Stress is the worst. We all understand it because we all feel it. It seems like we would have to move to outer space to avoid it (and that would have its own set of stresses)! Stress is an inevitability in our lives. Although we all want to know how to reduce stress, we can’t control it to a large extent.
What we can control is how we react to and manage our stress. Doing this might actually help us learn how to reduce stress!
Blood-Sugar Balancing Diet
All the outer-space travel in the world won’t do what a balanced diet can do for stress. When blood sugar (and it’s regulating hormone insulin) is going crazy because our diet consists of bread, coffee, and takeout food, the body signals production of our stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol is part of this vicious cycle that makes us crave bad foods. Then we eat them, pack on the pounds, and feel even more stressed. Diet is our best defense against this built-in mechanism by balancing our blood sugar.
Here’re some tips:
- Enjoy protein, fat, and fiber with every meal and snack
- Enjoy carbs like whole grains and starchy vegetables with dinner, keeping breakfast and lunch fat and protein-packed
- Drink lots of filtered water through the day
- Sprinkle cinnamon on food to increase insulin sensitivity
- Eat 3-4 cups of green vegetables daily (like broccoli, cabbage, spinach, romaine, and zucchini)
Yoga is something I rarely go a day without. Yoga marries movement with breath, and that combination will help reduce stress hormones. Restorative and Yin styles of yoga are especially good to the super-stressed individual. This is because they are slow-moving and turn our attention inwards, rather than out at the world. This is a fantastic source of exercise when we’re too stressed and tired to exercise, as it’s extremely low-impact in most cases. That way we won’t overtax our cortisol-producing adrenal glands like boot camps and long-distance running might.
Although it’s a sister practice to yoga in some ways, meditation can seem pretty scary. But the truth is, it doesn’t involve hours sitting in silence and having a monk-like lifestyle. In fact, even 2 minutes of meditation per day can help us sort out how to reduce stress and anger. I meditate daily in the morning, sitting on a cushion on the floor for 5 minutes. That’s it! And guess what – I notice a massive difference in how my day goes.
The key is not to worry about thoughts that enter our head, just let them float on through, and return to focusing on our inhales and exhales. Perhaps counting them, if that keeps us more focused. We can even utilize a studio, if guided meditation is more achievable, to walk us through the process.
Sleep is a powerful piece of the stress reduction puzzle. Like a corner or an edge piece, which helps bring it all together. Cortisol and other hormones become seriously imbalanced when we are chronically stressed. Many people experience the inability to fall asleep or waking during the night, or both. This can even affect our weight management.
The easiest way to help regulate sleep, and thus reduce feelings of stress, is to stick to a schedule. This can be so challenging sometimes, especially when it seems amazing to sleep until noon on weekends. Keeping a regular sleep-wake cycle will help to reduce cortisol production. This can also help increase melatonin production, meaning better sleep. Getting to sleep around 10pm is the best when we’re trying to reset our stress response. We can simply try going to bed one hour earlier for a week to see a fast difference in our stress levels.
If you’ve seen any of my writings before, then you know I’m an herbal medicine fanatic. I first got introduced to herbs in university. It was there I discovered that nettle leafs, when consumed as a tea, could help with my seasonal allergies.
I’m a big researcher of herbs aimed at hormonal balance, mood balance, digestive balance, and stress reduction. Here’s a short list of some of my favorite medicinal herbs that will help us on our journey to learn how to reduce stress:
- Holy Basil, also known as Tulsi: great as a tea, helpful in reducing stress response and uplifting mood
- Ashwagandha: fantastic for increasing stamina and energy, excellent if you also have thyroid trouble, though not preferable for those with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
- Reishi Mushroom: a great herb for energy, immune system, and resistance to stress
- Rhodiola: wonderful for physical and mental stress-related fatigue and relieving anxiety
- Licorice Root: increases energy and endurance, a great adrenal gland tonic (although best avoided for those of us who have high blood pressure)
Written by Robyn Srigley