WHAT PRACTICAL MEASURES CAN WE TAKE TO CALM OUR STRESS RESPONSE?
Following on from Part 1, here is a 7 point list of tips to support our resilience to stress. These are helpful ideas to be aware of that we can easily adopt as part of our own daily well-being routine.
1. The Health Kinesiology Emotional Stress Release Technique (ESR)
My number one go-to for immediate relief, involves holding some neuro-vascular points on the head (illustrated on the adjacent diagram) whilst focusing our attention on the current or relevant emotional stress. I have created this video on my Health Hacks page, which demonstrates this easy Emotional Stress Release (ESR) technique to show how you too can do this for yourself. If you are experiencing stress, you can relieve the emotional response within minutes with this technique.
This is my number two because it can have a very immediate effect when you are feeling jittery, you have butterflies in the tummy or when you notice feelings of anxiety begin to develop. These are all signs that your sympathetic nervous system is stimulated and cortisol is now taking over your system. Your physiology is preparing for physical exertion, so the best way to counteract that is by physically exerting yourself. A brisk walk, cycle ride, a run, or even some aggressive vacuuming, for example, are all ways you can work off this excess cortisol. Once you have worked through the adrenal response, now is the time to get your parasympathetic nervous system on board.
One quick way to activate your parasympathetic nervous system is by deep, belly breathing. There are many ways to do this such as deep-breathing exercises, yoga breathing, breath-work, aerobic exercise, etc. Filling your body with oxygen and expanding your lungs and heart centre can immediately balance your nervous system and fill you with a sense of calm. This is also a sure-fire method of stimulating the Vagus Nerve, which allows the Parasympathetic Nervous System to kick in. I will soon be writing more about this all important nerve that has a direct physiological impact on every single body system - from our immune function to our reproductive system.
4. Grounding and Nature
Connecting with mother earth is a cheap and easy way of supporting our parasympathetic nervous system, and is accessible to most.
A very simple way to quickly ground our energy is by walking barefoot, outside on the grass, paddling in the sea or leaning up against a tree. Often we feel immediately calmer and more peaceful. Nothing beats a long walk in the great outdoors to slow down our heart rate and reconnect with ourselves and mother nature. Many of us would have to agree that making time for this on a regular basis is highly beneficial to our physical and mental well-being.
Earthing and grounding is a method which you can learn more about from the Groundology.co.uk website, the following excerpt from their website explains briefly what earthing can do for us.
'The Earth is a massive reservoir of negatively charged free electrons. Without a connection to this reservoir, the cells in our body are unable to balance the positive charge which results from things like electron-deficient free radicals. The effect of excess positive charge in the blood can be seen very clearly by the way in which the cells are attracted to clump together (see Scientific Research).
There are various things we can do to balance this electron-deficiency, such as anti-oxidant rich foods and drinking living water. But what has been largely overlooked until recently is receiving free electrons from the Earth.
It's such a simple thing and yet the effect can be so profound. In our modern lives we can't always be outside and barefoot, and so the products offered on this website are designed to provide this electrical connection to the Earth in a convenient and practical way.'
Simply by being in nature and being surrounded by trees, or even just the colour green, we are soothing our nervous systems. It has been shown that just looking at a picture of trees can calm our nerves. According to this article in the Guardian, 'FOREST BATHING' has been prescribed by doctors in Japan for years as part of a beneficial health regime and has been proven to have a therapeutic effect on our physiology, as described in this article.
4. Meditation & Mindfulness
There has never been a better time to find online resources to help us meditate or learn about the practice of mindfulness. One of the positive effects that these effective methods can have is by giving us a sense of proportion and perspective. By intentionally reminding our bodies that we are not in any danger, we are supporting our immune system and mental health, which paradoxically, then keeps us safe. The threat of Corona virus, for the most part, stems from the mind, although there is no doubt that if we are particularly vulnerable, this virus can have catastrophic results. But, when we are lying in bed stewing about it, there is no physical danger presenting itself in reality. There is no tiger (where fight or flight would be the best option!) but more a deep anxiety that has been conjured up through exposure to media fear, projected figures and death tolls. Our nervous systems cannot perceive the difference between a fear that is imagined or real, therefore the response is the same. We can take advantage of this fact by telling our nervous system, by way of meditation, mindfulness or visualisation, that all is well. Exploring the many mindfulness and other self-awareness practices, such as yoga or t'ai chi, is a great way of diverting our attention away from the tsunami of doom and gloom that we are exposed to via the media and public opinion toward a focus on reconnecting with our true, inner self.
5. JOY - Do what you love to do
This can be the most fun way of keeping your stress levels at bay. Over the last few months, we have seen a surge of people taking advantage of the time they have gained to do activities and projects they have been longing to do. Joy and laughter has to be one of the best distractions from the Corona virus panic and I think for many of us who have the luxury of being able to do what we love, it is single-handedly getting us through the most difficult times. It may be gardening, music, painting, making silly videos, dancing, playing with pets, DIY, reading... the list is endless... but enjoying yourself, laughing and being focused on a creative endeavour can counteract cortisol by raising endorphins and other feel-good hormones. (see this article here).
