We’ve all been there. Those times when you have so much on your plate that you just can’t seem to see how you are going to fit it all in. Then you jump from one task to the next just to find that you haven’t completed much of anything. This is life.
Life can become so hurried with just living. You often forget how important slowing down and having realistic workloads can be to your health. You have a job, you have children, you go to the gym, you cook, you clean, you do the laundry. The list goes on. Our bodies are absolutely amazing and they will let you know when you’re doing too much.
I’ve just been here. I started a new, stressful job out of London. Travel was taking over my life (7 trains and a flight in just 1 day). I had my semester exam for my Naturopath program at London’s College of Naturopathic Medicine, completing another program and training for Mallorca’s Spartan race. I was literally studying every moment I had – when I wasn’t working. I had everyday meticulously planned from 7am until 10pm. Finally my body decided that enough was enough and I became very ill. I ended up at the doctor who sent me to the hospital for an IV drip to bring my scorching fever down. I was bed ridden for 5 days and in the end was not able to complete anything I had planned.
What Stress Does to Your Body?
Coming down with a cold after a stressful event isn’t just coincidence. While stress is a mental state, it causes a myriad of reactions in your body – some helpful, some not. When you encounter stress, your body initiates your “fight or flight” response which is part of your autonomic nervous system. This reaction is part of our primal, innate response to deal with stress. Think running away from a sabre-tooth tiger. But now, instead of a sabre-tooth tiger we have work deadlines, bad bosses, crying children and financial pressures. When we encounter stress, your hypothalamus stimulates your adrenal glands to start pumping out stress hormones such as adrenaline. Adrenaline provides your body with energy. Think of the racing heart feeling you get when you are stressed. This response is intended to be acute and temporary. The adrenaline also tells your body to steer away from non-life essential processes like digestion. This can explain why people have stomach problems when stressed. When stress is chronic, your responses become chronic as well. Your adrenal glands are overstimulated and pumping out stress hormones which reduce the number of lymphocytes.
Stress affects your immune system. It creates chronic inflammation and suppresses your immune cells that protect your body against potential bacteria, viruses and pathogens. When this happens, your body’s first line of defense is weakened and you are more susceptible to colds, viruses and disease. Stress hormones are designed to be short term responses. But when they become a chronic response, you may experience anxiety, depression, sleep problems, high blood pressure and increased susceptibility to colds.
How to Kick Stress to the Curb and Boost Your Immune System
The most logical answer would be to eliminate what’s causing you to feel stressed in the first place. Though telling your horrible boss to “take a hike” (and not one through our beautiful Tramuntana mountains) is probably not the best move for your career.
Attacking stress through nutrition and self-care techniques is a safer bet.
Your gut microbiome. Your gut is the residence of choice of more than 70% of your immune system. Different types of friendly bacteria work to control the immunity in your gut. You can support your immune system by promoting a healthy, diverse gut microbiome. Supplementing with a probiotic may improve your gut microbiome. Include strains such as lactobacillus casei, lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium animalis.
Regular exercise helps to boost those happy hormones such as endorphins. Exercise also helps to improve stress coping and boost resistance to infection. Moderate as opposed to intense exercise may be more beneficial as strenuous exercise can weaken your immune system (think again to those stress hormones released by your adrenals).
Practice diaphragmatic breathing which helps to slow your heart rate, lower your blood pressure and puts a halt to the “fight or flight” responses. Practicing a regular mindfulness routine can help your response to stress. One of my favorite breath coaches here on Mallorca is Danielle Satya Parla from Space to Breathe. I went to one of Danielle’s Ayurveda in Daily Life workshops and we spent a wonderful morning filled with deep breathing. I felt like a bowl full of jelly when I left. Yoga incorporates many wonderful breathing techniques, give it a whirl a few times a week!
Your caffeine intake (think stimulants!). Avoid processed foods filled with simple carbs and sugar which prime your body for increased inflammation. Limit vegetables oils like soybean, canola and corn which are also highly inflammatory.
Nutrient dense foods including coconut oil, avocados, salmon, free range proteins, nuts and seeds, chaga and cordyceps medicinal mushrooms, cruciferous vegetables, and all your beautiful leafy greens. These foods are high in fibre and low in sugar and can help balance your blood sugar (one of the main culprits for stress coping!)
With adrenal supporting supplements and herbs. Fish oil is a fantastic anti-inflammatory and supports your mood. Magnesium helps you to feel calm and is readily depleted when you are under stress. All your beautiful B’s, vitamin C & D support your adrenals. Incorporate some adaptogenic herbs like Ashwagandha, Rhodiola rosea, Schisandra and Holy Basil.
As much as possible say goodbye to toxic energy, toxic people and toxic substances. Anyone or anything that doesn’t bring positivity to your life is a contributor to stress. Yes, your relationships can contribute to your health!
Try these tips and let me know what works the best for you!
Written by Melanie Mack
About the author
Melanie Mack is a health and fitness enthusiast who has been passionate about holistic wellness for over 12 years. After dealing with the uninspiring approach of Western medicine, Melanie decided to change careers and work towards truly healing people through functional and integrative medicine. With a core belief that you can heal the body through food and lifestyle changes, Melanie’s approach is “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates. Melanie is currently studying to become a Nutritional Therapist and Naturopath at the Natural Healthcare College & College of Naturopathic Medicine, both out of London. She looks forward to opening her own practice in Mallorca in January of 2018. Melanie currently lives in Mallorca with her husband and 2 dogs.