A Naturopathic Doctor’s guide to managing stress.
When it comes to stress, no one is immune, and the effects are varied and widespread. Unfortunately, in our fast-paced, no pain, no gain society, stress is seen as a “normal” part of life, however, the long-term effects of this “norm” are real and often detrimental. Experienced as a short episode, stress can be beneficial: It can motivate us, enhance immune function
and improve mental and physical performance. On the other hand, chronic stress has been shown to accelerate aging, inhibit immune function, increase inflammation and cause hormonal imbalance.
Common signs that stress has overcome your ability to cope and is burdening your health include Fatigue, weight gain, chronic headaches, insomnia, increased sugar or salt cravings, brain fog, feeling irritable or agitated, depression and/or anxiety, digestive problems and infertility.
If you’re experiencing more than 3 of the above symptoms, here are some key tenets to supporting your body’s ability to handle stress overload:
Replete your nutrients:
- Stress increases our physiological demands and over a long period can deplete nutrients such as vitamin C, B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and selenium.
- With proper supplementation and avoidance of sugary, caffeinated food or drink, patients will report feeling more energetic and higher tolerance for stress.
Oxygenate body and brain:
- Many stressed patients tend to be mouth or shallow breathers leading to poor oxygenation for the body.
- By changing something as simple as your breath you can impact how your body and brain experience and react to stress.
- The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, try 2 minutes of slow, deep inhalations and compare how you feel before and after deep breathing.
Catch those Zs:
- Poor sleep undoubtedly lowers our threshold for dealing with stress, but high stress can also impact sleep quality.
- If you are engaged in the 3 R’s of healthy sleep (regular, reasonable bedtime and relaxation before bed) but still experiencing difficulty falling or staying asleep, speak with our naturopaths who can support your stress and sleep naturally.
Slow your flow:
- Our nervous system is regulated by 2 modes. The sympathetic (fight-or-flight) and parasympathetic (rest-and-digest) nervous system. Nowadays, many people with high power jobs and busy schedules become stuck in fight-or-flight mode often feeling worse with rest because they have become so accustomed to a constant flow of adrenaline.
- These individuals often crave high-intensity workouts but have difficulty in losing weight despite their rigorous activities.
- It is important to balance fight-or-flight with rest-and-digest mode because if you’re already stretched thin, adding physical strain will worsen the effects of stress.
- A regular routine of low-intensity, slow-paced activities such as walking, yoga, pilates or meditation can teach your body how to transition out of fight-or-flight and into a rest-and-digest mode to promote healing and hormonal balance.
Do any of the symptoms described above sound familiar?
Are you a nail-biting, jaw clenching, jittery, wired but tired, stress surviving, less than a thriving individual? In addition to the recommendations above, speak to our naturopaths about how they can further support you with herbal medicine, acupuncture and clinical nutrition if you’re dealing with the “S” word.