As a nutritionist and dietician, you might have a hard time believing me when I say the following…
… reducing your stress levels is even more important that fine-tuning your diet or making sure you turn up to boot camp a few days a week. There. I said it.
Stress is like a crack in a glass of gut-healing kombucha. You can keep topping up your glass, but if that crack is letting it all drain out, how can you expect to reap the rewards?
What happens to your body when you’re stressed?
When your body is in a “stress response” state, it causes your adrenal glands (the little guys that sit on top of your kidneys) to release the “stress hormone” cortisol.
Cortisol basically puts your body in survival mode. Which means digesting your breakfast properly, balancing out your hormones and fighting off the office cold that’s going around gets bumped right down the priority list.
Chronic stress heads.
This “stress response” is quite normal and healthy in small, infrequent bursts. But it’s not normal if it’s happening regularly throughout the day, for days at a time…
That, my friends, is chronic stress. Chronic stress can lead to inflammation and fat gain (especially around your midsection), decreased muscle mass, poor performance, sleep disturbances and a big fat slap in the face to your usual optimistic outlook on life.
Luckily, there are some easy ways to manage and reduce stress so you can get back to the important things (like thinking about what delicious meal you’ll cook for dinner!).
- Get enough quality and quantity sleep.
This ideally would be 7–9 hours in a cool, dark room. Try avoiding blue-light stimuli completely about an hour before bed (maybe keep that Instagram stalking to daylight hours).
- Meditate (or join a local yoga studio).
These are a great way to activate your calming, parasympathetic nervous system. Too many of us go through our day in a stressed out, activated state.
- Quit sugar and other processed foods.
Eating a nutrient-poor diet loaded with inflammatory foods like sugar causes the body unnecessary stress. Plus, external stress is far easier to manage when you’ve got a body nourished by real food.
- Make time for play and social connection.
In a world so “connected”, there is a lot of disconnect in how we interact. Touches, hugs and smiles will do wonders for lowering your stress levels!
- Move your body.
There’s no question that exercise is helpful in managing stress. Choose an activity that you ENJOY and make it a small, mindful, everyday habit.