Contributed by Ashley Kinkaid, Nutrition Entrepreneurship major at Arizona State University.
Chronic, psychological stress has become a common side effect of living in this modern era. People of all ages are experiencing the constant demands that this tech-obsessed society places on attention and focus.
You may feel the need to always be 'turned on' and available to work with colleagues, friends family and through social media
Stress uses immense amounts of energy, causing exhaustion and feelings of depletion at the end of a stressful day.
It can be difficult to unwind, rest, and sleep well at night. Not only that, but stress contributes to the desire to binge on sweet treats and other unhealthy “comfort” foods, which only leads to more stressful outcomes. Getting good sleep and nutrition is vital to keeping your immune system and stress response healthy, so when you are stressed and not sleeping or eating properly, you are more likely to get sick.
What is stress? Is there “good” stress and “bad” stress?
Stress is a normal reaction of your body when you experience changes in your environment that place demands on your body’s ability to cope. There are two types of stress; physical stress that you experience when you exercise or undergo hard, physical labor, and psychological stress, the kind you experience when you feel “stressed out” and overwhelmed.
Stress can be further categorized as either acute stress or chronic stress. Acute, or short-lived, stress is actually beneficial, as it sharpens your mind and focuses your attention on the problem at hand, allowing you to take the actions needed to address the stressful situation. In addition, through a number of physiological changes, acute stress readies your body to deal with emergency situations, activating the fight-or-flight response.
The problem with stress is that it so often becomes chronic, or long-lasting. When you are experiencing chronic stress, your body is in constant fight-or-flight mode, and this is when stress can be harmful. The same physiological changes that prepare you to deal with emergencies can become dangerous when your body is constantly experiencing them.
Cortisol, when released in your body during a stressful event, causes your heart rate to quicken and your blood pressure to go up. These physical symptoms of stress are not only damaging to your health when chronic but can cause feelings of anxiety and lead to depression.
What are some tools you can use to quickly help lower stress and reduce cortisol levels?
Learning how to relieve stress and lower cortisol levels can improve your health and wellbeing and contribute to longevity. Finding healthy techniques to relieve stress is important, because without them it is tempting to grab a glass of wine or reach for a sweet treat to try and relax, which can lead to more problems and more stress.
First, know that stress is a natural response to the changing environment around you. Understanding the reason your body is reacting in this way can help change your body’s response to the stressors you encounter.
Give yourself a break and don’t get stressed about stress. The key is to be able to effectively turn the stress response off when you no longer need it.
One way to reduce stress is to take a walk at the end of a difficult day. Both spending time outdoors and engaging in movement can help reduce stress. Exercise is a form of physical stress that is good for you; it helps your body build resilience to the stress response.
And studies show that spending time outdoors in nature causes positive changes in your brain and leads to reduced cortisol levels.
Even better, ask a family member or friend to join you on your walk. If you have a pet, reduce their stress too! Positive social support is a key part of a healthy lifestyle; it has positive effects on your mental health and increases your body’s resilience to stress.
Another way to quickly reduce stress is a technique called the physiological sigh; it is a breathing technique that slows the heart rate down immediately, leading to relaxation. This tool can be used at any time throughout the day when you are experiencing stress or anxiety and need to calm down.
How to Execute the ‘SIGH’
First, take two quick breaths in, followed by one long breath out. The key is to make your exhale slow and controlled, lasting longer than your inhales. Repeat this 1-3 times and your heart rate will immediately slow, calming the effects of the fight-or-flight response. The physiological sigh can be used at night to ready your body for sleep.
Getting adequate sleep at night is very important for improving your resilience to stress. If you are finding it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep, try Sleep Spray by SpectraSpray to support a restful deep sleep.
A great tool to have in your stress toolbox is supplementation. There are a number of great herbs, amino acids, vitamins, and nutrients that can be taken as supplements to improve all aspects of health and wellness, including stress and sleep. Ashwagandha is a great example of this. It is an adaptogenic herb that can help reduce stress and lower cortisol levels.
Check out our blog post about this amazing root and all of the benefits it provides: What are adaptogens and What is Ashwagandha?
In addition, nutrients like L-theanine, found in green tea. B vitamins are very important in your diet and supplementation and can also reduce stress levels in your body. Melatonin, a hormone that is naturally produced in your brain to support sleep and immune system function, can be taken as a supplement to help you sleep better at night.
SpectraSpray’s Sleep Spray and Stress Spray capitalize on these great benefits, incorporating these as well as other potent herbs and compounds in their formulas that can contribute to a healthier stress response and a good night’s sleep.