Wellness guru Lee Holmes shares her top tips for taming the beast, quickly and naturally.
Over the past year, one thing that’s exponentially increased, along with the use of the phrase “unprecedented times”, is the global experience of stress.
In a nutshell, what is stress?
Well, your adrenal system performs various functions, including producing the stress hormone cortisol. While cortisol has a terrible reputation, it’s needed it to keep us alive. Without it, people from the Paleolithic times wouldn’t have run from tigers, and hipsters in Bondi now wouldn’t run from dairy (sorry not sorry).
Cortisol is essential for regulating blood sugar, metabolism and cognitive function. The problem with cortisol, like most things, is when you have too much of it. Chronic cortisol can send your body into overdrive, weakening your ability to function daily, impacting your immune and digestive system, as well as your hormones. Stress can also negatively impact mental health.
I believe that relieving stress is a daily practice. While there are so many things out of our control, empower yourself to control what you can. We can be present, go slow and do something every day to manage our stress.
Some of my favourite ways to manage stress are with mindfulness activities:
Walk it off
I believe walking is one of the most therapeutic exercises you can do for mind and body. I try to start every day with a walk. If I’m alone, I’ll try point out to myself things I can hear, smell, feel and see.
I can listen to the wind rustle the trees, smell my neighbour’s new banana bread, feel the ground beneath my feet and see leaves on the floor. This exercise awakens your senses and keeps you in the present.
If you’re in a moment of stress while at your desk, doing this activity sitting down will only take a few moments and is a great way to bring yourself back to earth.
Do a scan
It’s easy to hold tension in lots of places in the body, including the shoulders, neck, jaw and abdomen. If I’m feeling overwhelmed and like my body is stiffening because of it, I love doing a body scan meditation.
While there are beautiful body scan meditations on various apps, here’s a basic version. With your eyes closed, think about your feet; each toe, the back of the foot and then your ankle.
Slowly focus on each area, moving up the body until you reach the top of your head. If you feel the tension in a specific body part, visualise that tension and then let it go.
Get to the guts of it
If my stomach ties itself up in knots, I’ll do a simple tummy massage, which is excellent for relieving stress and anxiety and muscle aches and pains. You can read all about self-stomach massage here: www.superchargedfood.com/blog/simple-self-care-tummy-massage-for-anxiety/
Using oil in the Ayurvedic practice of “abhyunga” can also help to get deep into the muscles and promote relaxation.
Based on your personal Ayurvedic constitution or dosha, you can read more about Ayurveda here in my book Eat Right for Your Shape – www.superchargedfood.myshopify.com/collections/books/products/eat-right-for-your-shape – various oils can be used to balance the body:
Vata Dosha: sesame, avocado or almond oil
Pitta Dosha: olive, coconut or ghee
Kapha Dosha: flaxseed or sesame
Tridoshic Oil: Jojoba oil
2-minute stress less activities
When you’re in a rush and need some calming down stat, the following are great to bring you back to the present and calm the stressors:
Box breathing: Exhale completely through your mouth. Then close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of 4. Hold your breath for a count of 4. Exhale completely through your mouth, for a count of 4. Hold for 4 seconds at the bottom, and then repeat.
Tense and release: Tense all of your muscles for a count of five, and then release.
- I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but over-consuming caffeine can wreak havoc on cortisol levels. If you do drink coffee, I recommend having one coffee a day before midday. Great alternatives to coffee are home-made chai teas, dandelion tea and herbal teas.
- Another tip I encourage you to do is switch off your social media a few hours while you rise in the morning and before bed to help you wind down.
- To regulate blood sugar levels, and monitor your stress, nourish yourself throughout the day. Are you looking for foods to elevate your mood? Check out some options here: www.superchargedfood.com/blog/foods-to-improve-your-mood-cheesy-kale-chips/
- I recommend seeking guidance from a health care professional, and getting support from trusted friends, family or loved ones, too.
About the Author
Lee Holmes is a clinical nutritionist (Adv. Diploma of Integrative Nutritional Therapeutics), yoga and meditation teacher, wholefoods chef, Lifestyle Food Channel’s Healthy Eating Expert, founder and blogger at superchargedfood.com and author of the best-selling books Supercharged Food: Eat Your Way to Health.