6. EAT WELL!
When I say well, I mean eat nutritious food - not pork pies! We mustn't underestimate how good nutrition supports our nervous system. There is so much to say on this subject that I will no doubt write more in the future about how nutrition can support our mental and physical well-being. Our mental health is not separate from our physical health and therefore good digestion, hormone balance and nutrient intake is essential if we are to stay mentally and emotionally well in these difficult times.
In a nutshell here are some tips for eating for good mental health.
We are often told 'you are what you eat'. But now, in an era of spraying the majority of our crops with Glyphosate, feeding our livestock and fish farms with antibiotic-laden feeds and god-knows what, we should be more saying to ourselves 'we are what we eat eats'. It is important to eat the best quality food we can afford. Organic, of course, is the gold standard and food coming from Soil Association approved sources will give us more nutritious products grown in well replenished and maintained soil.
Eat more fruit, vegetables, plant based foods, nuts and seeds, good quality meat (organic, grass fed if possible), fish, eggs and unrefined, cold pressed oils. For sweetness use honey, maple syrup and molasses in moderation.
Try to avoid all the following C.R.A.P foods: Carbonated drinks, Refined sugar (this includes white flour products, high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners), Artificial colours and flavourings (A also stands for Alcohol which is toxic to the brain) and Processed foods (this includes pre-made products, processed oils and food that contain them -eg crisps) as much as you can.
Drink more water. Staying hydrated is essential to our entire physiology as explained in depth in this popular book on the subject. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Your-Bodys-Many-Cries-Water/dp/0970245882
Supplementing, in my opinion, is a good idea when we are under sustained stress and I would consider looking to find out if you would benefit from any of the nutritional items below. Kinesiology is an easy way to find out our nutritional priorities, and I always recommend testing to identify which products and what dosage would suit you best. B12 and D3 deficiencies are very common and you can get your levels tested by your GP.
B vitamins (B1, B3, B5, B6 and B12), choline & folate are vital for all nervous system function as well as endocrine function as explained here.
Good fats from vegetable sources and good quality, grass fed animals, are essential for our nervous system (don't forget our brains are made of fat) - walnuts, avocados, butter, cold pressed oils, fish, nuts and seeds are all great sources of brain food.
Vitamin C is essential for good health all round but also supports the adrenals and epithelial tissue of the lungs.
D3 is a vitamin we hear a lot about at the moment. Just how important is this nutrient? As well as being essential for a vast range of functions in our body it is vital for our brain function and for optimal immune function. Known as the 'sunshine vitamin' it is manufactured by our own bodies in the skin on absorption of sunlight. This is the most important source of Vitamin D that we have although small amounts can be absorbed from food. It must be noted that studies have shown that the darker our skin the more vitamin D3 we need, as darker skin pigmentation doesn't store it as efficiently as paler skin. Also important to know is that sunscreen will prevent the absorption of Vitamin D and therefore it is advisable to have some limited sun exposure without the use of sunscreen in the summer months. The elderly are often very depleted of this vitamin and would often benefit from regular supplementation. This article is a good source of information. https://blog.cytoplan.co.uk/vitamin-d-new-government-guidelines/.
Nowadays there are many forms of supplementation, the latest effective form is LIPOSOMAL Vit D3, which is very readily absorbed and can be applied topically and absorbed through the skin if appropriate. In supplement form it is often found in conjunction with Vitamin K - which helps the absorption of D3.
Minerals such as Magnesium, Zinc and Selenium are all essential minerals that we can be lacking. As there are less and less of these vital minerals found in our soil, hence in our food, they are prime examples of nutrients that we do well to supplement.
This is a bullet point list - there is much more to consider if you want to be nutritionally robust, so please use this as just a guide. Again, it is well worth consulting a qualified practitioner - Nutritional Therapist or Kinesiologist) to really understand your personal needs.
7. Last but not least ... have a break from the news and social media!
It goes without saying that if we constantly subject ourselves to the onslaught of government warnings and media fear mongering we will drive our stress levels permanently through the roof. If there was a tiger in our sitting room, we wouldn't stand in there with the tiger... we would close the door and go into the kitchen! Understandably, we might want to be up to date with the latest information, however, we don't need to have a constant influx of news and social commentary 24/7- this will only take us away from our inner calm and deprive us of the time to care for ourselves and maybe follow some of the tips above.
I hope this has given you some food for thought and a positive distraction from the current stress and confusion in the world right now. There really has never been a better opportunity to empower ourselves and take a good look at how we can take on our stress levels and practise emotional self-mastery and mindfulness. Maybe you will join me and the many others who are taking this opportunity, and begin by putting self-care higher up on the daily agenda.
Stay well my friends!