Have you ever wondered if all the stress you are under is causing any harm to your health? When you have too much stress and not enough rest, you might get sick more often, experience higher levels of pain, put on belly fat, get irregular periods, have insomnia or lose your memory.
Fortunately, you can implement these basic strategies to keep yourself in balance even while you are meeting increased demands from work, home or family. Here are 3 simple rhythms and routines that you must learn if you want to save yourself from stress.
Sleep / Wake
First, a little background about stress and the adrenal glands. The adrenals are two glands that sit on top of your kidneys like little hats. This is where adrenaline, cortisol and a variety of other hormones are produced. Cortisol is largely responsible for our stress response, and it also controls our sleep-wake cycle. We are supposed to produce higher levels in the morning to help us get up and go. Then levels taper off through the afternoon and are supposed to fall at nighttime to help us wind down and go to sleep.
If you require coffee to get up and go, sugar to get through the afternoon and then you need to “wine down” at night, you are most likely experiencing some form of what is called adrenal fatigue. One of the most important ways to heal from this kind of fatigue is to regulate your sleep-wake cycle.
Decide on a schedule and stick to it! Wake up at the same time every day, and go to bed at the same time every night. These times should stay consistent within a 30-minute window, even on weekends. If you have reasons that you need to stray from your schedule, do the best you can and get back on track the next day.
Exercise / Relax
A great way to teach your body when to wake up and when to go to sleep is to have regular exercise and relaxation routines. It is best to exercise early in the day. Even if you have to drag yourself out of bed, try to get outside and move your body first thing in the morning. You can start with an easy 10-minute walk and then increase to more intensity or longer times, as you are able. This practice gives you sunshine, fresh air, good circulation and a positive mood to start your day. It will wake up your adrenal glands and increase natural production of cortisol to help you feel awake and ready to start your day.
Do you remember having a bedtime routine as a kid? Or if you have kids, have you noticed how critical it is to follow this routine? You need a bedtime routine, too! If you are staying up on the computer or watching TV right until you go to bed (or falling asleep on the couch) you are missing out. Your brain and body need time to transition form the busy day to a restful night’s sleep. Turn the computer/TV off, and stop working on your to do list, at least one hour before bedtime and do something relaxing. This can be a hot bath, deep breathing, meditation, yoga, tai chi, journaling, stretching or any practice that helps you to feel calm and centered. When time is tight, even 5 minutes of deep breathing is very worthwhile.
Eat at regular times
The adrenal glands are critical for regulating your blood sugar. When you go a long time without eating, your body perceives this as a stress. When you have adrenal fatigue, the mechanisms for releasing and storing blood sugar malfunction and this contributes to abdominal weight gain. You can ease this stress by eating balanced meals at regular intervals through the day. Include protein, complex carbs and good fats at each of three meals and keep healthy snacks handy. Avoid the temptation of sugar and caffeine since these are only temporary fixes that further deplete your adrenal health.
Stress will always be a part of our lives. In fact, stress can be good for you. It can help you to be productive and feel motivated and excited about what you are doing. Working with these three rhythms will allow you to manage your stress, feel balanced and stay healthy.
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by Amy Day , ND Women’s Wellness Doctor www.DrAmyDay.com