Tennee | February 22, 2020
Have you endured a deep level of emotional or physical stress for a long period of time? Has it affected your mental or physical health? Have those stressors left you feeling depleted and exhausted?
If your answer to any of these questions is yes, I wrote this blog for you. Actually, I wrote it for me also, as a reminder that we all fall off the self-care wagon from time to time.
I feel like a broken record when I say most of us are living our lives at an unsustainable speed, in a world that does not encourage rest and homeostasis. I see it on a daily basis in my practice. We are working longer hours, not getting enough sleep, eating food that is over processed and devoid of nutrients, often while caring for others when we are not at work. Without proper self-care, this level of stress alone is a burden to the body that will leave us exhausted and strained. If the universe adds on a double whammy in the form of a job change, divorce, injury, death of a loved one, etc., you better believe that you are going to need some serious self nurturing to keep your super human head above water!
Cortisol to the rescue.
Our bodies are capable of handling a certain amount of stress quite beautifully when supported. This is due to our output of the stress hormone cortisol, which is designed to kick in during times of fight or flight. Cortisol helps us weather stress in short spurts, however when stressors become chronic, cortisol is depleted. Eventually our bodies hit a threshold, and start to break down, leaving us with little energy or reserves. The technical term for this phenomenon is adrenal fatigue. Unaddressed, this often leads to chronic health issues resulting from mitochondrial dysfunction. It may look like chronic fatigue or other degenerative, painful disorders.
Triggers: Fight, Flight or Insight?
Viewing stress as a tool for growth.
When responding to an event or situation that triggers stress in our bodies, we have the power to choose how we respond.
In times of deep stress, it is common for people to self-medicate with alcohol, food, sex or drugs. While these forms of escape may seem like a solution in the moment, they are bound to create more problems down the line. As an alternative, I advise clients to slow down and take time to listen to their inner voice. I ask them to consider leaning in rather than reflexively seeking to escape their discomfort.
Leaning in with an attitude of surrender acquaints us with the edge. While this can be daunting, this edge is where we have the opportunity to address the shadow self and work on issues we may have been suppressing. It is on this edge where we are able to release old patterns that are no longer serving us and embrace new patterns, setting the tone for a new path forward. When doing shadow work that causes stress, it is important to practice self-care and actively participate in activities that promote stress relief and self-love.
How we work on the edge, and how we support ourselves as we do that work will depend on the type of stressor/s we face and the resources that are available to us. For some it might look like sitting in meditation. For others it may involve releasing trauma in the body through breathwork, bodywork or working with plant spirit medicine.
There are many ways to navigate the edge; the trick is not to retreat from your deep work. On the contrary, I challenge you to move into it as fully as possible.
As Brene Brown explains:
“When we stop “taking the edge off” and those sharp edges come back into our lives, we begin to witness how leaning into the discomfort of vulnerability teaches us how to live with joy, gratitude, and grace.”
5 Elements of Self Care to Lower Stress in the Body
Epsom Salt Baths
Taking a bath with warm water is going to naturally stimulate oxytocin in the body. Oxytocin is a naturally occurring hormone that stimulates feelings of bonding and trust in the body. That alone is a great reason to soak in warm water for self care. Add in epsom salt, and you have one of the more therapeutic, cost effective, and stress relieving tools you could implement for relaxation and rejuvenation.
Epsom salt baths have anti-inflammatory properties that help lower pain in the body. Epsom salt contains magnesium, a mineral which is lacking in close to 80% of the population and is critical for over 300 enzymatic roles in the body, including: muscle control, energy production and detoxification. Epsom salt also contains sulfates, which help flush toxins from the body. Whenever bathing in water, I recommend setting intention before soaking and giving thanks for the blessings you have been given.
I generally would recommend 1-2 cups of epsom salt for each bath.
Spend Time in Nature
So simple, and so important for mental, physical and spiritual health!
Many humans have lost touch with our basic connection with the earth. We take for granted or are completely unaware that we exist on a living biome that supports us. The water we drink and the air we breathe are a result of the magnificent earth we live on.
When we are in harmony with the cycles of nature, the cycles of the day and the cycles of life, we live in balance with the earth. Female hormonal health is particularly challenged when we fall out of rhythm with these cycles. In my own practice, I find that praying with the earth or meditation help me establish a grounding connection to the earth, sun, and moon. This connection is extremely beneficial for the spirit, body, and mind. I urge you to develop a practice that connects you with the energies that support life by using meditation and connection to the earth. This will bring you into a space of deeper alignment.
Saunas are one of my favorite ways to unwind and de stress.
Scientific evidence shows that infrared sauna therapy activates the autonomic nervous system which creates metabolic changes, strengthens the immune system and studies show sauna therapy can be used to balance cortisol levels as well. Sauna therapy also reduces blood pressure, and transitions the the body from sympathetic “fight or flight” into a parasympathetic “rest and digest” state. When the body is in a parasympathetic state it experiences increased blood circulation and decongestion of internal organs. All these benefits while we purify and get quiet inside - heaven!
For more information on the benefits of sauna therapy,
I have a blog listed below.
