14 Days to Conquering Stress

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Week 1:
Conquering Stress
If you’re a modern human being, you know what
stress is. In today’s society, you’re taking care of
work demands, dropping kids off at school and
taking them to their extracurricular activities,
making trips to the grocery store, cleaning your
living space, raising a pet, doing yard work,
maybe getting to the gym, and doing the best
you can to keep everyone happy. Almost
everyone is experiencing some degree of stress.
Stress can come from sources like work, family, relationships, finances and health
concerns, to name a few. Constantly high stress levels can really take a toll on
you, both physically and emotionally and ultimately be detrimental to your health.
Dr. Mark Hyman says: “Chronic stress has become epidemic in our society where
faster is better and we attempt to pack more obligations into our ever-expanding
Unmanaged chronic stress can cause:
Poor sleep and concentration
Dysregulated eating (sugar and caffeine cravings)
Altered hormones
Belly fat (the most dangerous)
Ultimately stress comes from when something is giving a meaning and emotions
are attached it to it. The good news is that each person has the power to choose
the way they think. By changing the way of thinking and mastering emotions,
reduced amounts of stress can be experienced. Mitigating the harmful effects of
avoidable stress is another approach to stress management. The following tips
will provide you with ways you can regain control over your body or the
environment during stressful situations and reduce your stress levels.
To better understand how stress works, the stress
response is controlled by two nervous systems.
The parasympathetic nervous system is the “rest
and digest” nervous response and for the most
health benefits, is also the one we should be
activating the most often. The other system, the
sympathetic nervous system is the “fight or flight”
response and is responsible for increasing the
sensation of stress. A long, long time ago it used
to help us flee or fight our predators. During a
sympathetic nervous system response, blood
moves out of the digestive organs and into the
limbs and brain, digestion comes to a halt and the
immune system function increases temporarily.
This causes:
Harder working muscles
Sharpened senses (pupils dilate, hairs stand on end)
More blood being oxygenated
Release of endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers)
More primitive responses take over (judgement and deep thought capabilities
are reduced).
This shuffle of biochemical processes allows for quick life or death decisions.
The original design of this response was to start quickly and end quickly, thus
allowing the body to remain mostly in the parasympathetic response. Shortterm stress in the right circumstances can actually be beneficial because it is
in sync with the natural fight-and-flight response. A quick jolt of stress
hormones followed by a period of rest can help you meet work deadlines and
study for exams. Short term stress can boost brain power, increase immunity,
make you more resilient and motivate you to succeed.1,2 Unfortunately, our
systems to have not evolved a more appropriate use of the sympathetic
nervous system and many of life’s stresses trigger this response and modern
living leaves us in a permanent state of heightened sympathetic response.
The are serious health conditions caused by chronic stress include: anxiety,
insomnia, muscle pain, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, weakened
immune system and leaky gut.3
How Do you Respond to Stress?
Knowing a few things about yourself will help you understand how to better
manage stress. First, try to identify what exactly is causing your stress.
Knowledge of what is causing your stress is power. There's a lot of stress people
don't even realize they have. This "hidden" stress can reduce the capacity to
juggle all the big and little problems life sends. Second, try to identify how you
initially react to stress. Are you proactive or reactive to stressful situations?
Reactivity occurs without thought and produces a reaction in response to what
occurred. Proactivity is modifying your behavior or mindset during a stressful
What is particularly harmful is stress reactivity.
Stress reactivity means that you are threat
reactive. During this you might notice that your
“blood begins to boil,” you might have a hard
time controlling the tone or loudness of your
voice, your head might feel warm or that you
can’t think clearly. This is not a good use of the
stress response. You can start to change this by
examining those sensations and your automatic
thoughts during a stressful situation. You can
accomplish changing from reactive to proactive
by focusing your attention on what you are
experiencing at that moment and become
aware of your emotions and their effect on your
body. Then take a moment to make a conscious
decision about how to react to the situation.
This gives you control over your stressors.
Are you reactive or proactive?
a. Identify Automatic Thoughts. Focus your attention on what you are
experiencing at the moment, be aware of your emotions and their effect on your
body, allows you to make a conscious decision about how to react to the
b. Try the STOP Technique (on the next page).
c. Rule 5 Technique. Will this stressful episode matter in 5 minutes, 5 hours, 5
days, or even 5 weeks from now?
Are You an Optimist or Pessimist?
If you’re not typically an optimistic thinker, the good news is that you can
become one! Observe any negative thoughts, challenge them, reframe it to a
positive scenario and eventually replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
The more you practice, the easier it becomes because the networks in your
brain are actually changing with these new thoughts.
