Stress has become an epidemic in our society. Learning how to manage stress is a far better tool than any pill or medication because stress is the leading cause of illness.
However, telling yourself NOT to be stressed only makes things more stressful!
Therefore it's important to look through your lifestyle and see what is decreasing your stress threshold. For those of you that have read my blogs, you have heard about this before, but let us do a quick review:
First, stress can be anything that causes your body to be on “high alert” or overloaded. We have become so accustomed to ambient “noise” that our system is constantly ON. Managing the numerous sounds, smells, lights, tastes, sensations is a lot for the body to handle. The more you are stressed the more you do not have a good handle on your emotions. It is easier for you to swing from anger, to sadness, or have unreasonable reactions to small incidences.
I talk to my patients a lot about this concept of a stress threshold:
There is only so much stress you can handle before you surpass your threshold for stress. So if your environment counts for 30% of your stress, and Food for another 30% and emotions for another 30% .. then you only have 10% left for any other life stressor. This probably works for most if they keep to their routine, avoid their family, not talk to anyone….
But the moment something comes along that causes more stress as in a large bill, job change, something happened to your kid… then boom, you max out your stress threshold and tip into a state of imbalance.
Let us look at 3 things that can increase stress levels:
1. Sporadic eating habits: Eating inconsistently, or skipping meals affect metabolism and circadian rhythms. The body runs on cycles. In Traditional Chinese Medicine there are certain times optimal for eating ( when the sun is highest) and certain times for rest (when the sun is down). Studies have shown many metabolic processes in the body—such as appetite, digestion, and the metabolism of fat, cholesterol, and glucose—follow patterns that repeat every 24 hours. Eating inconsistently can affect our internal body clock and lead to weight gain, insulin resistance, and high cholesterol to name a few.
2. Inconsistent bedtime schedule: Bedtimes aren’t just for little kids. A regular bedtime can strengthen your circadian rhythm. This is important because the body has a hormonal cascade that is released in sleep. Disrupting your sleep schedule as little as one night, or changing your bedtime by as little as two hours, can decrease cognitive and psychological functioning and increase weight. More importantly, it can delay your sleep phase meaning it takes longer to fall or stay asleep.
3. Overstimulation: The more I look around the more I am convinced constant noise, television, phones, internet, music, lights and people interactions make you sick. I feel like it’s a BIG problem: our society cannot sit still in silence! I had a patient recently told me deep breathing actually makes him have a panic attack because of all the things that come up when he sits in silence! Being constantly “ON” revs up our sympathetic nervous system, increases anxiety and stress, creates mood swings, increase blood pressure and stimulates the release of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol.
What to do?
Having consistency in your life will decrease your stress and allow you to be happier and healthier. Shutting tasks down by a certain time and allowing yourself some calm introspection time is one of the easiest ways to balance hormones, combat negative emotions and increase wellbeing. Eating consistently and going to bed on time is the quickest way to reset your cortisol and repair your body.
You will notice these small simple changes having a large and positive effect on your health!