Stress is a major trigger of digestive issues for me. When I talk to chronically ill people, and especially my clients with chronic bladder problems, stress is almost always one of the main triggers of their symptoms.
I’ve written about stress in the past, so I won’t go into great detail in today’s post. To briefly summarize it, stress is such an issue because our body’s stress response is not adapted to the type of constant stressors we are subjected to in our modern world.
Chronic stress can have a range of consequences, including: reduced digestive juices, reduced immunity, muscle tension, high blood pressure – the list goes on…
While we can’t always change the source of stress, we can support the body dealing with stress better with stress management techniques.
This sounds easy, but many people don’t do it. Surfing the internet or even watching TV are not the best ways to relax (but maybe watching TV is better than nothing). Remember, it doesn’t need to be for long – five to ten minutes could be all that’s needed. Here are some examples of things one could do:
- Music: listen to your favourite music, really listen. You might want to put some candles on and sit in the dark and let the music take you away. If you play an instrument, spend some time just playing something you enjoy playing. Sing along to music in the car instead of getting annoyed at traffic. Music makes house chores less annoying as well (why not have a little boogie whilst doing the dishes?!).
- Massage: Have your partner give you a massage or book a professional massage.
- Meditate: find a meditation practice that works for you. You could use a guided meditation, join a meditation class, or just meditate by yourself.
- Read a nice book: Reading a novel is a great way to escape reality for a bit. Pick something nice (horror or crime may not be so relaxing…). Audiobooks are also good.
- Draw: adult colouring books are a great option but freestyle drawing for those who can do it is also great.
- Take a bath
Spend time outside daily
Being in nature can be very calming, after all we have evolved with nature. Try to get outside daily. Here are some options:
- Walk or cycle to work
- Do some gardening
- Take a walk
- Go to the nearest park in your lunchbreak
- Choose a form of exercise that can be done outside
Some forms of exercise can be stressful for the body, especially when we overdo them. Gentle exercise on the other hand can be a more active form of meditation. Here are some examples:
- Tai Chi
- Cycling (leisurely)
- Kayaking or Canoeing
- Horse riding
Our breath becomes deep and calm when we sleep. When we’re stressed or scared, it becomes shallow. Why not trick the body into thinking it’s resting by breathing deeply? There are several techniques one could use:
- Nadi Shodhana
- Sit in a comfortable posture and ensure the back is erect. Lower the head and rest the chin on the notch between the collarbones.
- Bring the right hand to the right nostril, close it with the thumb and keep the left nostril open.
- Inhale deeply through the left nostril and then close that nostril with the little and ring fingers. Retain the breath for a few seconds.
- Open the right nostril by lifting the thumb and exhale slowly, keeping the left nostril closed.
- Now repeat the process by inhaling through the left nostril and exhale through the right. This completes one round. Repeat two or three more rounds.
- 3-4-5 Breathing
- Breathe in for 3 seconds
- Hold for 4 seconds
- Breathe out for 5 seconds
- Simply get some fresh air and concentrate on breathing into your abdomen
Support Energy levels with Nutrition
Balancing blood sugar levels is one way to support energy levels. When blood sugar levels suddenly drop, this is stressful for the body! Hello, hangriness…
Carbohydrates are our main source of glucose (a.k.a blood sugar). When we eat too many carbohydrates, especially in isolation, blood sugar levels tend to rise quickly. Insulin is secreted in proportion to blood sugar levels and its main job is to take the sugar away to be used or stored – this can result in blood sugar levels dropping suddenly, which is stressful.
But here are some things we can do for balance:
- Eat protein and (good) fat at every meal, snack or even smoothie
- Eat more fibrous carbohydrates
- Ditch the sugar
- Make non-starchy veggies the main portion of your carbohydrates
- Reduce white flour products, grains in general, starchy carbohydrates and high-sugar fruits
- Eat enough and regularly
Nutrients needed for the stress response (and used-up quickly during stress):
- Vitamin C
- B vitamins
So there you have it. Not everything works for everyone, so I would encourage you to find what works for you. Then do it consistently. Or mix it up. But if you’re stressed, it’s important to do something.
Now I’d like to hear from you: Does stress contribute to your symptoms? How do you manage stress? Do you have any tips?
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