Doctor Doni

Becoming Resilient to Stress by Implementing SelfC.A.R.E. (Episode 177)

In this episode we’re going to be talking about something that I consider to be the foundation of health and healing. This is what I refer to as C.A.R.E.™ or sometimes we refer to it as SelfC.A.R.E. I’m going to be describing what it is and the method that I use with my patients because it’s one of the simplest things we can do for our health. In fact, it’s so simple that we often overlook it.

It’s when we start paying attention to C.A.R.E. that we can really create a major change in our health. This is true whether you’re dealing with fatigue, anxiety, depression, burnout, menstrual cycle related symptoms, fertility issues, digestive issues, hormonal issues, autoimmunity, allergies, sleep issues, infections of all different types (skin infections, sinus infections, bladder infections, viral infections like EBV, HPV and even long COVID symptoms). They all improve with these foundational steps. 

You can start working on your C.A.R.E. today. It’s not about perfection, it’s about connecting with yourself, listening to your body, and getting to know what your body needs from you in order to heal. This is an individualized approach to your specific body needs (it’s not one-size-fits-all). I will give you the guidelines here and then I want you think about how you can implement C.A.R.E. as an individual. 

What is C.A.R.E.?

Self-care involves activities that I have been reading and writing about over the years. Specifically, what does it mean to take good care of ourselves and our bodies. And one day I realized that these activities fit this acronym C.A.R.E. 

These are activities that you can do on a daily basis. The C stands for Clean Eating or eating in a way that matches your physiology and supports your health. The A is for Adequate Sleep. Just like eating, sleeping is essential for us to be able to recharge and reset. The R stands for Recovery Activities. This is a whole menu of possible activities that help us counterbalance stress. And E is for Exercise. We all need to exercise at our own pace to match what our body is able to do and benefit from it. 

As a practitioner I am always observing and looking for patterns amongst my patients. This is how I was able to identify C.A.R.E. was common in patients that were successful at recovering from stress, improving their health, and maintaining their resiliency to stress over time. This is also the foundation of naturopathic medicine. 

I will also share with you how to individualize your C.A.R.E. based on your Stress Type, which is how your body is uniquely affected by stress. I talk about all of this in detail in my latest book: Master Your Stress Reset Your Health. In the book you will find hundreds of references related to C.A.R.E., which researchers have been studying for decades.

Clean Eating

Clean eating is about eating in a way to support your health. I was originally trained as a nutritionist, so I see food as medicine. Our bodies need macro nutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats) as well as micronutrients and vitamins and minerals to function and survive. And we need to get these things from our food because our bodies can’t produce them.  So, it’s a matter of really honoring food as this source of nutrition and life for us instead of just eating mindlessly. We want to start eating mindfully and choose our food with intention and gratitude.

The simplest way to start eating a healthy diet is to make sure you are having a relatively equal percentage or balance of protein, carbs, and fat. I see a lot of diets out there where they go a little bit too extreme with macronutrients, like the ketogenic diet that’s very high in fat or the carnivore diet that’s very high in protein. These diets can actually make us feel worse because they are extreme. Even a plant-based diet can make us feel worse. There are times when more extreme diets are appropriate, but I really encourage you to work with a practitioner who can help you so that you don’t find yourself feeling worse following a certain diet.

We must make sure we are getting enough nutrients from our diet. Anytime we go to an extreme with our bodies we can create more stress. What our bodies need is predictability, consistency, and stability so that’s what we want to create with our eating.

We want to have predictable meals that are the amount of food that we can easily digest. It is when we digest our food that we absorb the nutrients. So, we want to have consistency in the amount and the timing of our meals. Usually our bodies do well when we feed them in 3 to 4 hours intervals throughout the day. If we go too long between meals it can disrupt your digestion and create stress responses.

I also find that it is best to stop eating at least a couple of hours before we go to bed. This means you would have at least 10 hours without eating if you are sleeping adequately. There can be some health benefits to temporarily or occasionally extending your overnight fast to between 12 and 16 hours but it’s really important to modify your daily activities and make sure your body’s ready for that so I don’t encourage it or recommend it for everyone from the beginning. The first thing we want to do is eat to balance our blood sugar and create predictability in our body, so that our stress response can calm down.

If we go back to macro nutrients, I find that it’s best to make sure that you have at least 20 grams of protein and no more than 20 grams of carbs with every meal. Protein can be found in animal products (beef, chicken, fish, turkey, etc.) and also in legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas, etc.). And then we want to have some carbs from healthy high fiber sources like vegetables and fruits. Then you have the healthy fats in things like avocados, nuts and olive oil (for high temperatures use avocado or grapeseed oil instead) for salads and salad dressing. 

