In the last post we covered the first two factors - diet and exercise (click here to read the previous post.) Here are the next two factors that have influenced our family’s health and happiness -
3. Stress Management Stress management is probably the most important of the six life factors yet one of the most neglected. Mental stress could sabotage all your efforts with nutrition and exercise. (1) If you don’t properly address stress, you may still be at risk of modern degenerative diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmunity.
When I say “stress”, I am referring to the bad chronic stress like financial concerns and going to a job you hate. Our bodies are meant to handle a quick release of cortisol like when we have to quickly react to an emergency situation. But chronic stress continuously releases cortisol, which can negatively affect the body. Chronically elevated cortisol levels can lead to elevated blood sugar, weight gain around the midsection, poor sleep, suppressed immune function, impaired ability to form long-term memory, and a decreased libido. It also accelerates aging.
The best way to deal with chronic stress is to eliminate it altogether. Obviously, easier said than done. The biggest change that we made in our lives to address stress was developing a plan to eliminate the things that were causing the stress in our lives. We did this through short and long term goals, extending them over a period of time. Even though it’s not an immediate fix, just knowing that there is a plan in place (a light at the end of the tunnel) can significantly reduce the impact of the stress on your health.
Alternatives include various breathing techniques, meditation, exercise, counseling or just talking with a good friend.
Three supplements to assist with stress and its negative effects are holy basil (Tulsi) tea, a broad-spectrum antioxidant and magnesium. 4. Quality Sleep (Deep Uninterrupted Sleep) Nearly a third of Americans get less than 6 hours of sleep a night; the average is 6.5 hours! (2) That’s pretty startling when you consider that for most people, the ideal amount of uninterrupted sleep is 8-9 hours per night.
Due to poor diet, lack of exercise, chronic stress in addition to constant bright lights and over-stimulation, many suffer from inadequate sleep, often waking up feeling groggy throughout the day.
If you get a handle on your sleep, you will see better results and recover faster from exercise, have better memory, fewer allergies and significantly less inflammation. (3)(4) On the other hand, sleep deprivation is associated with depression, (5) systemic inflammation, (6) and early mortality. (7) There is also a huge correlation between sleep loss and weight gain.
Once you’ve taken care of diet, exercise and stress, sleeping should be fairly easy. If you’re still not sleeping adequately or still waking up groggy, ensure you’re sleeping in a dark, cool room.
Additionally, expose yourself to outdoor light throughout the day, especially first thing in the morning. At night, avoid blue light from things like iPads and computers. This can cause interruptions in the release of melatonin, the hormone that prepares your body for sleep. (8) Have a goal to be in bed by a certain time every day and stick to it.
Some supplements worth experimenting with to assist with sleep are magnesium, 5HTP, melatonin and Valerian. Keep in mind that dialing in on the first 3 factors will make much more of a difference than taking any supplements, so work on those first.
For more good recommendations on improving sleep, read Mark Sisson’s Definitive Guide to Sleep.
QUESTION: What are some ways you deal with stress? What do you do to get a good night's sleep?
Stay tuned for part III.
I’d love to hear from you! Share your questions, thoughts and stories.