Simple steps towards this include:
• Using milder wording. Say “I am not a fan of this person” instead of “I hate
this person.”
• Ask yourself: “What is the best way for me to accomplish this?” This question
to help you focus on the solution rather than the problem. The phrase “best
way” implies that there are multiple ways around the problem and focuses on
the positive.
• Ask yourself: “What can I learn from this?” Now, instead of having a problem,
you have a way to improve yourself. Every challenge is also an opportunity to
learn, so take advantage of it.
• Challenge your assumptions. Try to figure out what the frame behind your
thought is. Chances are you have a limiting belief that is encouraging you to
think negatively about your situation. This limiting belief is based on
assumptions you have made that probably are not true. Find reasons why
they aren’t true, and you chip away at the beliefs causing the negative
thoughts. This is the most powerful long term reframing technique, and it is
far more effective if you’ve been keeping a thought journal.
Other helpful suggestions:
Watch out for the blame game.
Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill.
Use positive words: “I will” “I can.”
Try to reframe your situation to a positive learning experience. Look
for good in every situation. Surround yourself with positive people.
Believe in yourself, don’t give up hope.
Practice gratitude, take time each day to think of things you’re thankful
Smile until you mean it.
Surround yourself with funny people and avoid toxic people who have a
bad mood. Misery loves company.
Breathing and Meditation.
Breathing mindfully takes practice. When
under stress, people often breathe in a shallow
manner, not using full lung capacity. Rapid
breathing is controlled by the sympathetic
nervous system and is part of the "fight or
flight" response, the part activated by stress.
The vagus nerve is the most important element
of the parasympathetic nervous system, it’s the
one that calms you down. Deep breathing is
actually the quickest way to activate the vagus
nerve and thus, the relaxation response.
When you stimulate your vagus nerve, you counteract your sympathetic nervous
system. The vagal response reduces stress. It reduces our heart rate and blood
pressure. It changes the function of certain parts of the brain, stimulates digestion, all
those things that happen when we are relaxed. When you stimulate your vagus nerve, it
releases an array of anti-stress enzymes and hormones such as acetylcholine, prolactin,
vasopressin, and oxytocin.8 Vagus nerve stimulation is associated with benefits such as
improved memory, immune function, sleep, and higher levels of growth hormone.9,10 It
also may help tame inflammation, allergic responses, and tension headaches.11
Deep breathing with belly breathing is the most effective. Belly breathing is
accomplished by expanding your diaphragm, a muscle located horizontally between the
chest cavity and stomach cavity which is characterized by an expansion of the abdomen
instead of the chest. Accomplish deep breathing by focusing on letting thoughts go and
hone in your attention to your breath. Breath in through your nose for 5 seconds, hold for
5 seconds and exhale for 5 seconds. Repeat this until you notice a calming sensation.
The end goal is to gradually reduce the number of breaths per minute and to relax.
Research shows that breathing can even change the expression of genes. By using
breath, you can alter the basic activity of your cells with your mind by creating a specific
genomic response that counteracts the harmful genomic effects of stress.6
Yoga and meditation both incorporate deep breathing into each of the practices.
Mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction interventions have also been helpful
long-term beneficial effects as a treatment for people with anxiety disorders.7 When you
notice your stress start to rise, taking deep breaths or doing a 30 second meditation
session can be instantaneous and done virtually anywhere. Some people also find it
helpful to making it a daily practice at the start of their day, on their commute in to work
or before bed to encourage restful sleep. When you notice your stress start to rise,
taking deep breaths or doing a 30 second meditation session can be instantaneous and
done essentially anywhere. Some people also find it helpful to making it a daily practice
at the start of their day, on their commute in to work or before bed to encourage restful
More on Meditation
Escaping a stressful situation is always an option through meditation. Meditation only
needs three components to be successful: be simple, comfortable and have results
that make you want to keep showing up on a regular basis. As far as the details go,
whatever works for you is the right approach and you have plenty of varieties to
choose from. The basics of meditation require you to sit or lay down and breathe.
Hand gestures and sound might be included.
Try these meditation techniques to start:
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction - This technique uses both breath
awareness and a body scan. Breath awareness is as simple as it sounds, you focus
your attention on the inhalation and exhalation. Body scan is a process of focused
attention on the physical body starting at the toes and working your way up to your
head with heightened awareness and the potential for release or relaxation of
tension. This can also incorporate progressive muscle relaxation.
