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Tips for Responding Better to Stress – Part Two

by Heather Kiser
This is part two of a three part series on stress. Read part one here.

Stress

In part one we discussed stress and how to identify it. Your homework was to look for and identify stressors in your life. How many did you find?

  • Work
  • Marital Issues
  • Children
  • Financial Struggles
  • Busy home-life
  • Elder care
  • Something else

All of those and more can cause us to be in a constant state of stress. We think they are normal, everyday functions of necessity, and some of them are; but to our body they are just more stress. To be constantly running, going, working, and worrying sends signals to our body that we need to fight or run and causes an increase in stress hormones.  This constant immersion in stress hormones only serves to damage our bodies and cause ill health.

So today we learn how to SAY NO TO STRESS!

Let’s start with diet.

First think about what you crave, what you eat, how and when you eat. Do you eat a clean and healthy diet full of fresh fruits, veggies, and whole proteins? Are you eating 3 meals and 2 snacks a day? Are you avoiding chemicals and overly processed foods? If you answered no to any of these then you are feeding and increasing your stress through your diet.

When stress hormones are high, our body is hanging out in “fight or flight” mode, which can trigger unhealthy cravings and or poor food related behaviors. Stress eating often looks like this:

  • Eating or craving foods high in fats and sugars (great fuels for a marathon or bear fight)
  • Skipping meals
  • Constantly grazing or picking at foods/ nervous eating

Those three things are all related to stress hormones. When we might need to run, our body tends to crave fats and sugars to fuel it or it will signal an appetite shut down because digestion is the last thing it needs to expend energy on while fighting.

Eating high fat, high sugar foods causes cravings for more high fat, high sugar foods- a perpetual cycle. It also causes sharp increases and decreases in blood sugar levels, which lead to feelings of sluggishness when low, and surges of energy when high. Sluggish feelings tend to lead to the use of stimulants like caffeine, the body’s response to stimulants mimic stress responses like elevated respiration and heart rate; also, the energy surges caused by blood sugar spikes mimic stress responses and both of these cause an increase in stress hormones, which puts us in that undesirable, unhealthy state of constant stress hormone immersion.

Real FoodThe foods we eat can either add to our stress level or help to lower it. Eating foods that keep our blood sugar levels stable will reduce the amount of stress hormone in our body thus helping us to feel less stressed and heal the damage caused by stress.

For example, instead of your turning to standby comfort foods, choose to take the desirable attributes of those foods – creamy, crunchy, sweet – and find healthier alternatives.

  • Creamy: Yogurt, mashed steamed veggies with whole milk, healthy soups
  • Sweet: Fruits, honey sweetened herbal teas, yogurt, molasses, peanut butter
  • Crunchy: Fresh fruits and veggies, carrot sticks, celery, apples, nuts

*****For more on eating healthy, healing, real-food meals without the added stress of elaborate meal preparation please check out some of my older posts on The Crunchy Trail where I discuss “Real Foods” and where I share quick and easy “Real Food Recipes”.*****

Next is a list of ten small but huge lifestyle changes that can help reduce your stress load without causing a major lifestyle overhaul or starting a family revolt. You cannot eliminate all stress, but you can reduce much of what causes stress, thus freeing yourself to handle the real stress more easily.

1. Get Moving: This is the #1, absolute guaranteed way you can reduce stress hormone levels in your body. Walking, running, biking, dancing around the house, anything that extends outside of your normal daily routine changes the balance of stress hormones in the brain.

2. Pray/Meditate: Sit and concentrate on your breathing. Find a quiet time and spend it searching your own soul. Use this time to fully relax. No books, no electronics, turn off everything.

3. Avoid Stress: Yes this seems simple enough, but most of us don’t do it. We don’t want to appear weak so we say yes! Instead, learn to say no, learn where your limit is, draw that line in the sand and do not cross it.

4. Plan Ahead: Do small things that make life easier. Place your morning “take with you” things on the table the night before. Make a checklist of what is needed for a day at the office or school.

5. Journal or blog: Write out what you are feeling, you can burn it if you don’t want anyone to see, just get those feelings out. Even better, get together with a friend and let it all out.

choosehappy6. Choose happiness: This is possible, but not always easy. Get up every morning and determine to be happy. It may seem impossible at first, but we can choose to be happy. Happiness is a choice that becomes a habit. You may not be able to choose your circumstances but you can choose your response.

7. Accept what you cannot change: This is HUGE! Some situations and events in life cannot be changed and we must accept this and move on. Learn to forgive those who have wronged you. Learn to forgive yourself for past wrongs.

8. Socialize and have fun: Join a church, join a club, go to restaurants, join a gym, go to the park. Do something that gets you out. We are social creatures, some of us more so than others, but we thrive when we have emotional and physical connection with others. Find your clan and join them.

9. Make time for relaxation: Do not go through the day without at least a one hour recess. During this time you do whatever makes you happy, read, write, sleep, play a game, chat with a friend, sit in the sun, take a walk, whatever you want to do, but do NOT think about life or any of your responsibilities. Let your brain have a break from worry and strife.

10. SLEEP: Last, but not least, in fact probably most important. SLEEP! Get as much sleep as you possibly can. During sleep your body heals itself and repairs the damages caused by stress, it also resets and lowers the stress hormone levels while in a state of rest.

This won’t alleviate all your stress, some stress is going to happen no matter what you do and we’ll address that in part three. However, when you implement dietary changes and stress reducing steps, you will soon find that your health and well being are much improved. These are NATURAL, non-chemical, non-medicating, non-invasive ways to reduce stress. Do them and watch your outlook change.

Your homework this round is to print the table below and mark each item that you will implement in the coming weeks, use the blank spaces to customize it. You don’t have to do them all at once, start small, finish big. For each day you complete a task put a tally mark under that task.

avoid stress chart

It takes 21 days to make a habit, compete with yourself and see how many you can keep going for 21 days. On day 1 write out how you are feeling, your mood, stress level, etc, on days 10 & 21 check back and record how you are feeling. Has anything changed?

 

prettymeAbout the author:
I’m Heather. A conservative, Christian, hippie, stay at home, homeschool mom, and elderly caregiver. My husband and I are high school sweethearts and we have 6 children ages 18, 15, 13, 9, 18 months and 3 months. We are also caregivers for his parents. We have a small hobby farm in the mountains of East Tennessee where we raise hogs, ducks, rabbits, chickens, and goats. I spent almost 22 years working in Emergency Medicine and 17 of those last 20 I have also spent learning about and using alternative medicine and natural cures. I’m a self taught herbalist and life long lover of all things science. I treat almost all of our ailments at home with herbs and food. I am on a constant mission for more information about cleaning up our home, our world, our diet, and our health. I blog about healthy living, clean eating, natural remedies, and herbs. My blog can be found at Kiser Ridge Farm : The Crunchy Trail and will someday hopefully include a full herb shop containing my herbal blends.

Connect with Heather!

 

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