We also want to be feeding our gut bacteria, but we don’t want to over feed them either. Whatever we eat and whatever we digest is going to determine what is feeding our gut bacteria. If we eat too large of a meal or we’re under too much stress and we are not digesting our food well, that undigested food is going to over feed our gut bacteria.

When our gut bacteria are overfed is when you start to notice bloating and gas and bowel changes and all kinds of other symptoms. It is also possible to overfeed our good bacteria by having a large quantity of fruit and vegetables in a single meal. It’s much better to space our meals and to pay attention to our bodies signals on how much food can you have at one sitting that you can digest well.

Digesting well also has to do with mindful eating. To set aside time to eat, to take breaths to signal your Vagus nerve that it’s time to eat, to chew your food well, to have a calm environment for eating, etc. This way you’re allowing your digestive signaling to happen, to get the best ability to digest your food. You can support your digestion with digestive enzymes that make it easier for our bodies to process food and absorb all the nutrients. You can get a good supplement for this here.

Clean eating also has to do with eating organic whole foods, avoiding processed foods, avoiding pesticides on your food and any other kinds of artificial sweeteners, fillers, preservatives that are just not necessary and even toxic. It is best to eat whole foods that we cook ourselves or maybe go to restaurants where they are paying attention to making sure we’re not eating things that our bodies don’t need and that are bad for our health.

If you are under a lot of stress and you are constantly suffering from bloating, gas, abdominal pain, constipation, or diarrhea you may have developed leaky gut. If you have leaky gut and food is leaking through your intestinal lining and it’s triggering an inflammatory response that food is no longer a healthy food for you. It is now an inflammatory food.

The most common inflammatory foods are dairy and gluten, but it can happen with things like eggs, almonds, bananas and many other foods. So, it is better to assess for leaky gut and food sensitivities, and to identify the highest reactive inflammatory foods. Then we can go through a process of healing the leaky gut and so you can get back to eating a wider variety of foods. If you want to know your food sensitivities, you can order a home test here.

Adequate Sleep

We need at least 7 hours of sleep. One of the first things that happens when we don’t get enough sleep is our immune function decreases. When we’re sleeping a lot of good stuff happens. Our immune system is helping to protect us from infections, it’s helping ourselves to repair, there’s a process called glymphatics which is a process of clean out in our brain. All this is not happening if we don’t get enough sleep. 

We need to look at both quantity and quality of sleep. Also, we need to look at our circadian rhythm. Are you sleeping when it is dark outside? Maybe you have to work a night shift that affects your circadian rhythm. This increases our risk of different health issues so it’s important to know and to support your body through that. 

We sleep in cycles of about 90 minutes. We go through a process of deepening our sleep as time passes until we reach the deepest sleep stage. We spend a percentage of time in each sleep stage and then it starts over again. It’s best to be able to complete several sleep cycles in a row because each time we create the subsequent sleep cycle we spend more time in the REM sleep stage and the studies show that when we’re in this deep sleep stage is when our brains and bodies get the most rest and repair. 

When it starts to get dark our bodies start producing a hormone called melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that’s signaling all kinds of repair in our bodies. If we don’t have enough melatonin our risk of developing health issues will increase, so we need to let our bodies produce this hormone by turning off all lights when it’s time for bed. 

There is this concept called sleep hygiene. I talk about this in my latest book Master Your Stress Reset Your Health and in my Blog too. I think about sleep hygiene in terms of our five senses. 

For sight we have to analyze if there is enough darkness in our room when we sleep. Maybe you need to get blackout curtains or cover any other lights like phones or chargers or alarm clocks that may be generating light through the night. Also it is best to avoid any late night light exposure, especially blue light exposure from electronic devices because this is signaling the brain that it’s not time to sleep yet and this is going to inhibit your melatonin. Also, take a look in your bedroom and see if there is clutter as there’s studies that show having a cluttered bedroom can affect our sleep. 

For smell I think of dust. Take a look in your bedroom and see if it needs to be cleaned. Is there dust in there that could affect your breathing while you sleep. Dust can also be the source of allergies so for a good night sleep it is best to have a clean bedroom. 

For hearing we want to be paying attention to any noise that can disrupt our sleep. There are also certain sounds that can benefit our sleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping you can actually use sounds like white noise or pink noise to help with calming your nervous system.

For touch think about the fabrics and materials you are in touch with when you sleep. Maybe you need softer sheets or a new mattress. Also, I always recommend buying organic sheets, blankets, pillows, and mattress. We have to make sure we have a comfortable environment for a better sleep. This includes the temperature in your room. We sleep better when there’s a slight lower temperature in the room. You can still be under a blanket but it’s better for quality sleep if the room temperature is around 67 to 69 degrees Fahrenheit.

