Managing Our Stress Holistically
Being stressed out is an unfortunate part of being human, and it really can be unavoidable. However, because we are magnificent human beings, we have the power and ability to shift our focuses away from the stress, and learn how to take everything a little slower, and take care of our mental, physical & spiritual health. There is no one specific reason a person may be stressed out, and there is no one way to fix or even manage a person's stress and that should be important moving forward.
Gut to Brain Connection
When you feel nervous or anxious, do you ever get those "butterflies" in your stomach? That feeling of weight deep in the pit of your gut? Yes, that feeling you get right before you step into your dentist office. That is what many of us like to call "your second brain" and it's talking to you! Okay no, you don't really have a second brain, but scientist have found a way to connect this feeling as a reaction, and it has allowed many of them to understand the links between digestion, mood, health and even the way we think. The second brain consists of neurons embedded in the walls of the long tube of our gut. The second brain contains millions of neurons! (Neurons are cells within the nervous system that transmit information to other nerve cells). A big part of our emotions is probably influenced by the nerves in our gut.
So what does this have to do with stress?
Well, it plays a critical role in mental and emotional functioning by sending information to the brain and directly influencing things like, yes- stress, anxiety, and sadness, as well as memory, decision-making, and learning. The brain in our gut communicates back and forth with our upstairs brain, playing a critical role in our mental and emotional well-being.
Basically, I am telling you that our bodies really are talking to us.
What is Stress
The feeling of "stress" is primarily a physical and mental response of our bodies telling us that we need to change, fix or slow down with something. Your body may be feeling overworked, and it wants to let you know that! (Sometimes stress is good. It's a reminder that we are human). When stressed out, our body goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode which in return releases a mix of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, or too much cortisol in the brain. Too much cortisol in the brain can cause lack of memory and the ability to take in information.
Because stress is very much the norm in modern day life, many of us have not found a great way to manage our stress in a healthy way. There are many things that stress can negatively impact on our bodies, mentally and physically. We can often find ourselves not eating, or eating too much. Perhaps we find ourselves lacking motivation or sexual drive. Perhaps too much stress, for a long period of time, has caused many health issues including labored breathing, missed periods in women, excessive cortisol in the brain, horrible panic attacks, intense migraines and much more.
While it's very important for us to understand what stress is, and how it affects us in a negative way, we have to find appreciation in these symptoms, no matter how uncomfortable they are, because it's a way that our body is able to communicate with us. We do not listen to our bodies enough. We must learn now.
How to Manage
Remember when I said that there is no one way to manage a person's stress? That's because there really isn't. That is the beauty of being human, and being completely unique. Each and every one of us needs different tools to manage our stress, depending on the negative responses our body gave us, and what serious health issues we have gained throughout the years. "One size fits all" will not work here. Sorry department stores.
One of the most important things to do before you choose to manage, is understanding why you are stressed, how often you are feeling this way, and what exactly are your triggers. Triggers are very personal; different things trigger different people.
You do not have to choose one way to deal with your stress either. Honestly, different days call for different ways of managing. Perhaps you should have some backup ideas along the way. Here are a few ways you can manage stress:
- Diet Change
- Herbal Intake
- Self Care Routine
Let's talk very briefly about each of these ways you can manage. I say briefly because I could honestly talk for years about each and every topic, and there is more than meets the eye, but it can still very much be about the basics. No one has to be an expert here!
Meditation is a great way for us to take time out of our day for ourselves. Whether it's only 10 minutes a day, meditation can be a great tool for us when we need to wind down in a comfortable and safe space, and just listen to our breathing, and notice different things with our body. It really can take your mind off of what is stressing you out at the moment. While many have the idea that meditation is just quietness and the ability of not thinking about anything at all, it can be quite the opposite if you wish for it to be. Sometimes meditation is all about sound and awareness. We can talk about this some other time..
Remember earlier on when I mentioned that stress can play a big part in how we eat? Perhaps we are eating too much? Not enough? It's important to realize just how much food does have impact on our mood. Sugar for instance can make us tired and irritable. Some other things you want to ask yourself is "Am I drinking enough water? Am I putting too much caffeine into my diet?" These are great questions to ask yourself! Do not be afraid to do some research into food and our moods.
Yoga is a mind-body practice that combines physical poses, controlled breathing, and meditation or relaxation. (The holy grail of stress management). Yoga brings together physical and mental disciplines that may help you achieve peacefulness of body and mind. This can help you relax and manage stress and anxiety. You really can practice relaxing poses and incorporate meditation and breathwork here! You also don't have to break out the mat every single time, perhaps you just need to fall into child's pose right where you are, and stay there for a few moments. It's all about you.
Aromatherapy is a great way to alter your mood in a natural way, and provide you different feelings. For instance, I can feel awake with citrus based oils but then I can feel sleepy with an essential oil such as jasmine or chamomile. If I need a mood booster, I will use peppermint, and if I need to mellow down I'll use thyme. Use this to your advantage when you are feeling stressed out. Psst.. use Bergamot, Basil or Clary Sage. If you would like to learn more about Aromatherapy, I wrote about it awhile back. Give her a visit! Click Here.
Using herbs that are adaptogenic, or used by nervines, can be a great addition to any practice of stress management. Think of it as a booster! Linden, Holy Basil, Lemon Balm & Skull Cap are really great herbs to use for stress specifically.
Exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever. Being active can boost your feel-good endorphins and distract you from daily worries. (I do this 3 times a week).
Self Care Routine
Having a self care routine can be an essential part in taking care of your mental wellbeing. I am one of the biggest advocates for self care, because too often we put ourselves on the backburner. (Which in return, causes stress) See? So read that book that you have been wanting to catch up on for awhile, take a bath, talk to a loved one, color, write, do whatever you love and do nothing else. Click Here for a really great blog post that I wrote when it comes to bath time, and how that can be a crucial part in self care.
Duh, sleep right? We do it every day! However, making sure that we go to bed a good hour, taking time for hygiene before bed, and eating a well balanced meal before hitting our head on that pillow, can really be the fate of whether or not you are getting a good night's rest, or not.
While that is just a very small list of ways to manage stress, they are some of my favorite ways, but please do what is best for you. Stress is complicated, it's inconvenient, but it can really hurt us mentally, and physically short term, or long term. I hope you know that you are not at all alone in this world, and you don't have to figure everything out by yourself. I wish you the best on your journey to self love, and stress management.