• 6 Ways to Stop Anxiety and Stress

    Saying Bye Bye Bye to the Butterflies

    As women, we often feel pressured to “do it all!” Whether it’s the endless to-do lists to get through at work, the pile of household chores waiting at home, or the long list of events we had our hearts set on attending this summer, we manage–or, at the very least, attempt–to accomplish the seemingly impossible.

    Despite our superhuman personas (because really, there’s no denying the existence of our well-deserved, albeit invisible, capes), our drives come at both a physical and physiological price. A result of wearing one too many hats, our stress levels can skyrocket and our bodies can act out.

    I recently discussed five telltale signs of when your nerves may be getting the best of you. The question, however, still remains:

    How do we tackle our anxiety so that we can continue to move forward in a healthy way?

    1. ACCEPT

    When your stress levels are at an all-time high, it is important to educate yourself on the physical and psychological signs of anxiety. It is vital you adopt the “this too shall pass” mentality.

    There’s no denying how uncomfortable and unbearable our body’s reaction to stress is. We can, however, treat that never-ending feeling of anxiety by first accepting it for what it is, and then by acknowledging it as a sign for us to slow down.

    2. SLEEP

    Our sleep patterns are usually disrupted when we become overwhelmed. Know that a fair indication of this can manifest in sleeping more or sleeping less.

    The average human being should be sleeping approximately six to eight hours a night to function productively the next day. You can improve both the amount and quality of your sleep by:

    • Eliminating your caffeine intake after 6 p.m. (or earlier if you are sensitive to caffeine)
    • Using ear plugs or an eye mask to help block out both sound and light
    • Installing blackout blinds
    • Running a warm bath to relax before snoozing
    • Eliminating screen time in bed

    3. EXERCISE

    Ideally, we should be getting 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. That translates to either 150 minutes of moderate aerobic or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. Exercise not only “keeps our bodies young” by reducing our risk of acquiring many diseases, but also helps reduce anxiety.

    Physical activity releases endorphins–chemicals in our brain that act as natural pain killers. Endorphins help alleviate the symptoms caused by stress and nervousness.

    Anxiety

    4. NOURISH

    “We are what we eat” is particularly true when our body translates that into our ability to cope under pressure. When we nourish our bodies with healthy, whole foods, we feel better about ourselves and more energized to deal with our nerves.

    • Limit or avoid caffeine to prevent feeling even more nervous or jittery
    • Stay hydrated! The mildest form of dehydration can severely impact your mood and ability to focus
    • Eat breakfast. It is important not to skimp on the most important meal of the day
    • Limit or avoid alcohol. Even though alcohol may be calming at first, the substance actually interferes with your ability sleep

    5. PREPARE

    When stressed, we are tempted to disengage and put assignments and tasks on the back burner. Instead of doing so, continue tackling whatever it is that you need to do by chipping at it little by little on a daily basis.

    Whether it an upcoming meeting or a family vacation, being prepared for the events ahead can help lower your anxiety levels. On that note, it is equally important to take time for yourself. You can do so by walking your dog, getting a massage, or watching your favorite TV show.

    Remember: You can only tackle so much when you’re not mindful of your own needs.

    6. BREATHE

    When anxious, our heart rates increase. In fact, your heart may seem like it’s about to leap out of your chest. The most effective way to lower your anxiety immediately is to lower your heart rate. You can do this by:

    • Finding a comfortable sitting position
    • Placing one hand over your belly and the other over your chest
    • Taking a deep breath through your nose without moving your chest
    • Breathing out by pursing your lips
    • And, repeating this exercise three to five times while taking time with each breath

     

    *If you or someone you know is suffering from anxiety, please seek or have them seek help from a physician. Know that no one is alone in their journey. 

     

    Feature image via John Shiremans Shattered Flowers series.

  • Gut Feelings

    You Are What You Eat

    A Guide To Digestive Health

    Let’s face it, digestion isn’t a fun thing to talk about. But, we can’t talk about wellness without talking about the importance of digestion. So, let’s just get down to the nitty-gritty, shall we?

    Your digestive system, commonly referred to as your gut, is made up of nine unique parts—each of which play a crucial role in maintaining your overall health. Individually and collectively, they reap the nutrients from the food you eat. We’ll get into what I call “gut-healthy” foods in a bit, but I want to begin my pointing out the important link between your mental health and your digestive system.

