Whether it be from work, relationships, or finances, stress is an inevitable part of our daily lives. We’ve often been told that sleep, exercise, and healthy food help deal with stress – but does it really work? Here’s what clinical experience and research tell us about stress management. Try these suggestions with your own flair to help lower stress and the negative effects it has on your health.
As you sleep, your body is working to clean out all of the “garbage” accumulated throughout the day. This process is especially important in the brain. By removing the toxins and garbage in the brain, you are able to have better brain function the next day. If you do not get adequate sleep over extended periods of time, amyloid plaque may build up with the potential to contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Eight hours of sleep a night is very important to maintain a proper sleep cycle. When you don’t get enough sleep, you aren’t just shortening the sleep phases; your body has no way of knowing when you wake up. The last phase of the sleep cycle is responsible for recovering the executive functioning of the brain. When you don’t get a full night’s sleep, you aren’t allowing your brain to recover causing sleepiness and foggy-minded thoughts the following day.
Moving your body allows your blood vessels to dilate and increase blood flow to your entire body. This is important for a variety of reasons, both physically and mentally. Most importantly, every organ in your body receives more oxygen and nutrients to function at its best. Not only is your body able to deliver nutrients, but it also helps clear out toxic waste build-up. Exercise is a great way to be in touch with your body and how it’s reacting to stress. I often get asked, “But how much exercise do I need? I’m just so busy!” There is no magic prescription or gold-standard exercise routine that helps the most. But, this leaves a great opportunity for you to find something you enjoy doing. I would much rather have a person consistently walking 20 minutes a day than running three miles every other week. Consistency is key to promote healthy adaptations in your body and brain.
Like exercise, there is no magic diet plan that is most beneficial. As mentioned earlier, exercise opens blood vessels to deliver nutrients and take away waste products. Nutrition replenishes the body allowing it to function at its best. Many nutrients become depleted with chronic stress, and it is important to feed your body extra nutrients in times of stress to prevent future issues. There are a variety of vitamins and minerals that help improve brain and adrenal gland functioning in times of stress. My go-to supplements for stress include omega-3 fatty acids, L-carnitine, probiotics, and magnesium. All of these can be found in fish, dark green veggies, and some fermented foods.
Research shows that regular meditation and yoga-like activities can help regenerate the memory center of your brain. Taking one minute every hour to focus on deep, regulated breathing can help lower your body’s natural fight/flight response. There are also several phone apps that have breathing reminders and daily activities to follow. Because your spine houses your nervous system, regular chiropractic care can also decrease sympathetic nervous system response. Therefore, regular adjustments and checkups can be important in controlling your stress response.
I challenge you to start adapting these techniques into your daily routine and begin making a change in your own lifestyle. It doesn’t have to be all at once but pick one and just start. It’s never too late to make a change because your body is constantly adapting – make it a healthy one!
For more individualized recommendations about fighting stress, call our office or request an appointment online with one of our doctors.