Deep Breathing - Focus on letting thoughts go and hone in on your breath. Breath in
through your nose and into your belly for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds and exhale
for 5 seconds. You can also focus on inhaling a
certain number of times.
Guided Imagery - Guided imagery uses prompts
such as from a video or practitioner to visualize
certain situations. Athletes will use it to imagine
perfect competitive scenarios. For instance, a diver
might play in their mind leaping off the diving board
and how a perfect dive feels when slicing through the
water. Studies in the science of sports psychology
have shown that imagery works because having the
brain imagine doing a specific activity, such as serving
a tennis ball or completing a complicated ice-skating
move, or shooting a hockey puck into a net, actually
creates a neural pathway in the brain just as if the
activity had been done physically. These neural
pathways, in effect, tell the muscles - and body - how
to perform. Guided imagery can also help reduce
stress because the athlete has already imagined
performing through the stressful situation multiple times. Guided imagery can also be
used in stressful situations to visualize yourself somewhere that is very relaxing to
Zen - Literally means “seated
meditation.” It comes from Buddhism,
which is more of a philosophy than a
religion. You acquire insight through
observing the breath and the mind. The
essence of Zen is to "not think", that is,
to go beyond thinking. Various thoughts
and images will arise in your mind from
the unconscious during zen and this is
perfectly natural. Do not become
involved in those thoughts. Do not
pursue them or try to escape from
Chocolate Meditation - If you’re not totally sold on meditation, but love chocolate,
try chocolate meditation! Yes, you read that correctly. As Dr. Sara Gottfried puts it:
“Get yourself a square of 80% cacao and take a deep breath into your lower belly.
That’s extra dark chocolate, and it’s been shown to lower your cortisol level, that
bad-boy stress hormone.”
1. Put chocolate square in mouth 2. No chewing 3. Enjoy!
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Stress at Work
a. Feeling Overwhelmed?
• What aspects at your work do you have control over that you could change
• What is going well at work?
• Evaluate your time management/planning and relationships with coworkers/supervisors.
• Do you need to be more
• Plan in some time in your day to
get organized. Declutter your
space and it will help you
• Write down the top 3 things to
accomplish today. Write down
what you are carrying over to the
next day.
• Don’t delete personal time - get
out of the weight of every days
responsibilities by taking short
breaks. Working too much can cause you to be less productive. Take
breaks like going for a quick walk or socialize with co-workers. Even a 5
minute break can calm your mind and relax you. It can also make a large
impact on your stress and concentration levels, making you more
productive, creative and efficient at work.
• Minimize interruptions such as checking your phone or emails only at
specific times during your work day instead of each time you receive
Ask yourself: “What is one thing I
could be doing right now that would
make my life easier?”
b. Find a Work/Life Balance. Take the long route on the way home from
work (to unwind). Set a transitional period when you get home from work:
change clothes, sit for a few minutes, go for a walk, get the mail, or allow a
select time frame to digest what occurred at work. Talk to your spouse for
support. Avoid your work phone at home in the evening to create the
separation or only check your work phone at one specific time each evening
if you can’t completely shut it off. Set reminder on your computer to wrap
up projects to leave work on time. Minimize overtime if you can. Try
meditate in the morning to see if that makes a difference to the rest of your
c. Time Management. Create lists and prioritize. Limit your list to a
manageable amount. Make a commitment to yourself for self-care and give
it priority too. Take a break when lacking focus.
d. Setting Limits and Not Over-Committing. Allow time to think before
committing. Ask yourself are you doing this to please other people or is it
something you want to do? Learning how to say no and work on
assertiveness. Make a list of current commitments and prioritizing and
possibly weeding out some.
Am I an optimistic or pessimistic person? If I am pessimistic, how can I
become more optimistic?
Am I reactive or proactive? If I am reactive, how can I become more
On a scale of 1-10, what are my average stress levels?
What are they at work vs at home?
On a scale of 1-10, how well do I manage my stress?
When I am stressed out, I notice that my body:
What are some things I do to manage stress? And how well is it working?
How can I incorporate vagal nerve/deep breathing exercises when I am
feeling stressed? Is there one style of meditation I would like to try?
What can I do manage stress at my work?
What are 2 stress management techniques to try this week (and how will
you accomplish them)?
Make it specific: I will try 5 deep breaths on my drive to work M-F and I will
remember to do it because I will do it at the first red light that I stop at.