For taste we go back to eating. Making sure we don’t eat 2 hours before bed and making sure our last meal is not too large. It’s a matter of keeping your blood sugar balanced so you don’t want to eat too many carbs too close to bed because you’re going to have a spike in your blood sugar and when your blood sugar drops it can wake you up. I wrote a whole separate book called Natural Insomnia Solutions where I go into the detail about how to help with sleep issues so if you’re struggling with sleep, I recommend you definitely get that book and work through it. You’ll see a big difference in your sleep. 

Recovery Activities

There is a long list of recovery activities that help our bodies recover from stress. I am going to talk about some of the most common here. Research shows that these activities can help bring cortisol and adrenaline levels back to optimal, and that’s exactly what we want. We are constantly exposed to plenty of activities that disrupt our cortisol and adrenaline levels. What we lack is activities that help correct and counterbalance those effects, so I encourage you to look at this almost like a menu and choose what interests you.

It’s about choosing something that you’re curious about. Maybe there are things you do already that you can continue to do, or there are things that you’ve been thinking about doing but you can’t find the time. If this is the case, I encourage you to say, “OK it’s time to bring some recovery activities into each and every day”.

I want to start with gratitude. Anytime we practice gratitude and just allow ourselves to feel grateful for the things that are happening in our lives, people in our lives, pets in our lives, experiences, etc. When we go into a state of gratitude it increases our anti stress hormones like oxytocin, and this helps us to recover from stress. It can be as simple as journaling about what you feel grateful for or thinking about it before bed or when you wake up in the morning. If you would like to start journaling to practice gratitude you can get your SelfC.A.R.E. notebook here.

Sometimes just being in quiet can help us reset from stress. We are so used to having a TV on, the radio on, people talking to us, etc. We’re just used to constantly having something going on and so it takes intention to stop and set aside some quiet time for ourselves. It’s amazing what can happen when you have that quiet time, so I recommend you create that for yourself.

Meditation and mindfulness are also great for stress recovery. There is so much research on the health benefits from these activities. Some people can be kind of afraid or confused about how to do meditation, so I encourage you to just start simple. You can start with 5 minutes.

Meditation is really about becoming more aware of your thoughts and becoming the observer in your own body. So much of the time we’re just immediately responding to sounds and triggers and what’s going on and what’s next that we lose track of our ability to be the observer of our own experience. 

I think about it as simply taking a couple minutes to just breathe and allow yourself to notice the sounds, the feelings in your body and your thoughts but without reacting, just be with them. It’s about a greater awareness for our thoughts and our feelings and our body in each moment. Meditation and mindfulness can make an amazing difference with healing not only our nervous system and our brain but our whole body.

Breathwork or any kind of deep breathing can have a huge impact on stress recovery. There are a lot of books and videos out there on how to use breathwork for healing. Also, Yoga has a lot of research on how yoga can help us recover from stress. And Yoga involves mindfulness, breathwork and movement. Very intentional movements and positions of the body that help us just be present. 

Spending time with pets has also been shown to increase the release of oxytocin which is an anti-stress hormone and we start to go into stress recovery mode. Also, spending time in nature has shown a positive impact on stress recovery. Even if you’re looking at pictures of nature without even going outside. I really encourage you as much as you can to get outside first thing in the morning.

Just a 5-10 minute walk is enough. Then in the middle of the day another 5-10 minutes just to be able to observe nature. Now you’re combining mindfulness with your time in nature to observe the plants and the sounds and the colors and the smells. Our human bodies respond to all of these things, and they help us recover from stress.

Listening to music or playing an instrument, singing, dancing, spending time with our friends and family, laughter, sex and intimacy, reaching out and just talking to someone who you care about or working with a therapist and being able to talk about your experience as a human in your life are all activities that can help us recover from stress and trauma. There are also many plant substances that help us recover from stress, including psychedelic medicines

Find more information on many of these forms of stress recovery in episodes of How Humans Heal.

Exercise

Exercise is one of the activities that has the greatest ability to improve our resilience to stress. When we are exercising, we’re preparing our body for stress exposure both in terms of creating a healthy response to stress and a healthy recovery from stress. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to find ways to integrate exercise into your life and into your daily routine.

On the other hand, we have to make sure we don’t overdo it because if we go too intense or for too long, we end up increasing our cortisol levels and that works against us in terms of our health. So, it’s important to exercise but to listen to your body and to be aware of what’s the right amount and intensity for you and even what time of day is best for you to exercise.

For example, we know that with exercise there’s strength training which is anaerobic exercise and cardio which is aerobic exercise, and we need both. They both help us to become resilient to stress and recover from stress. You can choose from so many different activities but it’s important to choose activities that match your body, your current activity level and also your interest. I encourage you to choose something you enjoy and that you like to do so it is easier to integrate into your daily routine. 

If you are just about to start to exercise, I recommend you start small, you can start with 5 minutes a day, then work up to 10 or 15 minutes a day. The study showed that we can get the benefits from exercise even in short periods of time, and then you can potentially repeat that in a couple different times in a day to add more time to your exercise routine. 

