Stress and how it affects the body
As the "ZenFit" mama I work hard every day to maintain my "zen' while raising 4 very different children, trying to be a good partner to my spouse, run and work a business, and try and keep our house from imploding! If you read my story about me you know that I have dealt with stress in my life for a long time. I was unaware of the stress for a long time and how it affected me. I have learned tons.
First you should know how the body responds to a stressor normally.
#1 Stress-activates the sympathetic nervous system and stimulates the release of epinephrine and norepinephrine from the adrenal glands. Your adrenal glands are located just above your kidneys.
#2 Fight or Flight response is triggered and the force and rate of the heart’s contractions increases, as does rate and depth of breath, arteries widen, and non essential arteries to places like digestive tract narrow.
#3 Your body returns to homeostasis after the threat has ended. In homeostasis your body has a balance between the parasympathetic and the sympathetic nervous system.
The parasympathetic nervous system is like the brake pedal for the body. It is responsible for rest, digestion, relaxation, and growth and development. The sympathetic nervous system is the gas pedal which is responsible for fight or flight, protection and survival, stress response, and adrenal activation.
The problem with today's stresses is that people tend to live in the stress phase for long periods of time. This means that the sympathetic nervous system is never resting and people are running on adrenaline.
When I first saw a doctor for my anxiety issues one of the first things he did was check my saliva to see what was happening with my neurotransmitters (we will talk more about them later). My norepinephrine, which is a part of adrenaline was 105 when the normal range should have been between 35 and 45. I was quite literally running on adrenaline.
This caused a number of symptoms for me. One of these symptoms was hormonal imbalances because cortisol will compete with receptor sites for certain hormones so when stress levels are high these receptor sites get full and the hormonal system gets out of whack. I had panic attacks. I experienced hot flashes. My blood sugar was all around during the day which I didn't find out till later, but when you are stressed your cortisol level goes up and so does your blood sugar because your body thinks it need to flee or fight and when sugar levels go up in a normal individual then your insulin levels rise so that your blood sugar can come down. This constant state of stress leads to blood sugar levels rising and falling all day, especially if you are a stress eater.
Stress can lead to tons of physiological symptoms like elevated blood pressure, teeth grinding, accident proneness, increased heart rate, insomnia, fatigue, sweating, headaches, indigestion, and the list goes on.
Emotionally people can be depressed, crying, have emotional outbursts, be angry, irritable, restless, have a hard time concentrating, and so on.
Intellectually someone may forget things, make poor judgement, be preoccupied, have poor concentration, and so on.
So...what should you do when you are stressed?
I have found several things that I turn to when stress hits and none of them are pharmaceutical drugs. That being said there's nothing wrong with using allopathic or traditional medicine if you need to. I just have a problem when it is prescribed to someone without looking at the causes of stress or other alternatives to help deal with the stress. I never mentioned anything to a traditional doctor about being stresses because I knew they would simply offer me a drug that I feel would bandaid the issue but not get to the root of fixing it. So let me share with you some of my favorite things.
1. Exercise of course is a great way to deal with stress. Your body as I mentioned before is in the fight or flight state when you are stresses so providing some type of physical outlet fot the stress is a great way to deal.
2. Eating right makes a huge difference. When you consume a lot of sugar in your diet then that causes that spike in blood sugar and the results of this spike and the crash you experience afterwards can mimic anxiety symptoms which can make the stress and anxiety you feel worse. An increase in sugar can lead to an increase in dopamine levels in your brain much like that of an addict. This can eventually lead to more neurotransmitter imbalances.
3. Deep breathing exercises have been shown to have a huge effect on lowering stress in the body. Place a hand on your belly and one on your chest, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. Try to find a quiet place free of distractions if possible.
