MANAGING THE STRESS SYSTEM 2.
Working WITH Stress
So, now that we know how the SNS works, how do we work with it?
There is not just one answer, but many!
In Ayurveda, we learn that 3 core things determine our state of health: Appropriate Diet, Lifestyle and Herbs.
Sounds simple, right?
So why aren’t more of us doing it? Do we even know how and what does it even look like?
Well, let’s start with diet. Although this will look slightly different for each person, there are some core values here that we can ALL stick to.
- Eat organic - when it comes to meat and produce, we can shop our farmers markets, buy local and eat seasonal. If you have to make a choice given financial reasons, stick to informative lists like the “dirty dozen”, typically these are thin skinned fruits that pesticides penetrate easily and your money is best spent buying them organically.
- Eat at the same time everyday - Again, based on schedule this may look different for each person, but try to eat meals within a half hr of the same time daily. Create a routine around your mealtimes. Use them as fuel ups that your body can depend on.
- Eat mindfully - This means, without distraction. No scrolling instagram or driving. It’s simple, if you're eating, just sit and eat. Enjoy your food, chew your food and be present.
- Keep it simple - try to stick to 3-4 ingredients each meal, not including your seasonings . In ayurveda, we treat with opposites, and stress is incredibly complicated, so simplify! And a good place to start is with what's on your plate.
Just following these few simple rules to start, will help your system to move into rest and digest and process your food easier.
There's a lot to touch on here, so let's keep it simple.
- Meditation - Science has proven that sitting quietly helps mitigate stress and make the mind feel calm. You can start with just a few minutes a day to bring your attention in, and connect to your breath.
- Speaking of breath, pranayama (breathing exercise) is another small thing you can add to your day to help your body slip into a parasympathetic response. My favorites are LSD breathing (long, slow, deep breathing), Alternate nostril breathing (Nadi Shodhana), and mantra breathing (repeating words as simple as “in, out” as you breathe). I love to include both breathing and meditation into my morning and bedtime routines.
- Exercise - You may be a runner, a yogi, or a weight lifter, but chances are you know what type of physical exercise works best for you. Whatever it is, do it, but moderately. Overdoing it can stress our bodies out more and cause injury along with “wear and tear”.
- Community - (Pandemic aside) Connecting with friends and loved ones makes us feel good. It really is better when we're together. Hugging a loved one releases happiness hormones and reduces the production of stress hormones. If you can’t hug, at least call or facetime!
- Sleep - Rest is best. Things like burning the candle at both ends and burnout only add to stress and make it harder for the body to detox. Sleeping can be like hitting the reset button or recharging your battery. Get into good bedtime habits to help, like turning off screens at least an hour before bed and curling up with a good book instead.
My favorite! The earth provides great treatment for us in the form of herbs. For individual herbal formulations, I suggest working with a qualified herbalist, but that doesn't mean that you can't investigate and try some wonderful herbs on your own.
Lucky for us, there is a classification of herbs that make it really easy to mitigate stress known as adaptogens.
Adaptogens are special because,
- They are nontoxic
- They produce a nonspecific result in the body
- They have a normalizing influence
- They are the natural homeostatic metabolic regulators
Each adaptogen has special affinities within the body, which we will get into in another post, but as a class, they function to bring the body into homeostasis.
If you applied some of these simple principles to your day, your stress levels would lower as a result, because at the end of the day, we all have stress, but it’s all rooted in how you manage it, and how well you adapt.