Happy New Year! As the new year comes into full swing, it’s a time for new goals and aspirations; hello New Year’s resolution! However, the stress of maintaining these resolutions can be counteractive to achieving them. So striking a balance between motivating yourself to reach a new goal, verses not stressing out your body post holiday chaos, can be tough!
Stress is experienced by everyone at one time or another and is often described as anxiety, tension, and fatigue. It can manifest in the body in a myriad of ways be it physical; indigestion and muscle tension, mental; irritability and mood swings, and emotionally; worry and feeling dissatisfied.
On a biochemical level, cortisol is a hormone that the adrenal glands release to cope in times of stress. Often it is called “the fight or flight” hormone because our body under stress thinks we are running away from a bear, when really we are doing our taxes.
Cortisol should peak in the morning getting us up and slowly decrease throughout the day. It should be lowest at night, ensuring relaxation and the release of melatonin (our sleep hormone). If cortisol is released often throughout the day it can change our circadian rythm, alter melatonin release, and therefore changing sleep patterns – and no one wants that! Cortisol can also affect metabolism, increasing our fat storage and slowing down metabolism to save energy to run away from that bear. Finally, cortisol can have a deleterious effect on the hormone pathway, I call this ‘the great hormones heist’. If we are making lots of cortisol it pulls from making sex hormones into making more cortisol. This can create abnormal menstrual cycles, fertility issues, fatigue, low sex drive, dry skin and poor memory.
What can we do about it? Here are some simple tips and tricks to manage the ever invasive stress monster:
- Conscious eating: shift out of stress mode and get into digest mode with 5 deep breaths before starting to eat. Place a hand on your lower belly and the other on you heart, settle into your body.
- Find a hobby: what brings you joy? Go and do that at least weekly if not daily to take a break from fight or flight mode
- Support your circadian rhythm: Get rest when your body asks for it. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day to create a routine for your hormones.
- Remove harmful stressors on the body: trans fats, refined carbohydrates, alcohol, caffeine and smoking.
If you require some extra stress free care and guidance, we offer acupuncture, massage and the muse meditation headband (see last months post for details).
So this year when setting those new year resolutions, consider adding something that’s going to reduce stress and not add one extra thing to your plate! Resolutions don’t have to be complicated, so keep it simple.
Mairead Fitzpatrick, ND (pend 2018)