Changes For The Mind

We all want to lower our stress levels, but that simply isn’t always an option. Life brings with it inherently stressful situations or events, many of them unforeseen, and rather than trying to wish away the stress, it’s time to develop strategies to better deal with that anxiety, no matter what it is.

If you can alleviate the stress by leaving or lessening the anxious situation, by all means do that! But for times when the stressor can’t be changed, then these mind and body changes can help you handle it better and stay healthier, no matter what.

Laugh more!

In his bestselling book The Anatomy Of An Illness, Norman Cousins tells the story of how he cured himself from the debilitating condition ankylosing spondylitis by laughing along with Marx Brothers movies. He wrote, “I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep. When the pain-killing effect of the laughter wore off, we would switch on the motion picture projector again and not infrequently, it would lead to another pain-free interval.”

Play with animals.

Snuggling with our pets fills us with oxytocin, endorphins, and other healing hormones that support the body’s self-healing mechanisms. This is why pet therapy can be so effective, both mentally and physically. So go cuddle Fido, rub Fifi’s belly, and let them cut your cortisol levels while ramping up your body’s capacity to self-repair.

Express yourself creatively.

Creative expression releases endorphins and other feel-good neurotransmitters, reduces depression and anxiety, improves your immune function, relieves physical pain ,and activates the parasympathetic nervous system, thereby lowering your heart rate, decreasing your blood pressure, slowing down your breathing, and lowering cortisol.

Alleviate your loneliness.

Lonely people have twice the rate of heart disease as people who aren’t lonely. In fact, loneliness researchers suggest that alleviating your loneliness is more important to a healthy lifestyle than quitting smoking or starting to exercise.

Be brave enough to take radical action in order to reduce your stress responses.

Ask yourself, “What does my body need in order to heal?” If your intuition says, “You have to quit that soul-sucking job” or “You’ve got to get out of that abusive relationship,” listen up. You’ve just written The Prescription for yourself.
– via Lissa Rankin

Changes For The Body

Sometimes the easiest changes to make are the physical, tangible ones. If that’s the case for you, this list might be just what you need – simple ways to watch your lifestyle and make sure you’re giving yourself the best possible shot at handling stress well and staying as healthy as possible, no matter what you face.

Increase your water intake.

You should always check your hydration levels and drink at least 6-8 glasses of water daily. This is vital, as dehydration can raise cortisol levels.

Reduce your caffeine intake.

Too much caffeine can lead to dehydration, which in turn can lead to an increase in cortisol. Also, an excess of caffeine can make you feel jumpy or anxious, which could also increase this hormone. In general, you should try keeping your caffeine intake to a minimum. Enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning if you need it, but make the switch to antioxidant-packed green tea in the afternoon. Also, try brewing your coffee with half decaffeinated beans – you may soon find that you can change to decaf altogether.

Try to avoid refined sugars.

An excess of “comfort” foods are not so comforting to your hormone levels. Refined sugars or foods that are high in carbohydrates often wreak havoc on your blood glucose and hormone levels. You may be tempted to binge on junk food when stressed, but it’s always in your body’s best interest to eat low glycemic carbohydrates such as vegetables, or a small fruit and protein portion during stressful times. Try veggie slices and hummus, an apple with almond butter or a handful of nuts. If you’re constantly stressed you may have noticed that you’re constantly hungry, too. This means that you probably have elevated stress hormone levels. If so, removing all the junk food from your reach and eating whole proteins such as meat and fish is even more important. Eating a diet rich in proteins, healthy fats and fiber will help keep you feeling fuller longer and naturally regulate your hormone levels.

Include strength training in your fitness regime.

This will help your body balance the amount of stress hormone it releases. Lifting can also set off a flurry of hormones such as testosterone and human growth hormone which can help boost metabolism.

Shorten your workout sessions.

You should always strive for exercise sessions of less than 60 minutes. Your body releases cortisol when you exercise. If you work out for more than an hour at a time, you’ll end up with a spike in the level of this hormone. You’ll also lose muscle mass if your sessions are too long, as your body will start using your muscles for the fuel that energizes you.

Incorporate interval training into your workouts.

This is much more beneficial than lengthy cardiovascular training sessions. As mentioned above, long workout sessions often lead to spikes in cortisol levels. You should always strive for shorter bursts of high intensity exercise such as sprint interval training. This technique makes your hypothalamus more responsive to cortisol, and leads to more effective balancing of cortisol levels in the long term.
– via the biostation | Delray Beach, FL

Which of these changes do you think would make the biggest difference in your life? Are you ready to start making the changes today that could change your life forever?