Now you have a better
understanding of how stress
impacts your body and your
thoughts. You also have
learned that you have a
choice on how you respond
to stressors. Making changes
to how you respond to stress
can eventually make managing stress much easier. This week you are
encouraged to continue to work on those changes so that over time they
become your new routine. Week 2 focuses on enhancing your resiliency to
Week 2:
Conquering Stress
Nourish Your Body
Cravings for junk food can feel intense during stressful moments. Junk foods
provides the little mood boost that might be innately desired during episodes of
stress. For example, sugar gives the feeling of a “high.” As much as junk foods
can be desired during stressful times, they offer nothing valuable for the body and
can actually create more problems down the road. Low blood sugar following a
high sugar food creates symptoms are shakiness, irritability, dizziness, hunger,
headaches, sweating, trembling, anxiety, etc. Trans fats, artificial colors,
monosodium glutamate (MSG), artificial sweeteners, and other synthetic
ingredients in junk food are also linked to irritability and poor mood. Further, not
drinking enough water is a stress on the body and causes: increased cravings for
unhealthy foods, tiredness, headaches, irritability and decreased concentration.
Stress can even be stimulated by certain foods we eat. For instance, let’s say you
had coffee and a muffin for breakfast. “Caffeine increases catecholamines which
are stress hormones. The stress response elicits cortisol that, coupled with the
sugar in that muffin, increases insulin. Insulin increases inflammation and this
makes you feel lousy. And the sugar in the muffin increases cortisol and
adrenaline, the stress hormones. Yes, sugar literally jacks up your stress
hormones, even if you are not stressed!”4 Further, a diet high in sugar can create
rollercoaster blood sugar levels that cause an increase in stress hormones. A
study showed from low blood sugar, it was the stress hormones that had biggest
direct effect on the brain, not the observed changes in insulin, ghrelin, or other
hormones associated with hunger.5 A combination of a high sugar, high caffeine,
high stress life can be a trifecta for a stress induced disaster! Keeping your
house and work stocked with healthy foods like raw nuts and nut butters and
fresh or freeze-dried fruit can reduce trips to the vending machine.
In addition, eating healthy foods have been proven to help manage stress
better. Superfoods for Stress from Dr. Mercola:
Dark Leafy Greens - Are rich in folate, which helps your body produce moodregulating neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine. One 2012 study
found people who consumed the most folate had a lower risk of depression than
those who ate the least.12 The University of Otago found eating fruits and
vegetables (except fruit juice and dried fruit) helped young adults calm their
Fermented Foods and Probiotics - Beneficial bacteria have a direct effect on
brain chemistry, transmitting mood- and behavior-regulating signals to your brain
via your vagus nerve. The particular probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus was found
to have a marked effect on GABA levels in certain brain regions and lowered the
stress-induced hormone corticosterone, resulting in reduced anxiety- and
depression-related behavior.14 Try kombucha, kefir and kimchi to boost your good
belly bacteria!
High Omega-3 Foods - Animal-based omega-3 fats EPA and DHA from salmon,
sardines, and anchovies, or supplement form, such as krill oil play a role in brain
health and have some influence in the perception of perceived stress.15
Blueberries and Blackberries - Anthocyanins are the pigments that give berries
like blueberries and blackberries their deep color. These antioxidants aid your
brain in the production of dopamine, a chemical that is critical to coordination,
memory function, and your mood.17
Dark Chocolate - In dark chocolate, there's a chemical called anandamide, a
neurotransmitter produced in the brain that temporarily blocks feelings of pain
and depression.18 It's a derivative of the Sanskrit word "bliss," and one of the
great things about chocolate is that it not only produces this compound, it also
contains other chemicals that prolong the "feel-good" aspects of anandamide.
Chocolate has even been referred to as "the new anti-anxiety drug." One study
in the Journal of Psychopharmacology also revealed that drinking an antioxidantrich chocolate drink equal to about 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate daily felt calmer
than those who did not.
Pistachios - One study found eating two servings of pistachios a day lowered
vascular constriction during stress, which means the load on your heart is
reduced since your arteries are more dilated.13 Not to mention, you might find
the rhythmic act of shelling pistachios therapeutic, as doing a repetitive activity
can help quiet racing thoughts in your head. Pistachios are at high risk of
contamination by a carcinogenic mold called aflatoxin and may be bleached or
fumigated during processing; choose organic pistachios and avoid those that are
dyed, bleached, or show signs of decay.
Seeds -Magnesium, which acts as a precursor for neurotransmitters like
serotonin, is well-known for its role in helping to regulate your emotions and
enhance well-being. Magnesium deficiency has been know to trigger anxiety,
panic attacks, and depression. Seaweed and green leafy vegetables like spinach
and Swiss chard can be excellent sources of magnesium, as are some beans,
nuts, and seeds, like pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds. Avocados also
contain magnesium. Juicing your vegetables is an excellent option to ensure
you're getting enough of them in your diet.
