Dr. Doni, author of The Stress Remedy, has broken down how you can optimize your stress response so you are ready for whatever comes along.
As a stress expert, my first priority is to prevent stress whenever it is possible and then help your body recover from stress. If we can do that, then we also prevent the effects of stress—and this is our best chance when we’re up against life’s many challenges.
The key to keeping your body ready to respond to and recover from stress is optimizing the health of your adrenal glands.
The adrenal glands are located near your kidneys, and their job is to make the main hormones that control our response to stress: cortisol, norepinephrine, and epinephrine (adrenaline). If we don’t give the adrenal glands a chance to rest and recover by giving them a break from the stressful situations that stimulate them, we are highly likely to start feeling not so well. Why? Because if your cortisol level is either too low or too high, it sends messages throughout the body which affect your digestion, immune system, nervous system, and all your other hormones. The best case scenario is when your cortisol returns to optimal levels (higher in the morning and gradually decreasing through the day) once a stress passes. To read more about cortisol, click here.
To find out how much your adrenal glands have been affected by stress, be sure to take this 5-minute online Stress Quiz.
Symptoms of over-worked adrenal glands include everything from fatigue and low energy, to insomnia, dizziness, blood sugar irregularities, muscle weakness, frequent infections, and mood changes. Read more about common signs that your stress response is out of balance here.
If you feel this way, even for part of the day, then it’s time to start thinking about your adrenal glands. It is possible to test the levels of cortisol and adrenaline in your body—this can tell you exactly what your adrenals are up to and what support they need. I’m happy to help you with taking this test, reviewing the results, and recommending an appropriate approach for you during a consultation.
In the meantime, to begin working on restoring your adrenal health, you can start with these 10 easy steps:
- Sleep 7.5 to 9 hours each night
Good Sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your adrenal health. Calculate your bedtime based on the time you need to wake. Get in bed and to sleep by 10 pm if possible to optimize the effect of melatonin, which naturally increases then. Minimize distractions and stimulation from light and sounds.
- Eat every 2 to 4 hours from the time you wake until 2 hours before going to bed
This way you will ensure that your body has predictable access to carbohydrates, protein, and fats throughout the day. It is only when the body does not have the nutrition it needs that it starts to burn muscle tissue and store fat. Large and infrequent meals push blood sugar and insulin levels to the max, which stresses your body and makes your adrenals work harder. Read 5 tips for balancing your blood sugar here, and then consider the The Stress Remedy Programs as a way to get started.
- Exercise for 10 to 30 minutes, 3 to 5 times per week
This should include core strengthening, stretching, muscle strengthening, and cardio. Exercising longer than 30 minutes may only stress or exhaust your adrenals more, so don’t push it unless you are sure your body is supported and ready. You could start by following the four exercise plans in my book, The Stress Remedy.
- Connect with yourself
Whether that is through prayer, meditation, mindfulness, therapy, a walk in the park, journaling, and/or singing. All of these activities help to bring adrenal health and cortisol back to optimal levels.
- Connect with others, including pets
Did you know that calling a friend or family member has been shown to restore adrenal health? Taking time to connect with others (even someone you don’t know)—or an animal can help give your body the signals it needs to relax.
- Build breaks into your daily schedule
Even 5 minutes to drink a cup of tea, read an article, walk around the block, or simply get your mind off the task at hand has been shown to increase productivity and wellness. A massage can offer a wonderful way to take a break.
- Enjoy nature!
Whether you choose to spend time outdoors or simply look at pictures of trees, leaves, mountains, and flowers, either way you’ll be helping your body restore adrenal health.
- Experience your emotions
Whether you feel happiness, sadness, or anger, giving yourself a chance to feel what you feel, with acceptance and support, instead of reacting or suppressing, has been shown to help keep your cortisol levels on track. Laughing, for example, is known to be one of our most powerful medicines. Find ways to experience emotion that work well for you and for others in your life – ideas include journaling, watching a movie, talking with a friend or therapist.
Note: if you experience severe emotions or need more help, be sure to reach out for support, including learning more about: how food affects your mood; forms of therapy that help process emotions such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitizing and Reprogramming); tests that can help us understand nutritional needs based on your genetics; how to measure neurotransmitters levels that can then be addressed with nutrients.
- Be strategic with your day and your life
Think about your values and goals, and then outline, based on what is most important to you, what it is that you want to get done. Be realistic about what you can accomplish in one day, and create a list of tasks that you’d like to work on. This approach can help you stay on track, be less stressed, and be flexible with yourself.
- Take a high quality multivitamin
A good multivitamin will contain antioxidants, which help your body fend off the negative effects of stress, active forms of B vitamins, which are used by your body to detoxify and create neurotransmitters, as well as minerals that help keep your immune system and muscles working at their best. Additionally, all of these nutrients are important for your adrenal glands to function well—you might as well make sure you are giving your body the nutrients it is going to need.
I carry many multivitamins that meet these criteria in my online store so you can find one that meets your specific needs—from the number of capsules to take per day, to the type of capsule or powder, to prenatal and children’s versions. Click here to see an example multivitamin vetted by me.
For more details on these recommendations, as well as a thorough description of the stress response, cortisol, and the trouble it can cause when out of balance, be sure to pick up a copy of The Stress Remedy, which includes a 3-week program to restore your adrenals and overall health to optimal.
I’d love to hear what you think of these 10 tips and about your ideas for improving adrenal function.
12th June 2014