5 Ways Toxic-Stress Ages Us and What to Do
This season is beginning. I'm seeing and hearing it more frequently. The build up of "the busy" has hit, the wheels are grinding, and the stress is building. I'm going to confess now, even though I would like to believe I have a manageable amount of stress, I texted my doctor (bless her) that my eye hasn't stopped twitching since last Wednesday and my hair has been falling out since August. So I write this article as my checklist for managing the stress of life and handling it in a healthy way. I am seeing the benefits of walking through it using tools like meditation, exercise, and looking at what I can cull from my plate quickly.
As we walk through this season and the stress builds, what do we do with it and how does it reveal itself in our bodies and on our skin?
1. Sleep - When we are stressed, our sleep often suffers. Whether it's a racing mind or the addiction to caffeine and stimulants during the day that keep us up, the lack of sleep catches up to us quickly. It can shut down or immune system, make us feel like we are inebriated if we go too long without the deep REM cycles. All of this added together can take a massive toll on our health and appearance because we are so run down.
Getting your 6-9 hours at night every night can have serious health boosting effects and can be a major stress buster. Natural sleep aids like Magnesium Calm are amazing and have the added benefit of giving you a much-needed mineral.
2. Anxiety - The furrowed brow, the frowning face syndrome from the build up of feelings of being overwhelmed as we aim to stay focused and "get things done". When we prioritize too many things as important, the "stress hormone" cortisol and the fight or flight response is set in motion and stays in motion. According to an article from Phycology Today written by Christopher Bergland The Athlete's Way cortisol is "public enemy #1", and it must be tended to. One very effective way without the use of medication is meditation. Loving Kindness, Mindfulness, or Passage Meditation are all ways of achieving a stable, calmer mindset and highly effective at reducing our cortisol levels.
3. Diet - We all know our comfort foods and drink when we are stressed. The sugar, caffeine, junk food and overeating are all reactions to stress. Going that route will of course cause increased weight gain, dehydrated and irritated skin. Taking a moment to check into what is causing your stress, and a belief that a whole bag of Oreo's, or a half a bottle of wine will actually relieve your stress, think again. Those kinds of binges can bring on guilt and shaming afterward, not to mention just feeling plain and simple unhealthy. Instead, check into foods that will nurture your body through the stress. Things like Holy Basil tea can bring a lot of relief and a sense of comfort much more than sugary junk food.
Taking a moment to check into what is causing your stress, and a belief that a whole bag of Oreo's, or a half a bottle of wine will actually relieve your stress, think again. Those kinds of binges can bring on guilt and shame afterward as well, not to mention just feeling plain and simple unhealthy. Instead, check into foods that will nurture your body through the stress. Things like Holy Basil tea can bring a lot of relief and a sense of comfort much more than sugary junk food.
4. Exercise - It's either your favorite way to destress or the thing you avoid most when stressed because you think that binge watching a Netflix hit will solve the issue. The double duty of exercise on stress because of it's release of endorphins and the release of tension, should be advertisement enough for everyone to take a brisk walk when the stress hits the roof. Choosing exercise over other distracting activities will leave you feeling accomplished and also get the blood moving which is always a good thing for mental clarity and gives an energy boost - which when we are overstressed we seem to lack. Lack of exercise can lead to inadequate muscle tone, thus causing unnecessary aches and pains making us feel older.
5. Overcommitment - Most of us want to be gold star achievers and feel like we are holding up the world for our friends and family. However, that ideal can mentality backfire when we are overcommitting ourselves. If we are saying yes to everyone else, that means we are not leaving time to say yes to ourselves. Being aware that we all need time to just be - no doing. That includes emailing, texting, social media checking (no - it does not count as relaxation if you are doing it in bed, or in front of the TV - still doing something) All of this takes its toll in our mental feed of how we value ourselves, further adding to our stress if we don't feel we are ever enough.
To make my point I practice affirming others, and one of the hardest ones for others to hear (and often brings tears withing seconds) is " you are enough"
Taking the time to just be is not wasting time, it's allowing yourself to enjoy the present moment, wherever you are, whatever you are doing. This one is very hard for many of us, because we want to feel like we are being productive, even in our "relaxing". To begin the process of detoxing from overcommitment we must first affirm ourselves by saying. "I am enough". It feels a little silly, but see how many times you can say it without wanting to laugh at yourself, or give up. Then say it ten more times. "I am enough."