Avocado -Avocados provide close to 20 essential health-boosting nutrients,
including potassium, vitamin E, B vitamins, and folate, and, according to
research published in the Nutrition Journal, eating just one-half of a fresh
avocado with lunch may satiate you if you're overweight, which will help prevent
unnecessary snacking later. Those who ate half an avocado with their standard
lunch reported being 40 percent less hungry three hours after their meal, and 28
percent less hungry at the five-hour mark compared to those who did not eat
avocado for lunch. The study also found that avocados appear helpful for
regulating blood sugar levels. This combination of satiety and blood-sugar
regulation can help keep your mood steady, even in times of stress.
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Perfect Stress Snacks
Even though eating under stress is not ideal, sometimes we just need to sink our
teeth into something sweet or salty. Here are a few options that are satisfying and
super healthy. For a step-by-step guide on how to eat healthier and feel better get
the 21-Day Simple Detox Program (link)
Coconut Whipped Cream
Doesn’t taste like coconut!
1 can full-fat organic coconut milk, refrigerated
1 tablespoon maple syrup, honey, unrefined cane
sugar, Swerve brand sugar alcohol
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
Optional Add-ins: raw cacao powder, vanilla bean
paste, flavored pure extracts
1. Carefully open the can of refrigerated coconut milk,
being careful to keep it level. There will be a firm, waxy,
thick white layer of coconut cream on top.
2. Scoop out the coconut cream and into a large bowl or
the bowl of a stand mixer. (If it is hot in your
kitchen, place your mixing bowl in the freezer for 5
minutes or so.) Stop scooping when you reach the water in the bottom of the can. Save this for
smoothies or drink it as is. Just don’t add this into the solid cream for whipping.
3. Using a mixer or hand beaters on high speed – whip the coconut cream for 3 to 5 minutes
until it becomes fluffy and light, with soft peaks. Mix in your sweetener and vanilla, if using.
Place in coffee, on fresh berries, melon or a spoon!
Whipped coconut cream is best served immediately, but can be stored in an air tight container
for up to a week. It will harden in the fridge, the longer it stays chilled, simply mix until
creamy again, when ready to serve.
Paleo Breakfast Cookie Dough
Serves 1
4 T coconut flour
1 T cocoa powder
1 T nut butter of choice (I used cashew butter)
1 T chopped nuts of choice (I used chopped cashews)
2 tsp+ coconut sugar, unrefined cane sugar, Swerve brand
sugar alcohol (adjust to desired sweetness)
Pinch sea salt** (Optional)
1/4-1/2 cup almond or coconut milk
1 T shredded coconut
1. In a large mixing bowl, sift the coconut flour and cocoa
powder to remove an y clumps. Add in the coconut sugar and sea salt and mix well. Add in
the nut butter and chopped nuts.
2. Add the milk, 1 tablespoon at a time until a 'dough' consistency is formed. Shape into bite
sized balls and set aside.
3. Spread a plate with the shredded coconut and roll the balls in it to cover completely. Eat
immediately or refrigerate for 30 minutes.
** Sea salt brings out the sweetness- This is optional but recommended.
These are great to store in the freezer and simply remove 30 minutes before consumption. If
making in batches, it's best tasting coming out of the fridge but can be kept at room
temperature for up to 5 days.
Paleo Cinnamon Bun in a Mug
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Cook Time: 2 minutes
Yield: 1 serving
•2 tbsp coconut flour
•1 tsp cinnamon
•Dash salt
•Dash nutmeg
•½ tsp baking powder
•1 egg
•2 tbsp almond milk
•1 ½ tbsp raw honey
•½ tsp vanilla extract
•1 tbsp coconut butter
•1 tbsp almond milk (unsweetened
•1 tsp raw honey
•1/2 tsp lemon juice
Mix all of the cinnamon cake
ingredients in a coffee mug,
mixing in the baking powder last.
Microwave for 2 minutes.
Mix all of the icing ingredients in a
small bowl, drizzling over the hot
mug cake.
Inhale immediately
This mug cake can also be baked in the
oven, using an oven-safe mug, at 350° F
for 15 minutes.