4. Essential oils have helped me deal with stress. There are a variety of essential oils that help reduce stress. Lavender is a very common one. I also like any of the cirtus oils. Bergamot is great for lessening mental stress. Vetiver as been shown to reduce anxiety in research. I find it helpful to put a drop on each foot before I fall asleep at night to stop my mind from racing. Smelling the oils either on you or with a diffuser is the best way to change your emotions because the limbic part of the brain is right behind the olfactory system. *To learn more about essential oils check out the service page for more educational videos and links to order your own oils.
5. Massage therapy or touch in general has been shown to greatly reduce stress and anxiety in the body.
6. Practicing meditation. I like to use the headspace app. It's a great way to get started and its FREE.
7. Exogenous Ketones have been something I have discovered over the last year and a half and they really help to improve my mood. I will typically drink a drink at lunchtime and love to have a little in some night time tea to help me rest and sleep at night. To learn more about exogenous ketones check out our services page.
8. Journaling my thoughts on paper helps to get them out of my head. This is a great way I have found to clear my head and help with lowering me stress.
9. Adult coloring books or any other type of creative outlet (pottery painting etc). I love to engage in anything of this sort when dealing with stress. My kids will often start coloring too and it ends up being a family affair.
10. Music. Music for me is huge. I find turning on some of my favorite chill toons really helps to bring me down a few nothces when I am stressing.
11. Limiting distractions. I live in chaos, but I do try to control the amount of chaos. We never have a TV on just for background noise. I turn the TV off if no one is watching it. When there is a lot of additional noise in the background I find it hard to relax. SInce it's hard to turn my kids off the TV is something I can make sure is off.
12. Supplementing. Many people are low in magnesium so taking a magnesium supplement like a chealeted magnesium that your body can absorb. I have a magnesium oil that I spray on that also has Vitamin D which many people are low on and con contribute to mood changes. I also have found that serine is helpful with stress. Serine is an amino acid that you need to take or get from your food. If you supplement with it you want to try and get a phosphalated serine because it is easier for your body to absorb it.
There are other ways for different people to deal with stress you just need to know what works best for you. As far as I am concerned I use a variety of things to help me deal with stress. The most important thing is to deal with your stress and try to lessen the stresses in your life as much as possible. Stress can contribute to a number of life threatening diseases so don't ignore your stress instead become well equipped with ways to deal with your stress and reach out to someone when you need to talk or just vent. Don't do life alone.
Much love to you all. Namaste. ZenFIt Mama
Self Care. What is it and why is it so important?
So I was reading a book recently and the author of the book was talking about these main components of health. I was reading through and figured I was working on all these areas. All of the areas except for one major one: Self Care. I knew self care was a thing and I got the whole idea that you need to take care of yourself first otherwise you will be no good to anybody else. I had learned this lesson the hard way. It wasn't until I read this book that I realized that this is a major factor in health and wellness. It's really just as important as the others and If I stopped to think about it, it was really what I was doing when I was good about the other areas of health and wellness in my life.
So what is self care? It is making sure in this crazy life that we are leading as women that we don't forget that we are equally important as all the other people we serve on a daily basis. So many women, I think, have a hard time with this one. I know I struggle with self care. I am a people pleaser by nature. I have tried to work on this because it's not always a good thing. It's good to help people and try and make situations better, but when you do this to the extreme it can be a very corrosive trait. Corrosive in the fact that while you are making people around you happy if you aren't careful little by little this will eat away at you as you compromise maybe some things yourself and before you know it everybody else is dictating your life, but yourself.
So a critical part of self care sometimes means saying no. I struggle with this, but I have got a little better. You can say no in a polite, but firm way. When scheduling appointments with work over the years I would say tell someone I couldn't get them in and I would feel guilty. In my guilt I would go on and on about why i couldn't get them in as if they needed an explanation. I have learned that my time is just as valuable as theirs so I just make a simple statement saying that I am unavailable at that time. Then I offer some time that I am able to fit them in. Giving people parameters to work in is a good thing. They will learn to follow your parameters and respect your time as well.
