Nurture & Nourish
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Stress level check!!!
If I were to ask you to rate your current level of stress on a scale of 1-10,
1 being "I am feeling pretty chill about life" to
10 "I am completely overwhelmed",
where would you place yourself?
Oddly enough clients who come to see me for chronic digestive issues, hormone imbalances and even autoimmune disease, usually place themselves at a 4 or 5 on the stress scale. These are chronic ongoing conditions that manifest after YEARS and sometimes even decades of prolonged stress. The body is not saying "MEH, my stress level is average".
Most people have relatively high levels of stress but don't seem to know how it is truly affecting them.
Stress is such a common part of life that it is expected and we may respond to it in these ways:
1) Ignore it.
Ignorance is not bliss. It usually bites us in the ass later, as the body wants to communicate that it is stressed and being ignored.
2) Notice it and suck it up anyway.
This is often a learned response from parents and is usually multi-generational and cultural.
3) Not realize or notice what the signs of stress are.
Stress is so perpetual for most of us that we think a stressed state is 'normal', therefore we don't know how good we can truly feel once we identify and resolve it.
4) Realization of stress and take actions to alleviate.
This is great!, But realization of stress and action is only good if you follow through. If you take a simple and obvious approach like an extra taking a day off, vacation, hitting the gym or yoga class occasionally, or trying a meditation app, and stress is sticking around, then it is time to get to the root.
So how do we truly know what kinds of things are at the root of our stress?
How does stress manifest as symptoms?
What do we do about this?
Let's unpack some of this and get you some awareness and hopefully some relief.
As you can see from the above infographic I made for you, stress can show up in many ways. The impact of stress of any kind (mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual) has massive impact on our bodies, our thoughts, feelings, behaviours and lives.
The WHO (World Health Organization) claims that 90% of all illness was directly related to stress.
This is a pretty big deal, and yet where are the answers and support? As someone who has been working with very stressed people for nearly a decade, and as an autoimmune survivor with multiple layers of trauma, I can tell you that there is not nearly enough support out there for truly uncovering and healing our stress response and the effects it has on our lives.
To help you better understand some of the root causes behind our stress, aka "stressors", I have listed some ways to connect the dots and get support.
*****Sometimes knowing more does not mean less stress. My advice is to read this over with an open mind and select ONE WAY to support yourself now. Don't push yourself or perpetuate stress by doing too much!
1). BREATHE! While none of these are in order of importance I have actually placed this one at the top of the list for a reason. When we are experiencing stress (which is most of the time for the majority of people) we go into a constrictive state and tend to surface breathe. What do I mean by this? Well, take a moment now and check in with your breath. Breathe in and out. How does it feel? Does it feel easy? Does your chest rise and fall? Are you filling up your lungs? Do your lungs expand, diaphragm pulling down, belly out? Is your breath even paced, measured, slow and deep? Or is it shallow, uneven, or tight feeling? When we don't breathe in fully and regularly our mitochondrial function is hindered (cells are not breathing either) and it creates a cascade of many of the symptoms that can be seen in the above infographic. We simply cannot properly heal and thrive in an oxygen deprived state. Something as simple as correcting your breathing, taking time to focus on your breath at least once per day, can have so many beneficial effects from improving your mood, energy, relieving pain and headaches, and so much more.
2). Spruce up your gut. Yes ok, so I am a nutritionist telling you to focus on gut health, not exactly a big surprise here. People have become much more aware of the importance of gut health, but they really don't know the myriad of reasons WHY. I can't go on for pages in one blog just about stress and the gut connection (ok I could but I won't), so to simplify I will lay out some of the most important aspects of gut health for your awareness.
- Your digestion alone uses up to 80% of you energy levels!
- Your gut is essentially your third brain. The enteric nervous system in your gut is connected to your heart and brain via the vagal nerve. So what goes on in your gut affects what you feel and think, and all of the reactions in the body that arise from this communication.
- Your gut is also the processing centre of your nourishment, detox, hormones, emotions and thoughts.
- You gut is a synergistic community hub of either helpers (probiotics, beneficial fungi) or harmers (parasites, viruses, and/or pathogenic fungi or bacteria).
- Your gut needs to be healthy and balanced for almost every other function in your body to be healthy and balanced.
3). Identify food & environmental intolerances. Regular consumption of food intolerances/sensitivities, and/or allergies is a sure way to place your body under constant stress that can create a myriad of symptoms that go WAY BEYOND the expected digestive issues. Check out this page for some of the most common symptoms,
4). Assess for environmental contaminants, exposure and pathogens. This is a wide array of unseen threats that can put a person's body in a constant state of fight-or-flight, deplete the immune system and create a feeling of perpetual stress in one's life. Sometimes these can be factors that are truly at the root of major health conditions. Some of these include: parasites, heavy metals, radiations, EMFs, yeasts and fungal overgrowth, pathogenic bacteria and viruses.
