Feeling Stressed? Cheer up, the feeling is more common than you may think!
Stress is an inevitable feeling that every. single. individual. will experience at some point in life. Stress has different triggers and affects each person differently. As unique individuals, it is interesting to note how one event can be perceived as stressful to one person and have a minimal effect on another. What could account for these differences? There are many answers - for instance, the environment we are exposed to growing up as children may condition us to react and respond in certain ways to a particular situation. Meanwhile, stress may be triggered by a reminder of a previous life experience. Anxiety and depression, among other mental health conditions, may also cause one to experience stress in otherwise normal, everyday routines.
Perceived stressful situations trigger the release of the stress hormone, cortisol, within the body. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, which are located on top of the kidneys. The adrenal glands are composed of the inner medulla and the outer cortex: the cortex is responsible for cortisol production. Cortisol levels follow a precise pattern that normally fluctuates throughout the day. However, high stress situations can cause these levels to become irregular - with cortisol peaking at the wrong time interval and levels "rising through the roof". High cortisol levels can have other detrimental effects on our everyday health and well-being - varying from weight gain to more serious long-term health conditions.
Below are a few simple strategies you can attempt to reduce stress in your life:
1) Perform deep breathing exercises for 5-10 minutes at a time. Inhale for 5 secs, hold for 5 seconds, and exhale for 5 seconds. Repeat five times! As you inhale, visualize yourself crumpling up a ball of paper (or 'the stressful situation'), aim for the waste basket as you hold your breath, and visualize the ball being thrown into the garbage (and out of your life) as you exhale.
2) Meditate & perform yoga regularly. Find a quiet space, and try to tune into your body - what are you feeling? how are you feeling? Listening to our bodies can help us come up with solutions to problems. Yoga helps with energy flow throughout the body, and thus is balancing. :)
3) Get a good night sleep (aim for 8 hours). Cortisol levels can become elevated when we are sleep-deprived, as our bodies do not have enough time to repair themselves and recover from a hard days work. In fact - throwing ourselves out of any ordinary routine can be considered stressful to our bodies.
4) Build and have a support system. Talking with friends and family members about your situation can also be an uplifting experience. Knowing that other people are there for you and want to help can take the edge off.
5) Speak to your Naturopathic Doctor about taking an adaptogen. Adaptogens can help us cope physically and mentally under conditions of long-term stress. There are many different types of adaptogens out there, so it is important to speak to a professional to see which one is best for you!
Ashley Kowalski is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor in Embrun, Cornwall, and Ottawa. She is currently accepting new patients.