easier to manage. It feel different than by simply reminding yourself constantly that, “I need to finish that task by the end of the week”.
Time-blocking is a great strategy for those who are prone to procrastination and who also experience stress or anxiety from a looming task.
Get in the habit of time blocking with these 2 sheets. I them use every single day, even on the weekends, because it keeps me clear-headed. One is for the week at a glance and one is for the day. If your tasks are on paper, they’re out of your head, reducing your mental real estate!
In vibrant health,