1 1/2 cups of chickpeas or 1 can of chickpeas, drained
4 Egg Whites
4 TBSP of Cocoa Powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup coconut oil (melted), ghee or grass-fed butter
1/3 cup of honey
1/4 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips — you can add more if
you’d like.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grease a 8 x 8 pan. ( I use coconut oil to do this)
3. Mix all the ingredients (except chocolate chips) in a food
4. Stir in the chocolate chips.
5. Pour in the greased pan.
6. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until a toothpick
comes out clean.
Chocolate Chip Cookies (Gluten-Free, Paleo)
1 ¾ almond flour
¼ cup vanilla honey or (¼ honey + 1 tsp vanilla)
¾ cup non-GAPSters can use Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips
¼ cup grass-fed butter or coconut oil (softened)
¼ tsp unrefined sea salt (where to buy sea salt)
¼ tsp baking soda
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line cookie sheet with unbleached parchment paper.
Mix all ingredients together in one bowl (except chocolate
Add in chocolate chips.
Scoop out 1 tablespoon cookie dough with a spoon (I use a measuring spoon) and place on
the prepared cookie sheet. Keep 3 inches of space between each cookie. Press down slightly
to flatten the cookie.
Bake for 6-10 minutes. The cookie should just be a little golden brown on the bottom. Do
not over cook!
Cool for 10 minutes on the cookie sheet (or else they will be too soft to pick up). These
cookies should stay soft when cool.
Eat with a smile! Yum
*Store leftovers in a container for 1 week or the fridge for a few weeks.
Cookie dough (egg free!)
Mix all ingredients together in one bowl (except chocolate chips).
Add in chocolate chips.
Eat by the spoonful or mix into delicious kefir ice-cream! Yum.
*Store left over cookie dough in the fridge for 2 weeks or the freezer for a few months!
Veggie Krunch brand:
Teriyaki Greens
Sweet Onion
Arugula and Cabbage
Brad’s Raw brand:
Chips (cheddar, regular, red bell pepper, sweet
Kale chips (Nacho, Vampire Killer, Nasty Hot, Naked)
Onion rings
Broccoli poppers (Cheese Louise, Pop’n’Hot!)
You can make your own kale chips too.
Dang Coconut Chips
Bare Organic Apple Chips
Apple slices with nut butter (peanut, almond or cashew) and dark
chocolate chips works well too!
b. Insight on Appetite. Ignoring our appetite is also another way that
activates the stress response. It can occur if we don’t to eat the right
kinds of foods each day like healthy fats, 6-9 cups of vegetables, a few
servings of whole fruit, high quality protein, fermented foods, nuts and seeds
and low amounts of carbs and sugar. Too much sugar can cause a sugar
crash. Also, if you need to eat every 2 -3 hours, you’re a sugar burner which
means that your body can’t easily tap into your fat for energy and can cause
unsteady blood sugar levels and feelings of hunger. Healthy fat in the diet can
help you become a fat burner. If you’ve ever been hangry (hungry and angry),
that also means your stress response is turned on.
As explained by the Institute for the Psychology of Eating: “The stress
response will produce insulin and cortisol – both of these hormones when
secreted in excess will signal most human bodies to store weight, store fat,
and not build muscle. This is also the exact opposite of what we are trying to
get if we ever try to suppress our appetite. Our stress response screams at us
to eat more food because the body is starving from our artificial appetite
control – that same stress will also cause us to lose finer distinctions around
our appetite. In other words, the body is simply screaming hungry – give me
food at all costs.
In such moments, brain and brain will NOT be wise enough to say to us
‘hey, you should be slowing down, you should be relaxing, what you need
is a nice healthy salad and some good healthy protein and some good
healthy fat.’ In those stress and survival moments, the brain is
screaming at us to eat anything. And what often results is we’ll be
physiologically driven to eat whatever we can get right now no matter
what it is. A starving body will demand anything, even the worst quality
junk food. It doesn’t care at that point. It just wants food. So from a
psychophysiologic perspective, the brain loses its ability in stress induced
hunger to distinguish the fine nuances of what would be the best food for
our body. And so it’s likely that we can reach for the foods – usually junk
foods or sugar – that would have us eating more than we need and likely
make us feel guilty.”
TIP: Make sure you bring enough food to work for your lunch plus a
snack. It’s best to bring your lunch from home and have your snack
before you leave work. This can help eliminate the stress response
activating leading to unhealthy food eating.
Burn Off Stress with Exercise
On one of the spectrum, deep breathing often practiced in yoga will activate the
parasympathetic nervous system, but other types of physical activity can help with
stress management too. However, current data is pointing out that long cardio
sessions are not the best type of exercise to manage stress for a number of
reasons. Endurance exercise is especially damaging because of its effects on
cortisol (seen in marathon runners).
