By Cindy Crandell, RN, CN of Forum Health Clarkston
Stress can play havoc on our mind and body. On our worst days, when stresses and demands seem relentless how would you characterize the way you react? Calm, cool and collected? Or are you irritable, easily agitated and ready to explode? When you reflect back on stressful happenings, do you wish you would have handled them differently? Do you wish you handled stress with poise and grace? Do you want to be at your best, both in business and in your personal life? Do you want your emotional engine running smoothly?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions than it is time for a tune-up. I will list 5 easy steps to get you started on relieving stress and anxiety so you can respond with grace under pressure.
Step one – Start by Alkalizing Your Body
Your body is designed so that every major organ in your body works around the clock to buffer acids and keep your system slightly alkaline. Body cells and tissues contain significant amounts of buffering alkaline substances such as minerals, oxygen and bicarbonate; but over time the body’s ability to buffer acids weakens. If your cells and tissues become even slightly more acidic you will tire easily and often, which opens you up for the possibility of developing myriad of health conditions.
Three common reasons for creating acidic environment – one is stress. When you experience stress, you use more nutrients to generate more acidic waste products than your body can process and dispose of rapidly. The other two factors are poor diet and premature aging.
According to the USDA the average American eats nearly six times more acidic foods than alkaline foods. Red meat, alcohol, dairy products, refined sugar, chocolate, soft drinks and coffee are among the worst culprits. Around age 40 to 50 our natural ability to balance our acid/alkaline ratio begins to decline.
A Simple Way to Balance your Acid/Alkaline Levels
A regular alkalizing program will increase your physical energy and stamina. This will not only help protect and heal you from the negative effects of stress, but it will give you energy you need to better handle the stressful situations. The easiest way to alkalize your body is incorporating sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) into your daily routine it will help normalize acid/alkaline ratio (pH)
In the morning ½ hour before breakfast and once again in the evening 1 ½ hours after dinner do the following:
- Alkalinize a glass of purified water by adding ½ teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
- If you would rather have something that taste better, I use AlkaLime by Young living with a lemon/lime flavor, ½ teaspoon
Alkalinize Your Body and Reduce Stress with Food
Change what you are eating, when stressed we seem to want more caffeine, sugar, dairy and carbohydrate food sources these foods are very acid which will set the stage for low energy and poor health. These foods effect our ability to handle stress. In fact, numerous research studies have been conducted to show how various foods can affect energy levels, mood and resistance to stress.
There are four foods in particular that appear to weaken your body’s stress coping mechanisms.
- Caffeinated beverages such as coffee and sodas
- Alcohol, most associate this as a stress reducer, however it is exact opposite
- White flour, such as bread, crackers, cookies
- Foods that contain sugar – includes fruit juice
These four food categories not only affect your body’s pH balance but can also spike your blood sugar levels leading to a host of other issues.
In addition to avoiding the four foods I just mentioned, if you want to alkalinize your body and help eliminate stress you should also avoid acidic foods in general.
Instead, you should eat foods that can actually have a calming effect and help nourish your body’s coping mechanisms, such as your adrenal glands. The best foods are those that are whole and unprocessed such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes.
Step Two: Improve Your Digestion
Now that you know what to eat, the next step is to improve your digestion and make sure your body can utilize what you have fed it. To improve your digestion, start with relaxing during your meals. Instead of multi-tasking, take time to eat and simply enjoy the aroma. Digestion starts before you eat with the salivation, this will activate the digestive juices in anticipation of the meal. When you skip this step as many stressed out people do, you’re setting yourself up for digestion sabotage.
Digestive enzyme production diminishes with age. Your intestines also have reduced motility, increasing the time it takes for a meal to be digested and eliminated. Do not drink liquid 10 min before, during or 30 min after a meal. By following this rule, you will not dilute the power of your enzymes or the HCL waiting in the stomach to receive the food. The enzymes need to mix with the food and the HCL to break down and digest properly. Small sips of water may be needed for some people but keep the liquid consumption low.
You may also need to consider supplementing your diet with a high quality digestive enzyme and take with each meal.
Step Three: Detoxify Your Liver
Your liver governs your body’s ability to metabolize important chemicals, (such as dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine and the sex hormones), that affect mood and attitude. Detoxifying the body is hard work and often the process takes its toll on the liver. It can become sluggish and clogged. The first sign of a sluggish liver can often appear in the form of mood changes or emotional problems such as depression, anxiety, irritability, emotional instability, sleeplessness, and food cravings.
Try going on a liver detox diet to lighten the liver’s workload so it can focus more energy on cleansing and rejuvenating, (detox is best if overseen by a natural care practitioner). To detox eat predominantly a vegetarian diet, with an emphasis on raw, organic salads and vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Eggs and soft textured fish, such as salmon. Avoid fatty or processed foods, refined white sugar and flour, alcohol, caffeine and non-essential drugs.
