I used to work in finance, and my body is still recovering from the daily stress I put it through during my many years working in the industry.
After I left the business, I embarked on a healthier lifestyle and started doing the right things to bring my body back into balance. Even though I’ve fixed most of my health issues and significantly decreased the stress in my life, my hormones are still not where they should be and I'm experiencing lingering adrenal fatigue — a series of symptoms, such as fatigue and trouble sleeping, that can result when the adrenal glands aren't working properly.
It’s scary to think that even though I’ve been doing all these wonderful things for my body, it can take our systems a long time to properly recover from adrenal fatigue. Learning to minimize and cope with stress is crucial to ensure we keep a healthy adrenal system — the cornerstone for hormonal balance and optimal overall health.
Whether or not you perceive yourself to be a stressed person, I strongly suggest you try applying a few of these stress-reduction tips on a daily basis. Sometimes our stress isn't visible (even to ourselves!), but it can cause our bodies a lot of lingering harm.
Here are 17 tools I apply in my daily routine to stay happy, healthy, balanced, and stress-free:
I like to start my day with meditation — even 5 to 15 minutes of it can bring me to an incredible state of peace. I sit on my meditation pillow — either at the beginning of my yoga class or on my own — and focus my attention on my breath, my body, and my surroundings in the moment.You don’t need a meditation pillow (you don’t even need to be sitting up) to bring meditative practice to your own life. Guided meditation apps are making it easier than ever to be more mindful, wherever you may be.
2. Eat a nutrient-dense breakfast.
Every morning (usually after my mediation and lemon water), I treat myself to a filling and nourishing breakfast complete with a healthy protein as well as some fiber and fats. This helps keep my blood sugar balanced, which is crucial for managing stress.
Here are some examples of nutrient-dense breakfasts that will get your day started on the right foot.
3. Connect with nature.
Getting some fresh air each day is essential for my mood and health. I make a point of walking outside every morning — to my yoga class, to my office, or around my neighborhood — even in bad weather.
4. Practice yoga.
I can’t speak highly enough about the benefits that yoga has brought to my life. Yoga never fails to improve my sense of calm and mood, and I always walk out of class smiling. I started with yoga once a month, and now I aim to practice at least three times a week.
5. Carve out some me time.
Each day I do at least one thing that brings me pleasure and relaxes me. This can mean applying a mini facial or doing a mani-pedi, listening to fun music (and maybe singing!) while cooking, or reading a guilty-pleasure book.
6. Eat clean.
I follow a diet with minimal amounts of inflammatory foods, and I’ve found this to be absolutely essential for adrenal health. I basically follow an 80/20 rule, in which I avoid gluten, dairy, caffeine, refined sugar, and alcohol 80 percent of the time. I also eat meals at regular intervals to avoid swings in my blood sugar, and I include some healthy protein and fat in each meal.
7. Practice deep breathing
I regularly practice different breathing techniques from my yoga andAyurveda studies. Whenever I'm faced with a stress trigger, I immediately start taking deep breaths. Most commonly, I'll inhale for a count of four, hold for a count of four, and then exhale for a count of four. This has an automatic calming effect on my mind and body.
These seven guided breathing exercises are great stress relievers.
8. Take supplements.
I take magnesium supplements to aid in sleep, GABA to relieve anxiety, vitamin C to regulate cortisol levels, and B-complex (including B-12 and B-5) to help improve memory, focus, energy, mood, and overall adrenal health.
9. Take adaptogenic herbs.
Adaptogenic herbs are natural medicines that can help reduce stress by adapting to your own body’s system and helping it find balance.Ashwagandha is prized in India for its medicinal properties, whileRhodiola originates from China. I take both of them to enhance my body's ability to cope with stress, anxiety, and fatigue. You can buy them onlineand at major drugstores.
10. Munch on dark chocolate.
I like to enjoy a small piece of organic 85 percent dark chocolate every day, and l often include raw cocoa in my smoothies or chia puddings. Not only does cocoa make me happy, it’s also filled with calming magnesium and plenty of antioxidants.
Laughing is such a fun (and scientifically proven!) way to wash away stress and anxiety, so it’s important to surround yourself with people who make you smile, or watch comedies that make you laugh, each day.
I make it a point to find a way to sweat each day — whether it’s in my barre classes, yoga, or even at a sauna. Sweat is key for our daily detoxification of toxins, which are internal stressors. Plus, it's a huge mood booster.
13. Bathe with Epsom salts and essential oils.
Epsom salts are filled with magnesium that can relax the body and help improve circulation. Add in a few drops of lavender essential oil (used to improve pituitary health), and you have yourself an amazing bath with some serious health benefits. You can find Epsom salts at your local pharmacy, and many online sources specialize in essential oils.
Another practice that I’ve recently incorporated into my routine is self-massage. I take five minutes to massage sesame or coconut oil over my entire body after a shower. It’s a common practice in Ayurveda, and, among its many other benefits, it can help calm the nerves.
Use this guide to help you get started with self-massage.
15. Make gratitude my attitude.
Before bed, I like to take some time to think about three things that I’m grateful for from the day, which puts me at ease before bed.
Keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to harness all those positive thoughts in one place.
16. Find clarity and focus.
At night, I also write down three things to concentrate on tomorrow. This brings me focus and clarity for the day ahead and helps keep me feeling organized so I can sleep better.
17. Get quality sleep.
Getting my seven to nine hours of sleep every night is probably the most important thing I do to keep my stress levels in check. I find that when I don’t get proper sleep, I’m irritable, moody, and easily stressed.
Blog post originally written for MindBodyGreen.