I have also learned that I cannot control the way people react to what I say. This has been a fairly new lesson for me. I can only control me and do what I think is right or necessary and if the other person reacts in a negative way then that's on them. This of course is if I deliver the information in a kind and loving way.
So what do we need to take care of with ourselves? Um..everything. When looking at self care I think it is important to look at all aspects of you as a person. You have a physical side, an emotional side, and a spiritual side. You have a social side, a financial side, and a mental side. You can include other areas in here as well, but you get the idea you are a complex being made up of more than what you can see on the surface. So when looking at self care you want to address all these pieces.
On the physical side of things you want to make sure you take care of your body physically through exercise and movement, eating the right foods, perhaps getting massages or making appointments at the chiropractors office or with you family physician. I want to go a step further with self care and say sometimes you can go a little too far with a good thing. For example let's say one way you take care of yourself physically is through exercise, but you exercise entirely too much. You work out every day for hours each day. Maybe you have sustained an injury and you choose to ignore it and push on through anyway causing further damage. This is not good self care. Instead of taking care of yourself you forgot to give yourself reasonable expectations. This may mean that you need more self care in another area of your life like emotional well-being.
On the emotional side of self care a big thing that we can all do is learn some stress management techniques and practice them. I won't go into details here because the last blog post was on stress management. Sometimes when taking care of yourself emotionally you also need to admit what emotions you are feeling and see if you can figure out where they come from. Essential oils are a super good way to deal with emotions. The limbic part of the brain is also known as the emotional brain and this is located right behind the olfactory system. When you smell something it is the quickest way to change your emotions. Every oil corresponds to a different emotion. You can check back here and we will have some essential oil classes online that explain more about the emotions and oils. .
Spiritual self care may be things like daily meditation or prayer. Attending church or reading a book that deals with your spirit. By the way, did you know that NAMASTE means basically my spirit recognizes your spirit? No matter what your belief system everyone has a spirit and everyone can learn to nurture it. Music can be a great way to nourish the spirit. Yoga is a great form of exercise that deals with the body, mind, and spirit.
Self care on the social side of things can be a struggle sometimes for me and people in general. Our lives are so crammed with things that we have to do and take care of: work things, home to-do lists, kids activities, spouses, parents, other relatives, bills, and the list goes on and on. I find it very difficult sometimes to be socially healthy. I have been trying to make a more concentrated effort on this one. I have found that I need to be social time in my calendar just like anything else. If I don't actually schedule social time someone else or something else will fill my time for me. A phone call with a good friend or a lunch date are great ways to get more social. AND I think ever girl should take a girls trip every so often. There's nothing like going out of town with a group of girls that you may be super close with or maybe they are relatively new friends. Either way going away with the girls is so much FUN!
Mental self care is a huge topic right now. I do think that as we have become more "connected" we have also become disconnected. We don't have as much real face-to-face interaction with people. This is not good. People that are isolated don't do as well as those who have people around them that they can interact with. Vice versa sometimes you need to take some alone time to recharge. Learning to listen more to our bodies is important. For some people journaling, small groups, or individual therapy sessions may help. I think it is important to also seek some type of treatment when it is necessary whether it be allopathic in nature or more natural. When our bodies neurotransmitters and hormones are out of whack it is hard to be mental healthy. The neurotransmitters are how our brain communicates with itself and the rest of the body. Hormones are chemical messengers that help to regulate various processes in the body as well. Finding the right kind of treatment when something is of balance is critical and no one should be ashamed to find a treatment that works.
Financial self care is also important. Making budgets and following them. Prioritizing what is necessary and what is not. Finances can be the biggest cause of stress for many people. One of my favorite financial gurus is Dave Ramsey. He has several great programs to follow to help you be more financially fit. The biggest thing I learned is that finances is all about emotions. Most people can make a budget, but learning to control your emotions around money can be harder. Taking a good hard look at how much money is coming in and how much is going out is critical. If you don't have the money, don't buy it. Train yourself to use your head and not your heart all the time.
