Modern society is not without its large share of stressors. We worry about money, careers, education, image, keeping up with social media, and the list is endless. Many of these stress-inducing concepts are not even tangible, meaning they are not actual objects to be feared, but our technological-age created anxiety. This is a far contrast from our ancestors who feared lack of food, the need for shelter, and predators. Since most of our basic needs are met living in the first world countries, we stress over meeting our needs on the higher levels of Maslow’s hierarchy.
Most of us sit at a desk all day, look down at our phones and computers, and sit in bucket seats in our cars. Being in a continuously rounded forward position is not just uncomfortable and completely opposite from how humans are meant to exist in nature, but it actually triggers the production of cortisol, or the hormone that responds to stress.
Cortisol is released when we have acknowledged there is a risk and are preparing for fight or flight. “Cortisol is the main stress response hormone, it can have negative impacts if it is chronically elevated. Cortisol helps with increasing blood sugar, burning up muscle or fat tissue, increases heart rate and suppresses immune function.” (www.barbellshrugged.com)
Not all of our cortisol production is harmful, in fact it can help us burn fat if it is released in appropriate doses. Because of our modern living conditions, however, most people are over-producing cortisol and seeing more harm than good.
So, how do we lower our cortisol and reduce stress?!
- Take a walk! Grab your phone, put on some music or a podcast and go outside and walk around your neighborhood. Walking releases endorphins which gives you a good feeling and can help take your mind off whatever stressors are affecting you that particular day. Or try to unplug for awhile by leaving your phone at home and just enjoy nature. Being outside will help your production of Vitamin D as well which most Americans are deficient in.
- Meditate! This can take on many forms and can be personalized to however you prefer to do it. Try sitting still for 10 minutes and focus on your breathing. As thoughts enter your mind, simply acknowledge them and then get back to the breathing. You can also incorporate repeating a positive word to keep your focus off of the millions of things that will float through your mind. There are some great Meditation podcasts like “Meditation Oasis” or “Learn to Meditate”. An app that has been gaining popularity is called “Headspace” which you download to your phone and use daily. I also like the guided meditations from Tara Brach (www.tarabrach.com) and the information on her site is fantastic for beginners. Incorporate this into your daily routine and you will find yourself more focused and calmer throughout the day.
- Get enough sleep! The benefits of sleep are very commonly overlooked in our society today. Most people think that they can function on only a few hours of sleep and therefore do not prioritize getting enough rest. In reality, they are never letting their bodies fully heal and recover from the daily strains we put it through. Sleep regulates our hormone production, including cortisol, and going without enough sleep for long enough can cause serious health problems, and take years off of your life. Take a look at the research Dr. Kirk Parsley has done on sleep deprivation with Navy Seals at www.docparsley.com if you need any more evidence to sleep at least 7-9 hours per night.
- Do stuff you enjoy! Take some time for yourself each day to do something that makes you happy. Read a book, watch an indulgent show, take some photos with your camera, chase your kids around, have sex, throw a ball, knit, fly a kite, go swimming, whatever! You should be able to carve out at least 10-20 minutes to do something that is fun instead of a chore. Sometimes we just have to let loose and get out of our daily routine!
These are obviously only a few suggestions out of hundreds you can come up with simply by putting a little thought into it. What do you do to relieve stress? Follow us on Instagram for more ideas!!