Simple lifestyle tips to stress less, improve sleep and move more
Lifestyle, or how you live, which includes not just your diet but sleep, stress and exercise, is a big factor in your health. No really it is. Take stress, for example.
Stress responses are normal. But chronic and acute stress should be uncommon. A stressor is a physical, emotional, psychological or environmental stimulus that triggers an adrenal response (the stress response) to supply the body with the energy it needs to respond to a stressor.
Stresses are additive and cumulative. The volume of stresses, the intensity of each one and the frequency and duration of stress combine to form a total stress load. Chronic prolonged stress can lead to degeneration and disease of every system of the body, disrupting all of your foundational health platforms from digestion and hormones to blood sugar function.
Prolonged stress can lead to accelerated ageing, leaky gut, depression and anxiety, chronic fatigue, immune failure, insomnia, obesity, PMS, infertility, muscle pain, hair loss, eating disorders, allergies, cancer, blood sugar problem like diabetes, autoimmunity, erectile dysfunction, ADD/ADHD and more.
Simple ways to alleviate stress
Re-evaluate your lifestyle. Are your priorities correct? Do things need to change? Deal with one challenge at a time
Ask yourself, are you putting YOU last? Find time for you – even if it’s 15 minutes a day. Take a bath, listen to music, go for a stroll, watch something funny, read a book, listen to an uplifting podcast, or have a sauna. YOU time matters
Relax. Do yoga, breathing exercises, find a relaxation or meditation app or meditate. Yoga Nidra, where you consciously let go of tension in the parts of the body, is a great start
Exercise. Just move, whatever you’re in the mood for
Write it down. Some people feel better after writing something down. It can provide release and give you perspective
Teas and supplementation. There are many helpful natural relaxation aids including herbs like ashwagandha, valerian root, passionflower and combination teas
You’re probably aware of how critical sleep is for good health and weight. You only have to compare your energy and mood when you’ve had a good night’s sleep compared to a poor one. Lack of sleep is a major stressor on the body. It’s been implicated in obesity, insulin resistance, heart disease, impaired cognitive function and various other health problems.
It doesn’t matter how mindful you are with your nutrition and exercise – if you’re not getting enough quality sleep, your health will suffer. According to a 2013 study, an estimated one-third of the adult population reports having at least one symptom of insomnia.
How to improve your sleep
Stick to a sleep schedule. This may seem restrictive, but it truly helps (I know)
Watch what you eat and drink, especially coffee and caffeine-containing tea that ramp up your nervous system by raising cortisol and stressing your adrenals. Try cutting out caffeine after midday, or not having it at all. Teas like white and green tea have a lot less caffeine in them but they’re refreshing and contain antioxidants
Create a bedtime routine, perhaps having a bath, reading, listening to a relaxation, doing some light yoga
Create a restful sleep environment in your bedroom, restricting light and turning off electronic devices
Include physical activity in your daily routine
Spend some time outdoors in daylight to send the right signals to your pituitary gland, which is involved in sleep
Consider natural remedies such as herbs, teas and magnesium. Modern diets are chronically short in magnesium, which has calming effects on the nervous system, and is proven to help improve sleep. Other supplements that may need practitioner guidance are L-theanine, taurine, 5-HTP and melatonin
Humans are designed to move. The benefits of exercise, which you most likely already know, include that it
Controls weight, combats health conditions and diseases, is good for muscles and bones, helps brain health and memory, helps with relaxation and sleep, improves mood, boosts energy, improves sexual function, can be fun and social and also inexpensive
Add in simple movement to your day by
Walking 30 minutes, perhaps in two lots of 15 minutes. It doesn’t matter. You could form a walking group?
Swimming in the ocean or your local pool. It’s not weight bearing, which is great if you have joint issues
Joining a class – MeetUp has loads that are free and you get to meet new people
Joining a gym, if that’s your thing, or an outdoor exercise group, or forming your own with friends, family and neighbours
Seeking incidental exercise by taking the stairs, or getting off your bus or train one stop early
Doing some weight-bearing exercise like weights, yoga or floor exercises
There are many online resources and programs, free or paid, that can help. It’s up to you!