It’s the 21st century syndrome I see the most of in my clinic.
Stress rears its ugly head in many forms:
- acute stress (the most common form, read on for my personal story dealing with this type of stress)
- episodic acute stress (when the acute stress episodes are recurrent and turn into constant irritability or anxiety) and;
- chronic stress (the most detrimental type of stress to your health as it can contribute to serious diseases)
Instead of focusing on the negative effects of stress on your health, I’d love to share my top three tricks to help lower your cortisol (that’s the fancy name for one of the main stress hormones in your body) so that you feel great on the inside as well as looking cool, calm and collected on the outside.
Number 1: Practice deep abdominal breathing to help activate your Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS)
Last week I had a moment with someone at my local farmer’s market.
Let me set the scene.
Friday afternoon, 20 minutes before I had to pick my son up from daycare, I knew I needed a few odds and ends so I raced to the mall in Bondi Junction where there’s an outdoor organic fruit and veg market.
After frantically grabbing everything I needed and throwing it all in my basket, I started to walk towards the front to pay.
There was one lady in front of me, and I thought “oh good, this won’t take long”.
Suddenly, another woman appeared. I would like to say she appeared out of nowhere but she had in fact been dashing back and forth behind and in front of me for about 5 minutes…and now she was claiming that she was next as her basket was already sitting on the table.
She then proceeded to SLOWLY run around adding more and more to her basket, while I stood, very patiently, behind her, with my already full basket, waiting to pay.
I was fuming (internally, of course).
I realised that the people running the markets were not going to say anything to her. And I decided that she wasn’t worth starting with (even though mentally I was giving her what she was worth).
Instead, while I could feel my anger rising inside me (hello acute stress attack!), I started to take some deep breaths, ensuring that I focused on really a long breath out.
Taking deep breaths in, I exhaled loudly and longly (kinda like a sigh – there’s nothing like a bit of passive aggression 😉 ) – hoping that she would hear me and realise she had been extremely rude.
But something weird started to happen.
The more I breathed, the better I felt.
The longer I exhaled – the less I cared about the woman in front of me…and whether she noticed my annoyance and breathing or not, it didn’t actually bother me anymore.
The more deep breaths I took, the more relaxed I got – I could feel my whole body calming down – including my mind.
Research has shown that a really effective way to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, is to take long breaths out – and I can definitely back it up as truth. So simple yet so effective.
Number 2: Take magnesium
I don’t prescribe a lot of supplements (unless I’ve taken a detailed case history and think it’s necessary)…but if there’s one nutrient you’re probably lacking right now, it’s magnesium. Up to a third of the general population may be mangesium deficient.
The universal calmer, energy booster and muscle relaxant – magnesium is definitely my favourite supplement for keeping you cool, calm and collected.
However – not all magnesium supplements are the same. Studies have demonstrated that only magnesium citrate created a significant increase in magnesium plasma concentration after both acute and chronic supplementation. And dosage is important too! I generally start with at least 200-300mg per day…but will go a lot higher depending on how stressed a person is.
Number 3: Try some adaptogenic herbs
Another one of my faves from my naturopathic toolkit – adaptogenic herbs. Adaptogens are a classification for certain remedies which help your body adapt to stress. When you take them, your body is better able to restore normal physiological functioning and resist the damaging effects of stress on all of your body systems.
Some of my favourite adaptogenic herbs include Withania, Schisandra, Licorice, Codonopsis, Rhodiola and Siberian Ginseng. I love mixing these together to make a powerful stress reducing liquid tonic…or if taking liquids aren’t your thing, I also have certain tablets I prescribe which are also amazingly effective – get in touch if you’d like to found it more!
While these 3 tricks will get you feeling calmer and more in control…ultimately, when life has become a little bit stressful, which is very common at this time of year – your best friends are still a healthy diet, good quality sleep, gentle exercise and some down time to help your body relax.
Here’s to a weekend of feeling cool, calm and collected 🙂
PS Keep an eye on your inbox next week, I’ve got some fun things planned to end 2017 on a high 🙂