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