For those of you with joint hypermobility like me it’s important to be really cautious with exercise and not overdo it because you’re more likely to get injured than the average person. Even if it’s Yoga you might have to do a little bit less than other people. One of my favorites is Pilates because it’s helping me to gain strength and correct my body posture and position for my joints, which I find to be really helpful for the symptoms of joint hypermobility. 

Again, the important thing with exercise is to know where you’re starting, there’s no reason to try to push yourself beyond what feels good to you. Always listen to your body during and after exercising. If you feel too tired and exhausted that means you overdid it. Also, make sure you’re staying hydrated and that you have enough protein and enough sleep for your body to be able to recover.  

Implementing SelfC.A.R.E. According to Your Stress Type

Your stress type is how your body is affected by stress, specifically related to cortisol and adrenaline levels. What I found in my research is that we don’t all react to stress in the same way. We don’t all have high cortisol and high adrenaline. So, it’s important to know what’s happening with your cortisol and adrenaline levelsbecause your cortisol and adrenaline levels will influence what’s the best C.A.R.E. for you.

What I find is when you fine tune your C.A.R.E. based on your stress type you’re going to benefit even more from it. To find out your stress type you can do the stress type quiz right on my website. You can also find the stress type quiz in the book Master Your Stress, Reset Your Health

TAKE THE FREE STRESS QUIZ TO FIND OUT YOUR STRESS TYPE:

Dr. Doni Stress Quiz

It’s a quiz that you can do in less than two minutes, and it shows you what is your stress type out of the five most common stress types: stress magnet that tends to have high cortisol and adrenaline at some point or all day, sluggish and stressed who has high cortisol with low adrenaline, tired and wired that has the high adrenaline with low cortisol, the night owl who is like a stress magnet but they have high cortisol and or adrenaline at night, and blah and blue that has low cortisol low adrenaline all day or part of the day. 

Once we know your stress type, we can then use nutrients and herbs to bring your cortisol and adrenaline back to optimal. C.A.R.E. helps you get your cortisol adrenaline back to optimal and it helps you keep your cortisol and adrenaline at optimal going forward.

To me the ultimate goal is for a good health is resiliency, is our ability to be exposed to stress and still do things we love, whether that’s traveling or different sports or activities or being a parent or grandparent or building a business or project. We want you to be able to do these activities while being resilient to stress so that it doesn’t have a negative impact on your life. 

If you want to learn more about how stress and trauma have affected you and how C.A.R.E. can help you recover so that you can get back to feeling your best, you may want to read my book Master Your Stress Reset Your Health

If you’re ready to start rebalancing your cortisol and neurotransmitters, to help your adrenals reset after stress exposure, you can start by ordering this home test kit. And you can also sign up for my Stress Warrior Online Program to guide you here.

If you want to work on your gut health and microbiome you may want to sign up for my Heal Leaky Gut Program where I teach you how to heal leaky gut with my proven protocol. Keep in mind that 50% of people with leaky gut, have zero symptoms, so the only way to know for sure is to do the food sensitivity panel I recommend.

If you’re interested in a safe and effective body, mind and spirit detoxification that will actually make you feel better and that you can do without affecting your daily routine, you can check out my 14-Day Detox Program here. The Detox Program includes a gluten-free, dairy-free meal plan, along with a protein shake (the protein shake is included), as well as videos to guide you every step of the way.

This detox program includes a plant based or bone broth based protein powder. One of the key things we do in the 14-day detox is help you to understand how to integrate C.A.R.E. into your life so you can then continue on that path going forward so you can be your own best health advocate.

If you are interested in how C.A.R.E. can help you fend off HPV, you can find my HPV Recovery Guide here. If you would like more help getting HPV to negative, and are really committed to erasing it from your life forever, you can sign up for the upcoming 5 Days to Heal HPV Workshop here (We start Monday September 18th at 7PM Eastern Time) or my Say Goodbye to HPV 12-Week Program here.

If you would like to start journaling as a recovery activity you can get your SelfC.A.R.E. notebook here. This is the perfect tool to keep track of your C.A.R.E. as you’re working on integrating it and fine tuning it to really create a self-care routine that’s going to work well for you over time.

You can also subscribe to my newsletter, where you’ll receive a newsletter from me every Thursday with the latest episode and additional resources and tools for your success with achieving optimal health.

For the most comprehensive support, even with the most difficult health issues (physical or mental), it is best to meet with me one-on-one, which is available to you no matter where you are in the world (via phone or zoom). You can set up a one-on-one appointment with me here.

Be sure you sign up and subscribe so you don’t miss the next episode of How Humans Heal. I love having you here with me and I would love to hear from you on other topics you’d like to learn more about.

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