5). Reduce your consumption of caffeine and alcohol. I know it is hard to not want several cups of coffee or tea a day when you are chronically fatigued, however the caffeine consumption is creating a yoyo effect of adrenaline and cortisol (both stress hormones). Cutting back on caffeine can actually reduce physiological stress and improve energy levels (if not then you need to assess for the next below). Both caffeine and alcohol enhance the response to histamine and cortisol, increasing the feelings of physical and often emotional stress over time.
6). Check you hormones. There are many possible causes of hormone dysfunction and the word to keep in mind when it comes to dealing with hormones is BALANCE. When hormones are out of balance it can include a number of issues as our bodies are so dependant on hormones for so many different functions. Many people tend to think that they are simply at the mercy of their hormones, however you have so much control in optimizing their function in your body. You may suspect your hormones are out of balance because you have symptoms such as:
- Mood imbalances
- Stress Belly (this is the apple shape or mid-section weight gain)
- Missed or delayed menstrual cycles
- Chronic fatigue
- Skin issues/breakouts
- Adrenal Fatigue
- Hair thinning or falling out
- Frequent sighing
- Always feeling 'stressed' or overwhelmed
- Cravings (common cravings include carbs and salty snacks)
- Blood sugar imbalances
- Cardiovascular issues
As you can see by the some of the symptoms above, there are many ways our hormonal imbalances can affect us. For this reason it is best to work with a practitioner (Holistic Nutritionist, ND, alternative medicine practitioner, functional medicine practitioner, etc) who can help you assess your hormones so that you know where to start and how to get relief.
7). Support your Adrenals. There are several stages leading up to adrenal fatigue. Unfortunately most people do not recognize these subtle stages until the last, which is EXHAUSTION. The adrenal hormones are adaptive for survival, driving our fight-or-flight response. Unfortunately our stress response in the body has a hard time differentiating between true seen physical threats (ie: being hunted or being in harsh physical environments) and unseen threats (ie: electromagnetic currents, emotional stress, money stress, negative thought patterns, pathogens & unseen illness). Regular adrenal support can be key in reducing stress for many people. Consider the following to nourish the adrenals:
- Eat regular meals and snacks
- B Vitamin Complex (especially B5 pantothenic acid)
- Vitamin C
- Magnesium (citrate or biglycinate is usually tolerated by most)
- GABA (for adrenal stress combined with insomnia, lack of focus or uncontrolled thoughts)
- Adaptogens: Rhodiola, Ashwaghanda, Siberian ginseng, suma, maca, chaga, tulsi
8). Connect with Nature. Most of us work, rest and play indoors, but humans are not designed for this. We are made to connect with nature. If going outdoors is not a normal occurrence for you but you feel stressed often, try making the time and space to get out. Pay attention to where you feel best! You may feel relief when surrounded by trees (forest bathing, tree hugging), by water, by flowers and wide open fields, or top of a mountain. Some people feel energized by sunshine, others prefer the light of the moon. Nature is there for you and most people notice the relief of being out in nature almost immediately.
There are several studies that have supported the connection to earth energy (grounding) to a number of health benefits, so for optimal stress relief consider going barefoot daily so the K1 meridian point (wellspring of life point) is directly connected with the earth. The easiest way to do this is simply finding a clean patch of grass, dirt or sand by the water to place your bare feet on for 5 minutes (at least) per day.
You can read more about this on my blog here
10). Engage in regular physical and emotional self-care. Too many people think of self-care, time outs, or pampering themselves as frivolous. Self care is ESSENTIAL! Try to make a habit of including regular activities in your life that bring you peace and make you feel good.
For some people self care may look like spa treatments, massage, and beautification. Others may find peace in connecting with others, having a date night or game night (play and connection), or going fishing with friends. Some may need to connect with their creative or musical sides. Others may find the greatest luxury is simply spending time alone. Whatever you feel is missing or lifts you up, that is where you start.
Try my Ultimate Bath Recipe for a simple, effective & low cost way to relief stress and tension from the body and cleanse the energetic systems & aura.
Ultimate Bath Recipe
- 1 cups Epsom Salts
- 1/2 Cup Baking Soda
- 1/4 Cup Himalayan salt (or Dead Sea salts)
- Essential Oils of your choice (rose geranium, sandalwood, lavender, rosemary, chamomile, or bergamot are all good choices to release and uplift your spirits)
11). Honour your emotions and your body. Suppressed emotions are at the root of most physical symptoms. If we ignore or don't release negative emotions it can create blockages over time that can manifest as weakness in specific areas of the body. There are many practitioners who have catalogued this over the decades and given people more tools to identify and release them. (Louise Hay, Julie Cannon, Karol Truman, Bradley Nelson, Deb Shipiro, Ryke Hamer). A simple way of connecting with your suppressed emotions is to notice pain or discomfort in your body, and ask the body part what it is feeling? You can honour your emotions in the moment by not vilifying them. Negative emotions are not bad to feel in the moment, as they have a purpose and story to tell you, but you are not meant to keep them and hold onto them.
Other ways to honour your emotions and body are techniques based in somatic therapies, EFT, NLP and timeline techniques, hypnosis, breathwork, and HeartMath.