Cortisol is normally released in a specific rhythm throughout the day. It should be
high in the mornings to help you wake up and gradually reduce throughout the
day while melatonin increases so you feel tired at bedtime. Cortisol is also what
happens to regulate the stress response. Chronic stress and overtraining can not
only increase cortisol levels, but it disrupts the natural cortisol rhythm. A broken
cortisol rhythm will wreak havoc on your body. Chris Kresser points out that too
much cardio exercise has a number of harmful effects on the body:
Increases oxidative damageIncreases inflammation (the root of all disease)
Depresses the immune system
Decreases fat metabolism
Disrupts cortisol levels
Causes neurodegeneration
An ancestral approach to exercise
incorporates frequent low-intensity movements
with brief periods of high-intensity activity.
Examples of moving frequently at low-intensity
movements is walking, cycling, gardening and
hiking. An added bonus is that these activities
can get you outside (which offers it’s own
benefits). This mimics our ancestral pattern of movement, improves mood state,
maintain a healthy weight, promotes proper metabolic function and provides a
foundation for more strenuous activity.
Walking is one of the easiest things to do for reducing stress and if you have
sedentary job, walking is one of the best things you can do throughout your day.
Walking gives your brain a break and gives it extra oxygen, the break away from
work can enhance creativity and problem solving skills and you get exercise.
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Here are some tips to sneak walking in throughout the day:
Put an Appointment on Your Work Calendar - Walking once per hour regains health
benefits that are lost by sitting, even if it’s only for a minute or two but it may be a
pretty lofty goal. It’s best to start with what amount is realistic for you. One idea is to
put appointments on your work calendar to remind you to get up in move. You may not
be able to accomplish all of them, but at least it keeps it in the forefront of your mind.
Make Meetings Mobile - Discuss important
work matters while walking around at work
instead of a conference room
Go for a Walk on Your Lunch Break Even if it is for part of your lunch break, any
effort helps.
See if Your Work Has a Walk Station Some employers offer rooms with
computers situated on a treadmill. Nothing
is better than getting work done while being
able to move around.
In contrast to low-intensity movements, high intensity for short periods of time between
30 seconds and 2 minutes often referred to as high intensity interval training (HIIT) is a
superior form of exercise in nearly every meaningful biochemical marker. A pair of
studies found that “6-minutes of pure, hard exercise once a week could be just as
effective as an hour of daily moderate activity.” The HIIT resulted in unique changes in
skeletal muscle and endurance capacity that were previously believed to require hours
of exercise each week.16 Another study comparing HIIT to conventional endurance
exercise found that even though the conventional endurance exercise group spent
97.5 percent more time engaged in exercise, both groups of subjects improved to the
same degree. Another way to put it, the group that exercised 97.5 percent more
received no additional benefit whatsoever from doing so.16
This news is pretty earth shattering. Most people find that the biggest barrier that
prevents exercise from happening is lack of time. Now we know you can earn
equivalent physical benefits at a fraction of the time we have grown to believe. Now
you can burn off stress, enhance your mood and build muscle in as little as 6 minutes
per week.
Reconnect with Nature
Spending time outdoors reduces stress, increases vitamin D levels, and brings us
pleasure, joy and a sense of connection with the world around us. Sunshine and skin
contact with the earth can bring us major benefits.
Sunshine - A daily dose of sunshine might
help stabilize your mood. The natural rhythm
of hormones (circadian rhythm) follows the
pattern of the sun. Serotonin, the brain
hormone associated with mood elevation,
rises with exposure to bright light and falls
with decreased sun exposure. Also, lack of
natural light and artificial light can alter
melatonin levels, causing disrupted sleep
patterns which can leave a person extra tired
in the morning. Exposing your eyes to 20
minutes of sunlight in the morning or early
afternoon can ensure that you are keeping your serotonin and melatonin in rhythm.
Sunshine is also the best source of vitamin D for the body. Low levels of vitamin D
have been linked to depression, increased risk for panic disorder, poorer mood and
increased inflammation.20, 21, 22 Sunlight also has pain killing and stress reduction
properties. Hospital patients exposed to an increased intensity of sunlight experienced
less perceived stress, took 22% less analgesic medication per hour and had 21% less
pain medication costs.19
Earth Contact - Grounding is a term also
known as earthing, which is the practice of
making direct physical contact with the
surface of the earth in order to connect with
the free electrons that are constantly
generated.23 Earthing has shown cortisol
lowering effects. Grounding the human body
during sleep reduces night-time levels of
cortisol and re-synchronizes cortisol hormone
secretion more in alignment with the natural
24-hour circadian rhythm. Subjective
reporting indicates that grounding the human
body to earth during sleep improves sleep
and reduces pain and stress.24 Walking
barefoot outside or sitting in the grass is an
effective way to ground. Grass, sand, dirt and
concrete are all conductive surfaces from
which your body can draw the Earth’s
Sleep Hygiene.
