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So, you find that you aren’t feeling quite as good as you used to. You may have some minor nagging health issues. Perhaps you’ve gained some weight. And you find that you feel overwhelmed and burned out more often. So you make the choice to get healthy. When people make the decision to improve their health, the first things that they tend to do is to change their diet and exercise more. And while both of those changes can definitely help to improve health, there is one practice that has far more impact…and yet, although people know that they should engage in this activity more often, most don’t.
So what is the one thing that is just as important as diet and exercise?
Stress in some form directly contributes to 90% of disease. You read that right! 90% of all illness is connected with stress. Now, stress can come in a number of different forms. We regularly face external stress from our jobs, family members and others that we know, financial situations, and external toxins such as those found in household cleaners, personal care products, processed food, violence and negativity from the media and on social media and other environmental toxins.
Internally stress includes emotions, attitudes, nutrient deficiencies, heavy metal toxicities, illness, injury and more.
A large portion of the stress we endure every day begins right in our own minds.
In order to reduce stress, it is important to change to a real food diet, which will help to prevent and reverse nutrient deficiencies and to minimize toxins such as pesticides and chemical additives, all of which place undue stress on the body. It is also important to adopt some form of light to moderate exercise which helps to reduce adrenaline and cortisol (the stress chemicals) and releases endorphins which help us to fight stress naturally.
But, so many who change their diets and add exercise, are still dealing with an overload of stress. Few take the time to just be still and quiet. They don’t take time to breath and allow their body to relax and release the tension from the day.
Here are some ways that you can reduce stress each day:
Turn off the electronics!
Shut off the computer, the cell phone, the tablet, the mp3 player and the television. We are positively bombarded by noise on a regular basis, and many people are unaware of how that constant sound stimulation affects their stress level.
Learn to breathe!
You may be thinking “But I know how to breathe or I wouldn’t be here!”. But the reality is that by the time we reach adulthood, the majority of people have become very shallow breathers. In fact, many people are breathing so shallowly that they now take in just enough breath to keep them from passing out! We need adequate oxygen to survive, and so taking 15-20 minutes each day to just breathe deeply can not only help to oxygenate your body, but it is the #1 fastest way to reduce stress! Adopting some form of meditation is a great way to do more deep breathing!
Because of the standard American diet and a population that is stressed out, magnesium deficiency is pretty common these days. Magnesium is a powerful mineral in the body and vital to help you with stress. There are several different ways to get more magnesium. Increasing magnesium rich foods like leafy greens, nuts and seeds, avocado, bananas and fish is one way. Supplementing with a chelated form of magnesium such as magnesium glycinate or taurate, both of which are easier on the digestion is another. Taking a bath or soaking your feet in some hot water with epsom salts and sea salt is a third way. Sipping on a beverage like Natural Calm throughout the day can help. And finally, spraying on some magnesium oil can help you to get more magnesium through your skin.
Face it, laughing makes us feel good! But many people don’t realize how stress relieving it is as well. Just think back to a time when you laughed for an extended period of time. After you were done, you may have noticed that you felt more relaxed, maybe even a little sleepy.
Do progressive relaxation!
In this type of relaxation, you are guided to focus on different areas of the body as you consciously become aware of where you are holding onto tension in your body and then allowing yourself to release that tension. I have been leading progressive relaxations for years and it is always amazing to see how much tension people are holding onto without even being aware of it!
Change your mindset!
Did you know that how and what you think can significantly contribute to your stress level? It can! In fact, it’s the number 1 contributor. Things like worry and replaying negative events over and over in your mind will keep your body in a stress state continuously. How often do you pay attention to what you are thinking? For most people, the answer is no. So we allow our minds to just do their thing, not knowing that we can absolutely change the thoughts we have. This does not mean that you need to be positive all the time! But changing from an overall negative way of thinking to one that is more positive will directly impact your health!
Drink some tea!
There are a lot of herbs that can be great for helping you manage stress! The nervine herbs, such as chamomile, skullcap, lemon balm and catnip all work to both calm, restore and nourish the nervous system. They reduce stress and are mild sedatives when used in a tincture or as a tea (my favorite way to use them!). You can use any of them individually, although I make a tea blend with all four that is really wonderful!
Take an adaptogen
If you’ve never heard of adaptogen herbs, then you are missing out! These herbs are known to help the body manage stress more easily. Taking an adaptogen regularly can help you through challenging times in your life. They soothe stress and can help to rebalance the hormones that become out of balance in times of chronic stress. Two of the top adaptogen herbs for stress are Ashwagandha and Tulsi (Holy Basil).
Spend some time in nature
Being out in nature benefits Going outside for as little as 5 minutes has been show to boost mood and reduce stress levels. In this technological age we suffer from a severe deficiency of “Vitamin N”…..nature! Being outside in a green space each day lowers cortisol levels quickly. And the results can last a few days as well.
Spend some time with friends
This is particularly valuable for women. Studies have shown that women who are socially isolated suffer from chronic stress and are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. We have forgotten how valuable connection with others really is…especially for women. But men, you do need connection too. Just not on the same level as the ladies!
These are a few of the things that you can do to reduce stress. I encourage you to adopt one or more of these and do them regularly….along with eating a great real food diet and exercise, of course! You will be amazed at how much better you feel when you actually commit to doing more to relieve stress. And by doing so, you can help to avoid a host of chronic illnesses and keep yourself healthier as well!