Drink chamomile or peppermint teas and mineral water. Make your last meal of the day the lightest, so that your liver can spend the night rejuvenating instead of detoxifying food by products. The longer you follow this the more refreshed your liver will become. If you are really toxic you may need additional support of Milk Thistle and methylated Vitamin B12, B6 and Folic Acid.
Step Four: Take High Quality Vitamins, Minerals and Herbs from trusted sources -NOT over the counter
Poor or inadequate nutrition can be a major cause for anxiety. This is why vitamins and other nutrients play an important role in overall health, as well as in handling symptoms caused by stress and anxiety. These natural nutrients help stabilize and relax your mood, promote a sense of peace and calm. Some even provide natural hormone support.
Most people have difficulty getting the nutrient levels needed for optimal health from their diet alone. That is why I recommend a daily nutritional supplement program. Here are some basics for decreasing anxiety and stress symptoms:
- B-complex – Eating the right foods and taking B-complex can help calm your mood and assist your body in providing a stable source of energy. Vitamin B5 helps your adrenals function properly. Vitamin B6 helps in the conversion of linoleic acid to gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which promotes production of the series 1 prostaglandins that relax both your mood and muscles. Your body also needs B6 to convert the amino acid tryptophan to serotonin, the neurotransmitter that helps relieve stress and calm your mind.
- Magnesium – is required by the body to maintain energy and vitality. Women suffering from excessive levels of anxiety experience increased levels of stress, wear and tear on the body and depleted energy levels. Magnesium supplements can benefit women with severe anxiety and insomnia. When taken before bed, magnesium helps calm the mood and induce restful sleep. (Epson salt bath prior to bed delivers magnesium via the skin). Food sources of Magnesium include green leafy vegetables, beans and peas, raw nuts and seeds, avocados, raisins, dried figs and millet along with other grains.
- Calcium – is the most abundant mineral in the body and it helps combat stress nervous tension and anxiety. A calcium deficiency increases not only emotional irritability but also muscular irritability and cramps. Because it is a major structural component of bone, calcium has the added benefits of help prevent bone loss. Good sources of calcium include green leafy vegetables, salmon, nuts and seeds black strap molasses.
Herbal Relief for Anxiety and stress
Many herbs can help relieve symptoms and treat the causes of anxiety and stress. I have used herbs for years to balance and expand the diet, while optimizing client’s nutritional intake. Some herbs provide an additional source of nutrients that can relax tension and ease anxiety, with a minimum of side effects.
- Rescue Calm- is a homeopathic combination formula contains five flower essences and traditionally used for emergency situations and every day stress. This formula is helpful in times of acute stress
- Field of Flowers- Homeopathic formulation using a unique combination of 38 flower essences each one associated with a key element of emotional concern. This formula provides support for the mind-body-heart
- Relax-Tone – is a homeopathic combination for symptoms such as stress, and tension which are associated with a wide range of other symptoms including anxiety, headaches and sleeplessness.
- Valerian Root- This homeopathic is amazing to help reduce anxiety and promote better sleep.
These are just a few recommendations of many.
Step Five: Reduce Stress with Mind-Body Techniques
Because stress occurs whether you’re prepared for it or not you need to learn skills to cope with it on a day to day basis. Targeted, low stress exercise is one of my favorites, it improves circulation, enhances functioning of all your organs systems, loosens and limbers your joints and muscles, promotes emotional grounding and stability, improves, endurance and stamina and boosts your vigor and energy level.
Moderate activity is best just enough to get your heart beating. It reduces stress, relaxes and tones tense muscles, increases oxygen flow and releases endorphins, (feel-good chemicals), include 30 minutes of brisk walking, swimming, biking in your daily routine at least five times a week.
Mediation provides a vacation from tension and worry. By emptying your mind, you give it and yourself a rest. Your metabolism slows down, and your brain waves switch from the fast beta waves that predominate during waking hours to a slower alpha and theta waves which usually appear immediately before or during sleep.
Deep, slow abdominal breathing is very important for your health and vitality. It carries adequate oxygen, the fuel for metabolic activity to all the tissues of your body. Rapid, shallow breathing decreases your oxygen supply and keeps you devitalized.
Visualization transports your mind to a calm and peaceful place, free from stress and anxiety. When you practice visualization, close your eyes and create a soothing and relaxing picture in your mind. Try to make the image as detailed as possible, if you’re on a beach, feel the sand between your toes, smell the seawater, luxuriate in the caress of the breeze on your sun kissed skin.
This particular exercise uses white light to help you release any negative feelings such as fear, anger and other upsets you may be harboring
Practicing yoga on a regular basis helps keep the body detoxified, flexible, strong and can incorporate meditation, deep breathing and visualization all in 1 to 1.5-hour workout. Yoga also helps tap into your body’s energy points and balance all chakras. Yoga is very healing to the entire body and calms the adrenals. Make Yoga part of your daily routine.
Here’s to your good health and a stress free Holiday Season wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a Healthy Happy New Year!