In our most recent article, we discussed the varying effects that chronic stress has on your body. While it’s not a pretty picture, with increasing inflammation, negatively affecting sleep, the gut barrier, the heart, body weight, and immunity…there is still reason to hope! Because YOU have control over how you respond to stress. There are tools to help you control your cortisol response and in turn, your stress level. In this article, let’s review some ways you can take back control!
What you eat has a direct effect on your body’s cortisol response. Inflammatory foods, in particular, contribute to higher cortisol levels. Foods high in sugar, trans fats and highly processed fats, caffeine and alcohol; foods low in micronutrients, antioxidants, fiber, or healthy fats and proteins, can contribute to elevated cortisol. On the other hand, many healthy foods can actually lower cortisol levels, such as healthy fats, fruits and vegetables, healthy proteins, and probiotic foods. At Body in Harmony, our nutrition staff is highly trained to help you design of way of eating that supports your health AND your lifestyle. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation!
Prayer and Meditation:
If you have a spiritual practice in place, you already know that whatever your faith, it is something that sustains you in times of trial, and has even been shown to lower blood pressure. The act of meditation, which can include prayer, can help train the brain to shut down your stress response.
Time in Nature:
Spending time outdoors doesn’t have to look like camping in the wilderness for a week. It can be as simple as taking a walk every day. However you get your outdoor time in, studies have shown that time in nature lowers your stress response and enhances positive emotion. The practice of grounding or earthing, which is essentially giving your skin direct contact with the earth, can be accomplished simply by going outside with your shoes off. Earthing lowers oxidative stress by putting you in direct contact with the electron field that surrounds the earth.
Measured breathing exercises are an easy way to lower anxiety, reduce pain, and can even help you get back to sleep when suffering insomnia. A simple breathing exercise made popular by Dr. Andrew Weil, called 4-7-8 Breathing, can be done almost anywhere, anytime. You simply breathe in through your nose for four counts, hold for seven counts, and breathe out through your mouth for 8 counts. You can repeat this a few times, or for a few minutes. As an added benefit, Dr. Joe Tatta, in his book “Heal Your Pain Now” (1), also explains that breathing exercises can actually calm chronic pain from its root: the brain.
Adaptogenic Herbs help to lower cortisol by balancing your HPA Axis. They act as anti-depressants, may have anti-pathogenic effects, balance hormones, and help balance fatigue with energy. At Body in Harmony, our nutrition staff is trained in supplemental support for the HPA Axis and beyond. Contact us today to schedule a consultation to discuss your unique supplement needs.
In order to understand how NUCCA Care can lower cortisol, let us review the difference between the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic nervous systems. The Sympathetic nervous system is in control when you are in “fight or flight” mode, or when you are chronically stressed. The Parasympathetic nervous system, however, is your “rest and digest” response. You must be in “rest and digest” mode to heal, rest, relax, and maintain body organs. Proper alignment allows your Parasympathetic nervous system to maintain control. Proper alignment also aids in the Vagus Nerve being able to support the Parasympathetic nervous system. Contact Body in Harmony today to schedule a consultation to get yourself properly aligned.
There is no doubt that connection with friends and loved ones helps us feel grounded and lowers stress levels. Even in a time when connections are fewer than they used to be, and when our social circle may seem smaller than normal, committing to a time to connect with loved ones is a type of self-care that is extremely rewarding. Commit to a weekly phone call, cup of coffee, or video chat with a parent, a cousin, a friend, aunts or uncles or grandparents…this practice will benefit you and them, by lowering anxiety, increasing self-esteem, and even lengthening longevity.
Create Order in Your Space:
A cluttered space inhibits your ability to focus or relax, leading to anxiety and feelings of stress. Taking time to declutter and reconsider your schedule, your purchasing, and your cleaning habits, can not only bring order to your home but also in many ways, your life. Helpful blogs and videos abound that can give you techniques to bring order to your space, making your home a place you can truly relax.
At Body in Harmony, we believe that we have control over how we deal with the stress in our lives. We think these techniques are achievable and most are easily implemented. Try one, and when you have mastered it, try another. Let us know how we can help.
- Tatta, Joe, DPT, CNS. (2017). Heal Your Pain Now. Philadelphia: De Capo Press.