What is HeartMath? HeartMath® is a system of science-based, coherence-building skills designed to help you bring your physical, mental, and emotional systems into balanced alignment with your heart’s intuitive guidance. HeartMath has discovered that our heart rhythm patterns reflect our inner state. By adding heart-based emotions and connection, you can quickly shift into a state of balance and become more resilient, allowing you to prepare for, recover from and adapt in the face of stress, challenge or adversity.
I offer emotion release in any of my 1:1 sessions because the body often brings up an emotional link that needs to be acknowledged and cleared for healing to progress.
You can learn more about HeartMath on my webpage and/or you can also learn more online and enjoy the free HeartMath Experience for an intro to some simple life changing techniques.
12). Detoxify your life. Regular detoxification of the body is essential for reducing stress and can be done through specific foods, herbs, and/or treatments. This is best done 2-4 times per year seasonally. But nutrition aside, most of us are all needing to detox in ways that can be very impactful such as letting go of poor relationships, places, jobs, or daily habits that don't serve us well. These are usually not easy things to address or do, however when our health is impacted by the constant stress (physically, emotionally, spiritually) it may be time to evaluate where we need to surrender and make positive changes.
13). Stay focused on the present. A prolonged state of stress is often caused not by how we are feeling in the moment, but how we have been feeling in the past and how we feel about our futures. Our past and future projections and judgements can perpetuate emotional states of stress, that in turn create our physiological state. When you take the opportunity to release judgement and stay in the moment it looks like this:
- No negative guessing of the future
- No over-idealization of people, places or things
- No over-expectation of people, places or things
- Releasing negative recall of the past
- Accepting and embracing life as it is now
- Choosing to approach our lives with integrity
14). Gratitude & Appreciation. Let's face it, sometimes life is really tough, but even finding the smallest of things to be grateful for every day can make a large difference in our overall emotional state. By redirecting our thoughts to the things that we can appreciate in a situation, person, event, etc, we can reframe our stress to them and find greater peace. If you have been plagued with negativity or are struggling with grasping a more positive mindset even though you try talking yourself into doing better, perhaps just start with keeping a small journal entry every day of 1-3 things that you appreciated or were grateful for.
15). Energy Medicine! If you are to look at your body you see a physical shape. However if you view your body at the subatomic level you would actually see subatomic particles. And these subatomic particles are not really particles but are instead units of energy with vast distances between each spinning electron making atoms 99.999999999% empty space. This makes you 99.999999999% energy.
From this perspective you can see how energy medicine and maintenance of your energy bodies are so important. Energy medicine care is vast and can be a variety of things such as :
Intention, prayer, healing touch, acupuncture/acupressure, light and/or energy transmissions, energy kinesiology, homeopathy, flower therapy, sound/music, chakra balancing, and and so much more. Maintenance of the energy body was at the forefront of all traditional medicines and practiced by local medicine men and women and healers.
As the world has become more aware of the nature of the human body and energetics many more modalities are arriving to help us maintain our energetic states to allow healing such as PEMF, red light therapy, Rife and scalar therapies and more. For over a decade I have been an energy medicine practitioner (BIE, AO, medical intuition and light transmissions).
Here are a few simple energy medicine practices that you can do from home and can give you fast support for stress:
- Flower therapy: this was a game changer for me in supporting my emotional and energetic health, and Bach Flower Rescue Remedy is a great go to for support during periods of acute or chronic stress. Bach Flower Remedies are a gentle system which capture the essence of flowers. Flower therapy is simple, effective, and does not interfere with medications or supplements. You can learn more about flower therapy here.
- Hold your own stress points: On your head you will find neurovascular stress points. Hold both hands on your forehead, palms down and fingers touching. You can do this so that that palm covers the eyes, or so the palm is on the temples and fingers touch in the middle (my preferred way). Hold this for 1 minute while remembering to breathe. Then, hold one hand on your forehead above the eyebrows, with the other hand on the back of your head and the other directly across on the back of the head. Hold 1 minute. Last, place the hand on the back of your head towards your neck at the base of your skull. Again, hold for 1 minute. These simple holds can help to alleviate mental stress, tension, anxiety, and prevents blood from leaving the forebrain. This will enhance concentration and memory as well and calm the fight-or-flight response.
- Give yourself a hug: While hugging others is truly a huge stress reliever, sometimes there are not people around to soothe you, nor are they meant to. The body's fight-or-flight system in charge of the stress response is linked to the triple warmer (also known as the triple burner) meridian. It can tend to be overreactive, especially if our body has formed a neural feedback loop that links to specific triggers that we can't get away from (ie: chronic illness, pain, money or relationship issues, trauma responses). Sometimes we just need to calm this meridian down a bit. One simple way of doing this is to reach across your body and place one hand on your ribcage under your armpit (around where a bra strap would be, or below the nipple line). You then reach the other hand across to the opposite arm and you can squeeze up and down your upper arm, or you can hold yourself in a tight hug just above the elbow. Hold for a minute and repeat on the opposite side.
I hope that this article gave your a better understanding of why you may be experiencing stress (beyond the obvious) and how you can start to liberate yourself.