Stress. We all have it. In our fast-paced world, it surrounds us 24/7. How we internalize and deal with stress either keeps it small and manageable or allows it to become overwhelming, which can lead to anxiety and adrenal fatigue.
During stressful situations, our bodies release cortisol and adrenaline from the adrenal glands to prepare us for a fight-or-flight reaction that our ancestors needed to survive. We become extraordinarily alert, and our heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, and metabolism all speed up. Our pupils also dilate to sharpen vision. Today, we do not have many saber tooth tigers chasing us, but it can feel like it at times. We still react in the same way.
The good news is that there are many ways to manage stress and keep our adrenals healthy. Here are 6 ways to manage stress and anxiety:
1. The first is easy, and we do it all day without thought: breathing. In stressful situations, we tend to take short, shallow breaths. So breathe deeply, exhale to let go of what is causing the stress, be mindful and feel yourself relax.
2. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Do not skip meals. When blood sugar gets too low, cortisol is released to maintain blood sugar, which stimulates your appetite and causes cravings. It can also mimic a fight-or-flight reaction in people with weak adrenals. Eat three meals per day with healthy, high-protein snacks in between to maintain a level blood sugar. Chew your food thoroughly, savoring the flavors versus wolfing down your meals. Avoid table sugar and high fructose corn syrup, which are hard on the adrenal glands and have no nutritional value. Highly processed foods are packed with unhealthy fats and too much sugar, so steer clear of those.
3. Drink at least two quarts of filtered water daily. Limit caffeine and other stimulants such as sodas and energy drinks. A cup of coffee in the morning to help wake up is okay. However, continuous caffeine intake triggers adrenaline production. This keeps us alert but taxes our adrenal health at the same time. Limit alcohol intake, too. Alcohol is a refined carbohydrate and acts like table sugar producing a release of insulin to decrease excess blood sugar. Nicotine is a stimulant, and chronic use lowers DHEA, another adrenal hormone.
4. Exercise regularly. For cardiovascular fitness, it is recommended to get 30-45 minutes every other day. Alternate aerobic exercises with resistance training. A word of caution, if your adrenal glands are weak and you do not tolerate stress well, be gentle with your exercise. Do more stretching exercises like yoga, tai chi or walking.
5. Get enough sleep and rest. Adults need around eight hours of sleep per night to recharge their body. Many insomniacs struggle to fall asleep at night because their cortisol curve is off and they release more cortisol in the evenings. These are the night owls or party people who can keep going when everyone else is ready for bed. It is tough on a night owl to work in the day world because their natural tendency is to sleep in.
6. Do things you enjoy. Cut back on obligations. Simplify your life, clean out closets and get rid of “stuff.” Avoid procrastination. Manage your money to avoid financial worries. Practice being positive and thankful and then stress will have no place to hide. Pray, and let go of stressful thoughts.
If you need additional support to help get your stress levels in check, you don’t have to do it alone. At Hotze Health & Wellness Center, you will have the support system of our medical team ready and willing to help you along the way.