I hesitated when writing this post because haven’t we all read this blog post somewhere before? Anyone that talks about reducing stress has got to be a serious broken record these days - we know that stress is bad for us bla bla blah. But do you actually do anything about it save a morning yoga class and glass of red wine in the evening? When our news feeds are filled with supergreen smoothies (we’re definitely guilty of a green juice or two over here!), it’s all too easy to pin our health hopes on the latest superfood ingredient or wellness hack that’s doing the rounds.
We all love quick fixes, magic pills and simple answers but when that doesn't work (and let me tell you, it hardly ever does), we get fed up and frustrated that we’re not feeling better instantly. Stress is such a difficult one because in comparison to pretty much every other aspect of our lives which we have intricate control over, our stress response often evades us and acts of its own volition.
Your stress response is bound up with your autonomic nervous system - autonomic meaning involuntary, hence why it’s so often out of our control. Imagine if during a stressful situation you could just flip a switch and tell yourself that you’re not stressed and then it actually happened?! We’d all be so much healthier.
That being said, the only reason that that would be cool is because in this day and age we don’t come into contact with life threatening stressors all that regularly. Historically speaking our stress response acts autonomously because our hunter-gatherer lives made it necessary for it to do so, to keep us alive. Stress is a really protective function, fight or flight used to mean life of death - now it just means you read the news that morning!
Have you heard of Wim Hof? The Ice Man? The reason he’s so famous is because he found a demonstrably effective way to control his autonomic nervous system using breathing techniques. You’d assume that hiking a snowy mountain in your swimming trunks would be a sure fire way to involuntarily activate that fight or flight stress response, there’s severe danger to life, but no - Wim is still very much thriving.
So breathwork is my number 1 piece of advice for actually getting a handle on your stress, but why is it so crucial that we do so?
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Why is it so important that we reduce stress?
Stress affects everything - especially our immune system, and you don’t want to be rocking the boat there at the moment. So here are a few simple tips to help you take back the control:
2. Getting to the root cause of your health issues
Okay I appreciate that this one is not that ‘simple,’ but the crucial thing to realise here is that anything that’s niggling away at you, whether is IBS symptoms, poor digestion, poor sleep quality, allergies, mould exposure….etc, will be putting stress on your system. Best to get to the root cause of what’s causing those symptoms and start getting on top of it. You’ll be forever on the back foot otherwise.
The body loves routine and I fully recommend getting a self-care one in place ASAP. For me that’s a daily hot bath with epsom salts and candles and a hot cup of herbal tea by the fire. Because I do these things daily and I make a point of doing some slow, deep breathing and actively calming myself down, each time I go back to that scenario my body instantly knows that it’s time to down-regulate.
4. Get your light environment right
I probably bang on about this in every blog post I write, but that’s because it’s so, so important and I’m trying to drill it home! Not enough daylight in the morning followed by toxic artificial light at night is putting stress on your body on a minute cellular level, it’s depleting you of energy and lowering your redox potential. Get some good quality blue blockers (DM me on insta for my favourite, legit brands) and get outside first thing when you wake up.
5. All your faves
Massage, aromatherapy, yoga, laughter therapy, watching Kath and Kim of Schitt’s Creek...whatever it is that makes you personally sing inside, do that more and more and more.
P.s. Don’t forget to lower stress on your body by eating a diet that’s rich in polyphenols (colour), variety and diversity and avoid processed food at all costs! But that bit is just common sense…!