Stress causes your body to release cortisol, a natural steroid hormone. This puts your body into ‘fight or flight’ mode. Stress stimulates the body in preparation for whatever triggered it. While cortisol is an important and helpful part of the body’s response to stress, it’s important that the body’s relaxation response be active so that the body’s functions can return to normal following a stressful event.
However, in today’s high-stress culture, often our stress levels don't have enough time to recover. The down side is: High levels of cortisol for extended periods of time have been shown to be seriously detrimental to your immune system, causing such negative reactions as: insomnia and hormone imbalances—just to name a few.
So it’s really important that we keep our stress levels down—not only for our mental health but also for our physical health.
Here are 9 of my favorite ways to de-stress:
Meditation is a great way to calm the drunken monkeys in your mind. Sit cross-legged on a cushion or upright in your chair. Make sure you are comfortable—spine straight and chin tucked in. Make sure you have turned your phone off and removed any distractions. Then, sit quietly and concentrate on your breathing. If my monkeys are extremely intoxicated, I start by focusing my energy on the tip of my nose and listening to my breathing. Sit for twenty minutes. Slowly increase the time as your meditation practice improves.
Yoga encompasses the body and the breath so it’s not only a great form of exercise, but it incorporates meditation to slow down and calm the body and the mind.
3. Get in touch with nature
Go barefoot for a walk on the beach or in the park. Feel the sensation of the earth beneath your feet. Leave your iPod and phone at home. Take the time to connect with Mother Nature. Better yet: dive into the ocean. There is something so healing and meditative about the ocean. It is extremely cleansing and revitalising. Your body and mind will love you for it.
4. Drink Herbal Tea
If you’re feeling uber-stressed, coffee is not going to help! Drinking a warm cup of herbal tea might, though. The ritual of drinking tea, for me, is very calming. Either with friends or alone, there is something about tea that really makes me slow down and connect. Taking yourself away from your computer and doing something nurturing will also give you a physiological boost.
5. Lie on the grass
Someone once suggested this to me. At the time, I thought this was a load of bullocks. But, it actually works! Lying like a starfish on the grass is extremely grounding. Look up at the clouds and take long, slow breaths.
6. Dance and sing
I love to sing—especially in the car. Your bedroom is also a great stage: mic (hairbrush) in hand and door closed (or open), release your inner Beyoncé.
7. Laugh and enjoy!
Don’t take life too seriously.
Invite your best mates over for a hilarious rom com. Laughing releases feel-good endorphins, so get giggling!
Ready to learn more about what anxiety, brain health, and your diet all have in common? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Dr. Mark Hyman.