In my private health coaching practice, not only do I get to teach women about food and helping them navigate a new lifestyle with how they feed their bodies, but I also get to teach them ways to achieve a better life using techniques and methods that have nothing to do with food. I worked with a client this month and one of her last questions was, “What practices have you found help you with stress management?” I put together a list of 28 ways to reduce stress, and I want to share them with you today.
Stress can cause digestive distress, and it can also keep us from healing.
Exposure to stress results in alterations of the brain-gut interactions (“brain-gut axis”) ultimately leading to the development of a broad array of gastrointestinal disorders including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other functional gastrointestinal diseases, food antigen-related adverse responses, peptic ulcer and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The major effects of stress on gut physiology include: 1) alterations in gastrointestinal motility; 2) increase in visceral perception; 3) changes in gastrointestinal secretion; 4) increase in intestinal permeability; 5) negative effects on regenerative capacity of gastrointestinal mucosa and mucosal blood flow; and 6) negative effects on intestinal microbiota. (source)
The brain-gut axis is very real. I began studying it long ago when I followed the GAPS Diet early in my healing days. Even still, I never believed it fully mostly because I didn’t want to believe it could be true. Time-and-time again I learn that when I don’t manage my stress levels, my stomach is off.
There are forms of stress you might not even realize act as stress on your body. They include:
Physical: Overwork, excess exercise, chemicals, junk food, accidents, surgery
Environmental: Pollution, noise, temperature extremes, electromagnetic fields, toxins
Biological: Illness, allergies, pain, chronic disease, hormone changes, aging, malnutrition
Sociological: Marriage, moving, work, daily hassles, caring for an ill loved one, loss, financial worries, birth, death
Psychological: Anger, fear, anxiety, frustration, negative thoughts, depression, sadness, grief
(Taken from The Whole-Food Guide to Overcoming Irritable Bowel Syndrome by Laura J. Knoff, NC)
Even if you don’t have IBS or IBD, you know this feeling. Have you ever gotten butterflies in your stomach or an upset stomach because you were about to go on stage to speak? Both of these are a part of the brain-gut axis, and they are responses to stress.
Like my client, everyone could benefit from ways to reduce stress, and all healthy lifestyles should include stress reduction techniques. I mean, we are heading into the holiday season after all, right?!
Note: Wondering how to identify stress? Grab 23 stress symptoms HERE.
28 Ways to Reduce Stress
Click HERE to save this post for later.
- Breathe. When I went to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, I learned from Dr. Weil one very powerful breathing technique. It is his 4-7-8 technique and goes like this: Exhale completely through your mouth. Close your mouth and inhale through your nose for four counts. Hold your breath for seven counts. Exhale completely through your mouth for eight counts. Repeat the cycle four times.
- Shut it off. When the work day is done, shut it off. Do your best to both physically and mentally shut work off.
- Play music.
- Sit in silence as often as possible.
- Read, write or relax before bed – do something for you.
- Do not overthink food. When you’re hungry, eat. When you’re not, don’t. Nothing off limits (unless medically necessary).
- Workout because you enjoy it and because it enhances your life, not because you have to. Set aside a little time each day or each week to move (but remember, if you have an autoimmune condition, watch out for excess workouts, as they will continue to wreak havoc on your stress levels).
- Go for walks. Get outside. Connect with nature.
- Allow yourself to get lost in little moments.
- When planning for larger events, make a timeline of tasks and to-do items and break them up in smaller, more manageable chunks.
- Write down all the things you are grateful for, daily.
- Help others so you’re not focusing 100% on yourself.
- Color or draw.
- Write a snail mail letter to someone.
- Cut back or completely eliminate coffee. (See: How I Quit Caffeine)
- Drink caffeine-free tea.
- Light a candle, diffuse calming scents or slow-cook your favorite meal so the house smells inviting, calming and helps you relax.
- Find something funny, and laugh.
- Connect with your spirituality. Pray. Read The Bible.
- Sleep. Shut it off completely, and rest your body, mind and soul.
- Indulge in a massage.
- Take a bubble bath.
- Use Lavender essential oils.
- Visualize all the positive things in your life.
- Find the now and be present for what’s right in front of you, not behind and not ahead of you.
- Call a friend, family member or mentor who always helps put things into perspective.
- Don’t Google it. Whatever you’re stressed about, refrain from the Google. It will only make things worse.
Stress is inevitable. No one is fully able to escape it. The key is not to figure out how to be stress-free 100% of the time, but to reduce your stress levels while learning the techniques for coping with stress as it comes.
You will heal. I will help.