How To Rescue Your Body From Stress
Sometimes it is a crucial pitch or presentation. Other times it is a period of non-stop travel while a sick child is at home. And often times, it is one more deadline in an already packed schedule.
Stress arrives in different shapes and sizes for everyone. But it has the same effects on every single person’s body. Laura Moore, the founder of a health coaching program for women called Uppy, began unraveling this stress thread after the gym she owned literally burned to the ground.
For many months after, the personal fitness expert underwent physical changes she could not understand in a body that felt completely alien to her. Turning to research and her own vast professional experience, she learnt exactly what stress was doing to her own body, and more importantly, now to combat it.
“The world around us has evolved but our bodies continue responding like it did in the pre-historic days,” she explained. “Stress back then would have been a woolly mammal or a rival tribe chasing us whereas today it is mostly about not having enough time to get everything done. But the brain still sees the latter as a threat and sends out the same fight or flight signals to protect us.”
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Your Body On Stress
According to Laura, as soon as the mind registers overwhelm of any sort, the brain translates that into danger. This immediately triggers the adrenal glands into releasing adrenaline and cortisol to trigger the fight or flight mode. The adrenaline surge raises the heart rate so more blood flows through the body. Cortisol meanwhile floods the body with glucose for energy.
“But cortisol also slows the body’s metabolism to maintain those glucose levels until the so-called danger passes,” Laura said. “If that glucose is not used, it is automatically stored as belly fat. This is why some people gain weight or find it hard to lose weight during stressful times.”
She added that the body would also begin decreasing the use of any system that it deems to be non-essential and this usually affects the digestive system. The disruption in our elimination habits leads to bloating and a toxic build up in the body.
“Our gut is very intimately linked to our brain so if our gut is malfunctioning it can really affect our mood and the way we react to things. Finally, if we are not eating well and the body stops drawing nutrients from food, the toxic build up makes the body more susceptible to fatigue and illness.”
Rescuing Your Body
woman with drive asked Laura how to combat these symptoms and she shared seven easy ways that have worked for her and her clients:
1. Give your brain short, frequent breaks. While you probably cannot pop out of the office for a lie on the beach, you can turn to other means of resting your brain. Deep belly breathing is an excellent start. Just ten slow, full breaths can detach you from external stimulation and calm your nervous system. It also fills the body with extra oxygen for more energy.
2. Consciously court sleep. We do not sleep well under stress as our mind is racing. So learn to create boundaries that will help you entice sleep. Stop checking work emails once you leave the office or impose half an hour of no technology before bedtime. This will calm the brain and allow it to return to its natural rhythm so you can fall asleep much easier.
3. Go green. Just as deep breaths send oxygen through the body, so do green foods. These nutrient-rich foods also keep the digestive system functioning so choose fresh produce and stay away from processed food.
4. Stay off caffeine. Try not to rely too much on coffee if you can since it is a stimulant. Sip on herbal teas or even hot water with lemon instead to cleanse the system and prevent inflammation in the body. When your bodily systems work efficiently so does your mind.
5. Fight the sweet tooth. Sugar causes inflammation in the body and produces an insulin spike, which will have you soaring with energy at one moment and crashing back down the next.
6. Pass on the glass. If you are having glass of wine because you genuinely enjoy the taste then that is fine. But do not rely on alcohol to help you switch off or unwind.
7. Break out a sweat. How you work out depends on your level of stress. Exercise can be great for endorphin release but if you are highly stressed and tired then choose low-intensity activities like walking, swimming or yoga. The fastest way to combat stress is to listen to your body.
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