Okay quick-what's so bad about stress really? We hear that stress is a killer ALL THE FREAKIN TIME but what does that really mean?
SIde note: I'm writing this while right in the thick of March Break and let me tell you-I am sloooowly going crazy! I think with all of the internal 10 counts this week I've hit about a trillion. Seriously. And the reason for those counts is that spike in blood pressure, tense muscles and every other hallmark indicator of stress!
I don't need to tell you that stress can come from the things we love the most like our families or a great but demanding job and also from really negative influences like a horrible boss, messy divorce, health crisis etc. The brutal part is that our bodies respond the exact same way to the good stresses (having a baby, getting a raise) as to the bad ones (a loved ones diagnosis with cancer). So how do we deal with all this stress and avoid wreaking havoc with our health?
Let's back it up a bit and ask the key question: why is constant stress such a killer? Well-there are a ton of different negatives that happen in in our bodies when we are under extreme stress. I won't go too deep here but I'll maybe talk broad strokes? Cool? Ok! So our bodies evolved to handle 'stressful' situations like loose cheetahs on the hunt mainly using a hormone called cortisol. Now cortisol was awesome when we had to run away from crazed predators because it mobilized a whole lotta stored sugar right into our bloodstream giving us the energy to run away or fight that sucker off. It also shut down the less important processes (read-digestion etc) so we could focus every bit of energy on the current life or death situation. Now fast forward a few thousand years and that same release of cortisol isn't quite as friendly when the source of stress is my 4 year old feeding her lunch to the dog (for the 4th time). See-I'm obvi not going to fight her and I can't run away (although....) so all that mobilized sugar isn't doing anything but raising my blood sugar (causing damage to my artery walls, messing with metabolism...etc) and then being (re)stored as fat around my abdomen (awesome). After awhile my adrenals get exhausted by this constant source of stress (I mean she just keeps feeding that damn dog) and stop producing my hormones properly. This can lower my metabolism over time (leading to more stored fat-again awesome) and make my digestion inefficient so I am not absorbing all of the nutrients my body needs from my food. See the problem? And that's just the tip of the iceberg....
So what do we modern women do to fight these effects? We can't run away from home, quit our jobs or really do much to eliminate the source of our stress (remember stress comes from the good stuff as well as the bad stuff). What we can do is one of two things (or both if you are feeling adventurous). We can refuse to become stressed out by our crazy families (or jobs or pets.....) and nip that cortisol release in the bud. Remember-stress isn't the event itself, it's the way we REACT to that event. Meditating, yoga etc are great for refusing to let that mundane sh*t stress us out. Save that for loose cheetahs. An other option is to incorporate some adaptogenic substances into your life. Adaptogenic substances are super cool because they help your body deal with stress by jumping in wherever your body needs support. Instead of a specific nutrient like Vitamin C aiding a specific process or organ (like your adrenals) adaptogenic herbs can jump in wherever help is needed and lend a hand. Pretty great huh?
Which adaptogenic herbs are the best? The most popular right now are Maca as well as Ashwaganda extract. You can buy these sanity saving herbs at your local health food store or even grocery store if yours is awesome! I love a teaspoon of maca powder in my morning smoothie-it tastes kinda nutty and delicious. Ashwaganda is most often taken in capsule form at a dose of 600-1000mg 2x a day. Obviously consult with your health care guru before you take advice if you have any medical conditions. Adaptogens shoudn't be used by pregnant or nursing mammas either.
There are of course many other facets to dealing with stress, but hopefully starting with these two will lead you down the right road and get you on that path to your very best health!
Whelp! That does it for this week! Hope these tips help with YOUR stress. Have you used Maca? How about Ashwaganda? Hit me up in the comments & let me know!