In this two part blog series, we discuss how the key to becoming less "stressed" is actually incorporating daily habits that allow you to handle life's difficult situations better.
Please refer to the blog prior if you missed part one!
Stressor #2: Food
Although at first thought, it may not seem like food is a stressor, but it is. Remember what was stated earlier: an external stimuli which creates an internal change. Food can be a positive or negative stressor for the body depending on what is ingested. We know certain phytochemicals and phytonutrients (carotenoids and polyphenols), and other properties of food can be therapeutic for certain conditions or advantageous to our body. The foods with the most benefit tend to have more color. On the flip side, food without color that is heavily leaned upon in the 21st century diet tends to be too much starches, trans fats, flour and hydrogenated oils. This typically is “fast food” or less nutritious options that are packaged. These “stressors” include pro-inflammatory chemicals that are the precursors of many chronic and autoimmune diseases. It is worth noting, but should be quite obvious, that we also know that the overconsumption of food is a negative stressor and eating within our means is a positive stressor.
Stressor #3 – Sleep
Sleep inherently isn’t stressful since it is a subconscious activity. However, I would like to STRESS how vital and important sleep is and how vital it is for the following day to handle stress. Not only how many hours per night, but being consistent with your sleep patterns as well. Restful sleep is absolutely crucial to optimize your day. In fact, some studies show lack of sleep as a main driver of pain or sports injuries.
Don’t want to end up in our office? It could be as easy as getting consistent sleep.
Here are a few tips
1. Get 8 hours
2. No TV in the bedroom
3. No pets in the bed
4. No phone one hour before bed
5. Find activities that are relaxing that transition you into being tired (reading, yoga, etc.)
6. ZMA supplementation
Getting a full night’s rest can offset a lot of the negative stressors that we battle with daily. It should absolutely be something that you are strict with and mindful of.
Doing things like fasting or placing your body in extreme temperatures are other things people do to handle stress better that have become more popular of late.
Most research regarding fasting has mostly been done on animals, so one can safely assume there could be some benefits potentially for humans as well. These could include, but not limited to: improved sensitivity of hormones, anti-aging benefit from improved cellular processes, mental alertness and cognitive benefits as well as your body managing oxidative stress better (the precursor to diseases and cancer).
You can also place yourself in extreme temperature environments as well. Never before have we lived in such temperature consistent environments. This may bode well for our comfortability, but not our ability to handle stress(ors)! This is why both hot yoga and cryotherapy have been arising in popularity of late, although most research to date is either minimal or anecdotal for either.
Hot yoga is a popular way to perform mobility techniques while also been shown to reduce stress and cortisol levels. In fact, the very act of sweating has many benefits in itself.
On the flip side, cryotherapy (or cold therapy) is placing your body usually in temperatures between -90 to -120 Celsius for under 5 minutes, whether it be liquid nitrogen or complete submersion into ice water. It’s biggest benefits are thought to help with sleep, anxiety, recovery and improved immune system. If you wish to read more about this, research Wim “Iceman” Hof for more; the pioneer of cryotherapy.
Worth noting that other people utilize meditation, reading, prayer, etc. to help disconnect and improve mental health and handle stress. Whatever miscellaneous option you choose, it is important to find the right outlet for yourself and whatever situations you are personally going through.
All these stressors I have discussed with patients in the past. We should daily be creating positive adaptions to overcome life’s most stressful situations that we may encounter in the future. Because in turn the biggest thing we as clinicians want to limit is your likelihood of becoming in pain!
This may mean going outside our comfort zone not only mentally, but also physically.
But I promise, you will be better for it.