Modern humans spend a lot of time being plugged in, under pressure, and stressed out. We live busy lives, full of work, plans, and caring for others. The go-go-go lifestyle generally comes with some, if not lots, of stress. The impact of stress can be very harmful to both physical and mental health.
When we start to feel stressed out, the body starts to produce cortisol and adrenaline, two of the stress hormones. These hormones increase heart rate, blood sugar, and rate of breathing. The stress hormones initiate what is known as the “fight-or-flight” response, which is meant to protect us in an emergency, but often we experience stress in non-emergency situations, like traffic or at work. The impact of these responses can lead to headaches, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and irritability . Even more concerning, the over-production of stress hormones in the body leads to other hormonal imbalances which can have negative effects on all of the body’s systems as well as increase the risk of endocrine disorders such as Graves disease, gonadal dysfunction, and obesity .
One of the most potent antidotes to stress and the daily chaos of life is self-care. Self-care refers to any activity done intentionally in order to tend to our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. In order to combat stress and live a balanced life it is key that we make time, every day, to practice self-care even if it is only for a few minutes.
To help you brainstorm different stress-combating techniques the nutritionists at Starkel Nutrition have shared their favorite methods of self-care.
- Find ways to express creative self – “I like to do puzzles. Especially 3D ones of Harry Potter. I do them at night to unwind, concentrate on something other than the TV, and it keeps my hands busy so my mind can be calm.”
- Make cards – “I either make a whole set as gifts for people or I just always have some basic ones on hand like birthday and thank you cards.”
- Go to bed early
- Have fresh flowers in at least one room of the house
- Walk hills when experiencing anxiety or frustration
- Seeing therapist weekly
- Get a massage
- Sharing food – “I love to disconnect from social media and my phone to enjoy good food and drinks with my friends and family.”
- Be with animals – “I have to be sure to pet every dog I see!”
- Take a moment – “I like to take moments during the day to pause and reflect.”
- Hug family
- Drink a really good cup of tea
- Walking in the mist – “I love walking in the mist. It is very refreshing after spending lots of time in an office building.”
- Hot yoga – “Hot yoga really warms up the body and you have to concentrate on what you’re doing so it is like meditation. It is clearing for the mind.”
- Getting to nature – “I like to go to the hills and mountains close to Seattle to hike, which also makes my dog happy!”
- Rituals – “I start my day with intentions, gratitude, and meditation.”
- Batch cooking – “I do batch cooking for the week so I can have the physical nourishment I need while living out a busy schedule.”
While many of these self-care practices seem small, they have huge impacts on health and happiness, and fortunately often don’t take much extra time out of the day to perform. We challenge you to take even better care of yourself by doing at least one activity a day that you find pleasurable. Take a few moments to breathe, go for a walk, make time for you!
Written by Makala T., BS in Nutrition & Dietetics
- Pietrangelo, A., Watson, S. “The Effects of Stress on Your Body.” Healthline. June 5, 2017. https://www.healthline.com/health/stress/effects-on-body#1
- Ranabir, S., Reetu, K. “Stress and Hormones.” Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism. January, 2011. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3079864/