4 Simple Things You Can Do To Relieve Stress For Immune Support
It’s safe to say that stress is the common denominator across all types of health issues and disease. For years, our culture has been constructed in a way that lends itself to most people experiencing stress. An analysis done by the New York Times of Gallup Polls has identified Americans as the most stressed people in the world for years now. With COVID-19 on everyone’s minds right now, it’s safe to say the breeding ground for stress is as high as fertile as it’s ever been. While many of you may be inside right now and off your routines, this doesn’t mean this has to be an overly stressful period or that your health & fitness have to take a backburner. Quite the opposite, in fact. If you shift perspectives, this may be the perfect time to ground yourself, relieve stress, and improve your health in the process.
To help, we’ve created the simplest, yet complete guide with only 4 simple steps you can do to relieve stress in both mind and body.
Although your gym might be closed right now, this doesn’t mean it’s a good time to stop exercising. A deviation from your routine doesn’t have to mean a pause in results. Remember, the same general principles that improve your health & fitness also make your immune system more resilient against everything. Try to have a balance of exercise sessions at home or outside, as well as low level activity. This can be following H.I.I.T. workouts from home, our free online home workouts, dance, strength training, yoga, and more. Lower level aerobic activity such as walking, biking, and more, not only boost your health, body composition and immune system, it also relaxes you by giving your brain stimulus from novel movement. By moving the body, we balance certain hormones and also create a psychosomatic response by getting that physical, trapped energy out of the body.
Tip: Try biking to your errands, going for a walk, walking your dog and similar low level activities daily. Include a dedicated fitness practice like strength, home circuit training, etc. somewhere between 2-4 times per week, depending on the intensity and where you’re at from a physical readiness standpoint.
2. Fix Nutrition-Related Stress
Did you know that your diet can actually be a source of stress? Believe it. While our nutrition is thought of as a source of recovery & restoration, this isn’t always the case. Most people consume certain foods that provoke stress response in the body, which tends to cause an immunological response, as well. Remember that your nervous system is linked to your gut via the gut-brain axis. When you eat foods that agitate your nervous system by provoking a response, your immune system gets activated. This stress response in your body makes for unpleasant emotions, anxiety, and depletes your body from having enough resources for vital processes such as immune support, mood regulation, hormone balance, metabolism, and more.
Furthermore, by fat-adapting yourself and becoming metabolically flexible, you are no longer reliant on just one fuel source. Too reliant on carbs & sugar? You can experience mood instability, which brings with it stress. Glycogen-dominant metabolisms also result in total body chronic inflammation, which impacts stress. However, too far on the other side with a strict ketogenic diet can potentially cause stress due to lack of easily available energy and stress hormones that come from fat burning.
Tip: Avoid American wheat, gluten, refined sugar, vegetable oils (other than olive & avocado oil), artificial sweeteners and food dyes. Be sure to eat enough and aim for nutrient density so your diet becomes a deposit-not a stress-inducing withdrawal. No extreme calorie deprivations.
Most of us will need to generally lower our carbs-but not cut them-while increasing our protein and healthy fat intake.
Consider integrating exogenous ketones. Recent research has shown that including exogenous ketones in your nutritional regimen can reduce anxiety by as much as 40%!
3. Sleep Stress Away
One of the most impactful ways to relax and ditch the anxiety swarms is simple and completely free-sleep. By improving your sleep quality and sleeping enough, you can truly improve your daily stress levels. According to rubrics created by the National Sleep Foundation, not sleeping provokes a vicious cycle in which your body needs to manufacture more stress hormones in order to prop you up during the day. Needless to say, this is not ideal at all. This can evolve into a vicious cycle in which your stress hormones peak later in the afternoon and evening-right when you should be preparing for bed. Additionally, there are many physiological processes under-the-hood that sleep helps with-a lack of sleep can cause a systemic-stress response-Again, something we don’t want.
Tip: Aim to go to bed with over 8 to 9 hours on the clock before you wake up. This allows you to have a chance to fall asleep and capitalize. Maintain sleep hygiene by avoiding caffeine after midday, seeing morning & evening light outside, ceasing all work or focus activities at least two hours before bedtime, unplugging your WiFi overnight, unplugging devices within four feet of your bed, and turning your phone off or putting it on airplane mode. If you can’t for contact & alarm reasons, at least put it across the house from you. Lastly, set an amber tint to your device screens and if you watch television at night, invest in a cheap pair of blue-blocking glasses online. Another helpful tip is to buy inexpensive amber bulbs for your lights in the house that don’t block melatonin production like traditional bulbs.
4. Deload & Mind Your Mind
By now, you’ve surely heard about things like meditation, breathwork, and the like. Once fringe and considered part of the new age movement, these things have thankfully infiltrated into mainstream society’s focus. The best part is that you can integrate what you need and customize a regimen perfectly suited to what works for you. We’re all different and being open to these different methods can help you craft a mindful routine that truly diminishes your stress & anxiety levels. These practices are also foundationally rooted in science and cause positive physiological benefits in the brain & body. While research has proven positive changes in neurotransmitters (personality & mood chemicals), changes in brain material, and beyond, if you merely ask around, most people personally will tell you that implementing some form of mindfulness practice changed their life for the better.
Tip: Try including meditation (either with a timer or free apps like Headspace) for 15-20 minutes every morning and potentially in the evening.
Try integrating charged emotion by purposely sitting and being with yourself for some time each and every day without music, phones, television, books, or any sort of stimuli. After gaining some experience here, you can opt to do this when needed as unpleasant stressful thoughts & feelings rear their heads. Sometimes stepping outside from an unpleasant situation is all you need to reset. By sitting and allowing these emotions without trying to fix them, we can ensure they don’t dominate our lives.
Be sure you’re breathing fully and into your diaphragm. While nasal in & out breathing is great for exercise, for stress try nasal inhales with mouth exhales. This can be combined with the above practices or whenever you’re in need of a reset.
Although this is just the tip of the iceberg, the above practices are the foundational roots to processing your stress in a more healthy way for major reductions. By understanding stress, we can begin to choose our stress wisely-like good, hormetic stress found in exercise. We can let go of chronic stress and anxiety. We can improve our health and fitness dramatically. We can truly live in alignment-both mind and body.