I am sure there is so much more we can talk about here with self care, but that gives you a start. Many people may think of self care as a massage and a hot bath. These are great things don't get me wrong and they can increase your serotonin or feel good hormones and help with body aches and pains, but there is so much more to taking care of yourself. As much as I like to try and be Wonder Woman I know that I am not and sometimes I need to slow down and pay attention to myself and take care of me so then I am able to share my love and hope with others.
Much love to you all. Namaste. ZenFIt Mama
What is it and why is it important?
As I am writing this blog it is very obvious just how hard mindfulness can be especially with kids. So what is mindfulness and why is it so important today?
We are bombarded with constant information making it very difficult to be in the moment. Just go out in public and watch people for a few minutes. The cell phone is a huge distractor from being present or in the moment. Mindfulness is just that being present in the moment. This doesn't just mean physically being in the room, but it also means actually being engaged and focused. With television, computers, tablets, cell phones, social media dings and whistles telling you to look at it like pavloff's dog our society makes it difficult to stay engaged and focused. And...if you are a parent like myself kids are also pulling my attention a thousand ways daily. When we are going through life scattered and disconnected it is not good for our health and wellness. This disconnect leads to a variety mindless activities. A lot of people eat mindlessly putting foods in there mouths that they don't even realize that they are. When we eat like this you can't even enjoy your foods. If we aren't careful we can engage in hours and hours of mindless activity. How many times have you sat down to check something on your computer, tablet, or phone and had hours go away just like that?
I fall into these traps as well, but for me I am haunted by the thought that life is short and if I am not carfeul years will pass by and I will look back and realized I missed out on so many things in my life. This may be one reason why I also get myself involved in way too much way too often.
So, how can one be more mindful? There are many ways. A simple way is to engage your senses when you are feeling overwhelmed. Stop and smell the roses as the saying goes. For this you will need to take yourslef away from as many distractions as possible. Outside seems like a great place to go away from all the noise, but as a mother of 4 sometimes the bathroom or closet can be your place to escape when thinsg get crazy! When you are away from the noise bring in all our senses. What do you hear? Pay attention to the white noise or the sounds of nature. What do you see if you have your eyes open? How about smells? What do you feel? A breeze, warmth, or a chill. Taking just a couple minutes to ground yourself can be helpful in an otherwise chaotic day. If it's decent outside going barefoot outside is a simple way to ground yourslef and connect tp the earth.
If you follow my facebook page I will touch on many different ways this month that you can be more mindful. The most important thing is to realize that we need to become more mindful in order to be at the top of our wellness journey. Next time you eat sit down and slow down. Pay attention to each bite and try and savor the taste. Slow down before you even sit and eat and be mindful of what you put on your plate. Sugar is the enemy for focus. It has actually be shown in science that excess sugar will shut down pathways in the brain eventually leading to dementia in some cases. How can you be mindful if your beautiful brain isn't functioning properly. Excess sugar in your diet corresponds to an increase in insulin leading many people to become insulin resistant before they are even diagnosed as diabetic. The bottom line is be mindful of what you eat is important.
Be mindful in our movement. Yoga is a form of exercise that really helps to connect your brain and your body. Being aware of how you move and your posture throughout the day can help alleviate achey muscles and pain by focusing on moving your body the way it is meant to move. That being said our bodies are not meant to be at rest so much. Be mindful of this when at work or doing other things throughout your day and make time to get up and move around.
I hope you join me on my journey to be more mindful in all the things that we do. A super easy and fun activity I like to do with my kids is coioring. Find easy ways to rengage yourself and your children Deep breathing is another great mindful activity and practice meditaiton.
Right now I am mindful that I need to get off of the computer and get to work. So until next month...
Much love to you all. Namaste. ZenFIt Mama