Connecting to your breath is essential for connection to your spirit. It is quite literally your lifeline. Learning to breathe in times of stress is especially important. One form of breathwork I often recommend is called box breathing. Box breathing is used to calm the autonomic nervous system, which is very helpful in reducing stress. This method is easy to implement and useful as a tool to control anxiety levels or increase concentration:
- Step 1: Inhale to the count of four
- Step 2: Hold lungs full to the count of four
- Step 3: Exhale your breath to the count of four
- Step 4: Hold your lungs empty to the count of four
The more you implement breathing tools, the easier it is to switch off the sympathetic stress response and move into a parasympathetic or state.
Important support for the body during times of increased stress.
B vitamins are essential for a healthy nervous system. They have been shown to improve depression and anxiety in adults. Unlike many other vitamins and minerals we do not store B vitamins in our bodies. They are water soluble which means they are flushed out within hours if they are not used by the body.
There is an increasing body of research showing the benefits of B vitamins in relationship to stress. Specifically, in times of stress, B vitamins boost brain chemistry by balancing neurotransmitters for optimum brain function. B vitamins are also essential for maintaining healthy energy levels and lowering blood levels of the damaging amino acid homocysteine. Using a combination of readily absorbable B vitamins is ideal when under higher levels of stress.
Specific B vitamin functions are listed below
B1 - Thiamine is necessary for a healthy nervous system function. B1 is a nutrient used to stabilize mood. It also helps to boost memory and concentration.
B2 - Riboflavin calms and regulates the nervous system and moods. B2 helps to metabolize fats and carbohydrates.
B3 - Niacin supports nervous system health. B3 stabilizes moods and low levels of niacin can lead to irritability, low moods, and depression. Niacin is also helpful for controlling blood sugar levels and digestion.
B6 - Pyridoxine is used to make neurotransmitters such as serotonin. It is supportive of the immune system and supports adrenal function.
B9 - Folic acid is necessary for the methylation cycle, supports proper brain function, improves mood and prevents birth defects during pregnancy.
B12 - Methylcobalamin is necessary for brain function and development. It is a precursor for melatonin and serotonin production, and essential for mood, sleep, and DNA production.
Magnesium is a critical mineral for the body. In our body over 325 enzymes are dependent on magnesium. Numerous studies show that we excrete magnesium when under stress.
Therefore, it is very important to take in enough magnesium to keep the body running effectively. In terms of the brain, Magnesium L-Threonate crosses the blood brain barrier which makes it critical for sleep. It lowers anxiety and enhances the parasympathetic response in the body, which helps to lower stress.
This adaptogenic herb contains both anti-stress and anti-depressant properties, likely due to its ability to increase serotonin and dopamine which are important “feel good” neurotransmitters. This herb also lowers cortisol and adrenaline while increasing the body’s stress resistance.
This ayurvedic adaptogenic herb enhances the body’s resistance to mental stress. Ashwagandha has been shown to reduce cortisol levels, increase testosterone, boost acetylcholine and GABA while also decreasing glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter.
This amino acid, found in green tea, has been shown to reduce the psychological response to stress in the body. L- theanine has been shown to lower cortisol and glutamate. It also increases GABA which lowers anxiety, stress and the heart rate while increasing blood flow. L-theanine is well tolerated and safe when supplemented with at its effective dose for relaxation, which ranges from 200–600 mg.
Putting it all together
While each person has very specific needs, a day of self-care may look something like this:
- When you first wake, upon rising and before turning on your phone, I recommend sitting for a few moments in stillness, somewhere that brings about a sense of peace. This is a great time for meditation or the box breathing technique I described above. This is also a great time to set your intention for the day and write it down. A cup of matcha tea is a great choice to start your day.
- Breakfast is a perfect time to take supplements for adrenal support, b vitamins and other necessary brain/ mitochondrial supplements specific to your needs
- Make sure you are drinking clean, filtered water, spring water is ideal, your kidneys will thank you for it!
- Instead of rushing through lunch or eating at your desk, spent time time eating and or walking in nature. If this isn’t possible, due to weather or circumstance, find a quiet place to center yourself.
- Eat food that is nutrient dense and easy to digest. If adrenals are taxed it is a good time to put in place nutrients to support your mitochondria for stronger energy.
- Put your phone down!
- My nighttime recommendations revolve around having clients nurture themselves with high quality food and quiet self-care.
- Eat a meal that is easy to digest, and take supplemental support for the nervous system if needed. For optimal digestion, I highly recommend eating before 7 pm.
- After food has been digested (ideally 2 hours), take time to do a gentle form of detox. This may include sauna therapy, epsom salt baths or castor oil packs. Castor oil packs can be used over the stomach to help digestion, liver for liver drainage and helps with abdominal cramps for women. All three options are very gentle and nourishing forms of detoxification.
- At bedtime, turn off WIFI and use blackout curtains in the bedroom. This will support deeper sleep and is especially helpful if dealing with inflammation in the body.
In times of stress, be mindful that the more you fill your container with self-love and self-care, the more you can be present for others. My hope for you is that this blog serves as a reminder and resource for you to stay present, and tend to your internal needs.
If you are interested in a personalized assessment, product recommendation
or guided support in navigating your edge in a time of stress,
please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wishing you a radiant reality
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