Confessions of a Health Coach #2
By Lisa Breitenwischer, CHHC, AADP, ERYT 500
Additional stress can be expected with the holidays, but I’ve been feeling more stress this year than usual and wondered if other people were, too? My research substantiated my gut feeling that I wasn’t alone in this stress fest, but I was surprised to learn that Stress in America was becoming a health crisis—in 2010! Way before the 2016 election, so we can only deduct it’s worse now. Here’s an excerpt from the shrinks at the American Psychological Association website:
“Stress in America—from the APA’s 2010 Stress in America survey, the message is clear: Chronic stress—stress that interferes with your ability to function normally over an extended period—is becoming a public health crisis”.
Now I’m not a psychologist, but I do consider myself an expert when it comes to being stressed. Being a small business owner is fun, but does have it’s challenges. To keep me balanced during stressful times, I have relied on certain techniques that have helped me get through these life situations. Before you fix your stress though, you need to know what it’s doing to you…
Stress 101 — Physiological & Emotional Response
When the body is stressed, the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) generates what is known as the “fight or flight” (fear) response. The body shifts all of its energy resources toward fighting off a life threat, or fleeing from an enemy. The SNS signals the adrenal glands to release hormones called adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones cause the heart to beat faster, respiration rate to increase, blood vessels in the arms and legs to dilate, digestive process to change and glucose levels (sugar energy) in the bloodstream to increase to deal with the emergency. What you need to know is that these effects happen whether you are in real danger or are triggered by someone cutting you off in traffic.
When the body is stressed, muscles tighten up. Tense muscles for long periods of time in the shoulders, neck and head may trigger both tension-type headaches and migraine headaches.
Chronic stress, or a constant stress, can contribute to long-term problems for heart and blood vessels, which can increase the risk for hypertension, heart attack or stroke.
When you’re stressed, your brain becomes more alert to sensations in your stomach. Your stomach can react with “butterflies” or even nausea or pain. You may even vomit if the stress is severe enough. And, if the stress becomes chronic, you may develop ulcers or severe stomach pain even without ulcers.
Stress can affect digestion and what nutrients your intestines absorb. It can also affect how quickly food moves through your body. You may find that you have either diarrhea or constipation.
Common effects of stress on your mood: anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, irritability or anger, restlessness, sadness or depression, lack of focus.
Common effects of stress on your behavior: over or under eating, angry outbursts, drug or alcohol abuse, social withdrawal, exercising less often.
As you can see it’s not a pretty picture…
The following recommendations are based on what I have personally found helpful. Although my stress is no longer chronic, I still use them when necessary.
Regular Physical Activity: Yoga, Stretch or Core strengthening classes can make all the difference in relieving stress in your body &mind. If I can’t get a class in, I’ll go for a walk, take the stairs, or even clean the house. The bottom line is, I just start moving & always feel better for it.
Breathing Techniques: This is a must! If I feel a stress mode coming on, I take 5 deep inhales (all the way down to the lower belly) and 5 deep exhales. You can do it through the nostrils or inhale through the nose, exhale out the mouth. It takes about 30-seconds, but will switch your body from “fight or flight” to “rest and digest” mode. Yoga Nidra, or yogic sleep, is another great way to relieve stress! We offer a 45-minute class every Thursday night @6:45pm.
Eating Greens: Incorporating more leafy greens into your day can uplift your mood, improve liver, gall bladder and kidney function & strengthen the immune system. If I’m feeling off, I’ll whip up my favorite Celery Juice recipe in my blender, which is a great pick me up.
Infrared Sauna: Sitting in an infrared sauna gives you the chance to relax, recharge and soothe stress levels. It’s also a great way to relieve aches and pains, boost immunity and enhance sleep quality.
CBD Oil: Pure Isolated CBD oil (absence of THC) can help with anxiety, depression, mood disorders, and chronic pains. I’ve been carrying the product, Ataraxia, and everyone who’s tried it reports that it’s helped with anxiety, stress, insomnia, arthritis and/or chronic pain. Personally, I’ve found Ataraxia helps me focus and accomplish day to day tasks, helping me avoid stress, and also helps relieve the inflammation in my ring finger knuckle.
Probiotics: Probiotics are anti-inflammatory microbes that affect the gut in a positive way by decreasing stress signals in the body and possibly even increasing the transformation of the amino acid tryptophan to serotonin in the brain. Recent research has shown that probiotics can help alleviate depression and have some overall effects similar to anti-depressants, such as SSRIs. I recommend them to many of my nutrition clients and anyone who may have gut issues.
Stay Positive, Energy follows thought: It’s important to be mindful of what you are thinking about. Keep your thoughts positive and about the future, as what you are thinking often influences your future. When stress triggers negative thoughts that start looping in my mind, I say this affirmation out loud:
“Everything that is happening is unfolding perfectly and will work out. I trust the Universe and I trust myself to take the right action at the right time”
Kahlua Pumpkin Pie: This month’s healthier dessert recipe is sure to elevate your mood and create bliss at the dinner table – a must for the Holidays!! Click here to view recipe.