How well you sleep can determine how well you can manage stress the next
day and how well you manage stress during the day determines how well you
sleep! During the day, incorporating stress management techniques we
previously discussed can help manage cortisol levels. Cortisol is called the
"stress hormone" because it is secreted during times of fear or stress,
whenever your body goes into the fight or flight response. Cortisol is made in
your adrenals and chronically high cortisol can lead to adrenal burnout leading
to a long road of recovery. In addition, elevated cortisol can prevent melatonin
from working properly which also makes it harder to fall asleep. Constant
stress so commonplace today, creates chronic to severe inflammation that
eventually causes premature aging and leads to an earlier death.
Use the chart below to determine where you can positive changes to your
sleep routine:
Herbal Supplements
Trying out new techniques to manage stress can be a difficult task. Remember
that trying out something is better than nothing at all, even if it is shorter amount of
time than you would like. And don’t beat yourself up, it’s counterproductive to be
stressed out about stress reduction! Don’t be afraid to begin again, every day is a
new day. Sometimes, even with an arsenal of stress management techniques to
use on a whim, there can still be periods of immense stress. The body’s response
to stress and it’s ability to cope with anxiety and fatigue can be strengthened with
specific herbs known as adaptogenic herbs. Adaptogens are a unique group of
herbal ingredients used to improve the health of managing your body’s hormonal
response to stress called the adrenal system. They’re called adaptogens because
of their unique ability to “adapt” their function according to your body’s specific
Ashwagandha - Ashwagandha has been used for thousands of years in
Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurvedic healers have long prescribed the herb to treat
exhaustion brought on by both physical and mental strain. ashwagandha is used
to help increase vitality, energy, endurance and stamina, promote longevity, and
strengthen the immune system.25
Asian Ginseng - For thousands of years, Asian Ginseng has been one of the
most valued (and expensive) medicinal plants in the world and helps the body
withstand stress.26
Rhodiola - Rhodiola literally helps balance the cortisol levels in your body, raising
or lowering it as needed and helps get cortisol back into a normal rhythm.27,28,29
Pure, potent and pharmaceutical grade
supplements right at you
fingertips. Supplements are specifically
selected based on their high effectiveness and
overall quality to ensure that you only get the
very best in addition to 15% off retail price!
Check out Sleep and Stress Management
support options.
What was one interesting thing I learned from this week?
What did you try last week that you are continuing to work on?
What do I crave when I am feeling stressed?
How can I get more nourishing foods in my diet?
How can I get more walking/movement in each day?
How much quality sleep to I get each night?
Is there something I can change to have better sleep hygiene?
8. Would supplements be helpful at this time?
9. What are 2 stress management techniques to try this week (and how will you
accomplish them)?
References/Learn More
1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?
2. http://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2012/06/study-explains-how-stress-can-boost-immunesystem.html
3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10074676
4. http://drhyman.com/blog/2014/11/25/chronic-stress-creates-hormonal-havoc/
5. http://www.jci.org/articles/view/57873
6. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0062817
7. http://www.psicoterapiabilbao.es/mediapool/104/1048833/data/Curso_COP/three-year_followup_and_clinical_implications_of_a_mindfulness_meditation-based_.pdf
9. http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v2/n1/full/nn0199_94.html
10. http://www.google.com/patents/US6556868
11. http://www.setpointmedical.com/files/SetPoint_CCFA_2012.pdf
12. http://www.jad-journal.com/article/S0165-0327%2812%2900014-6/abstract
13. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23347122
14. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?
15. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15750663
16. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1113/jphysiol.2009.181743/abstract
17. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf800930s
18. http://jop.sagepub.com/content/27/5/451.abstract
19. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/exposure-postoperatively-patients-who-have-undergone-spinalsurgery-increased
20. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17138809
21. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23395104
22. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/vitamin-d-independently-associated-depression-andinflammation-overweight
23. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22291721
24. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15650465
25. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/ashwaganda-has-broad-therapeutic-value-no-known-toxicity
26. http://032912b.membershipsoftware.org/libdocuments/Ginseng_Cognition_Review.pdf
27. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19016404
28. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19568709
29. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19500070