B's Blogs July 20, 2020

Lifestyle changes that reduce stress

When was the last time you were stressed? A major work deadline, traffic jam, or a broken heater in the middle of winter?  Let’s face it; we all are impacted by stress like it or not.

Did you know that stress is one of the major factors behind just about any health issue & is a huge detriment to a person’s overall health?  75-90% of doctor visits are for ailments tied directly to stress. Chronic disease is a silent global epidemic and stress is a major contributor.  According to the CDC, 6 in 10 adults have a chronic disease and 4 in 10 have 2 or more! It’s the leading causes of death and disability as well as the leading drivers of the Nation’s $3.5 Trillion in Annual Health Care Costs.  The top chronic diseases are:  chronic kidney disease, heart disease, alzheimer’s, chronic lung disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes.

The good news:  stress can be managed resulting in improvement in chronic disease.  And in some cases eradicated by lifestyle changes.  Imagine how this would change our world, and your life?

For today’s article, I’ll walk you through how stress manifests in your body, and how to manage it.  Each person has bio-individual needs, and a “one size fits all approach” doesn’t fit everyone.

I’ll create a fictitious client to set the stage.  Everyone; meet Jessica.  Jessica is a healthy eater.  She eats a well rounded diet, but can’t figure out the reason she is gaining weight through her midsection, is bloated, and experiences frequent heartburn & indigestion.  When I asked Jessica about her lifestyle & what she eats/drinks, this is a quick overview of what she shared:  she lifts weight throughout the week, runs several times a week, and does hot power yoga.  She eats on the go (fast food, likes coffee throughout the day, has a sweet tooth) or at her desk, and works late often.  She is divorced, and spends her weekend watching Netflix, surfing social media, eating out & drinking 3 or more cocktails, and works out.  She believes she needs to be on a diet to lose weight, but otherwise can’t figure out why her workouts aren’t leaning her midsection out, and thinks her digestive issues will just go away someday. 

Do you see a piece of yourself in Jessica’s story?

On the inside, her body is under continued stress.  In general, the body doesn’t recognize good from bad stress.  It doesn’t have a filter, and as a result the stress hormones are being triggered many times in Jessica’s story:

  1. Being in front of the TV signals the body to stay alert- and stress is promoted.

  2. Eating on the go: the body isn’t relaxed and therefore doesn’t digest the food.

  3. Surfing social media signals the brain to feel good or leaves you feeling sad which promotes stress.

  4. Eating processed food, sugary food, caffeine, alcohol, and other inflammatory foods signal a stress response.

  5. Workouts that are strenuous promote cortisol, and stress the adrenal glands.  As a result stress increases.

  6. Stress in and of itself creates inflammation and inflammation causes stress.

Now to the good part: Lifestyle changes:

Some simple lifestyle adjustments to Jessica’s routine can support her stress load, and support her body’s digestion optimization:

  1. Create boundaries with screen time.  Disconnect from looking at the screen at least 1 hour before bed time.

  2. Eat meals in an environment that supports relaxation, and at least 2-3 hours before bedtime

  3. Chew each bite at least 11 times before swallowing (gets the digestive juices flowing), and slows down overall consumption.

  4. Add yoga, tai chi walking, or qi gong to routine workouts.  

  5. Add whole foods to crowd out processed & sugary foods

  6. Drink clean water (1/2 of your body weight in ounces)

  7. Meditate. My friends at Calm created this incredible free resource page loaded with meditations. Click Here

  8. Visualization. At the end of your work day, visualize yourself “cutting the cord” between yourself & your job. You can release the energy & send positive vibes to your colleagues and the work you created. Then take back your energy at the same time. Sound to “woo woo” for ya? Take a walk in nature, and connect to the bigger picture.

  9. Boost your immune system. Eating a diverse blend of whole foods, probiotic foods, talk to your doctor about supplements, lifestyle changes (mentioned above), wear your mask, practice social distancing, and keep your connections with your friends & family.

With trying a new thing; start small.  It’s unreasonable to think you will try multiple new things all at once, and keep doing them.  Instead pick 1 new thing, and asses before adding more.

I hope this article creates a new perspective for you to look at your life, and stress management.  I know awareness isn’t typically the challenge; it’s knowing the science & lifestyle shifts behind the need to change.  We become attached to our habitual lifestyle despite the fact that it is wearing us out, and challenging our health.  

Questions for you:

What challenges are you carrying around, that you can control?

What lifestyle changes have you made to reduce your stress?

If you found this article helpful, please share it with your network.  I’d love to collaborate, and connect to see if health coaching is a good fit for you, or your organization.