    Is “Gut Stress” a Thing?

    We’re all stressed out about something. Whether it a final exam, relationship, or pimple, stress is both an unfortunate and inevitable part of life. Believe it or not, emotional stress can often lead to digestive stress. Yes, your feelings can affect your gut. Last week, we talked about how essential oils can help keep your mental wellness in check before your anxiety wrecks your insides. This week we’re going to talk about what happens when that anxiety can’t be prevented.

    To put things into perspective, your gut is responsible for 95% of your body’s serotonin production. Serotonin, for those who don’t know, is the chemical responsible for your mood, memory, and sleep. Basically, if your digestive system isn’t functioning at optimal levels, your body won’t produce enough serotonin needed for you to be the awesome and happy person you’re meant to be.

    What REALLY Happens to Your Intestines

    Stress causes the walls of our intestines to become inflamed. Because our intestines are responsible for the majority of our water and nutrient absorption, we definitely need them to function properly.

    Intestine

    The inflammation of our intestinal walls compromises the villi—a.k.a. the teeny tiny protrusions on the walls of our intestines that start the nutrient transportation process. At the same time, inflammation also clogs the lymph drainage system. What happens when the lymph (fluid that travels within and around our body collecting waste) drainage system doesn’t work properly? Well, everyone’s worst nightmare of course! Skin irritations and breakouts. Fun.

    Unfortunately, chronic stress also affects our output of digestive enzymes which are responsible for breaking down food in the small intestine and pancreas for proper nutrient absorption. The older we get, the fewer digestive enzymes we produce—a perk right next to hot flashes and grey hair.

    What Happens Inside Your Liver

    Liver

    When our gut isn’t doing its job, our liver overcompensates by performing waste-removing duties that aren’t being met by the rest of our digestive system. As a result, it doesn’t cleanse our blood like it normally would or should. Dull, lack-luster, eczema, and breakout-prone skin are telltale signs your liver is in overdrive.

    Why All Of This Matters

    Digestion is important not just for your waistline, but also for your beauty! In the up-coming weeks, we’re going to be talking a lot about health and eating your way to beautiful skin. Sure, products help, but real beauty always starts on the inside.

    Gut Healthy Nomz

    Hope is not lost. There are tasty and gut-healthy foods that can be introduced to your diet immediately.

    Fermented Foods

    By definition, fermented food is food that has already begun to break down or exposed to natural yeast and bacteria. While this may sound unappetizing, fermented food has trillions, yes, trillions of healthy bacteria that help fight infection and inflammation. Miso, Kimchi, Kefir, Kombucha, and Tempeh are common examples of fermented food. Kefir is a thinner, tangier yogurt that contains beneficial yeast and probiotics that are oh-so-important for your gut health. I, for example, recently started substituting almond milk with kefir for my smoothies. Kefir is 99% lactose-free! It’s also a great source of protein—9 grams per cup!

    Herbs & Spices

    You don’t need to look far. Take a peek into your pantry! Ginger is an easy root to introduce to your diet because it not only keeps your digestive system chugging along but it also reduces nausea and inflammation. Lo’s recipe for Ginger Tea From Scratch would be a great place to start. Otherwise, fennel, licorice, turmeric, dandelion, and peppermint will also have your gut saying thank you.

    Probiotics

    Probiotic supplements are designed to make it to your intestines before releasing the beneficial bacteria that keeps your gut healthy. There are different strains of probiotic bacteria available, the industry hasn’t proven which is best. Experts recommend looking for Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. 

    Raw Fruits & Veggies

    Our mothers didn’t make us eat our veggies for nothing! Raw fruits and vegetables contain enzymes that encourage our body to break down and take in nutrients. It’s best to eat fruits and vegetables raw because the enzymes are destroyed when you cook them.

    Other Tips & Tricks

    Get ready, this is probably the only time you’ll hear someone comparing exercise to eating. Just like the way you warm-up your body when you work out, you have to warm-up your digestion system before you eat. Drink a glass of water 15 minutes before your meal to hydrate your digestive tract. This helps the intestinal villi (the protrusions on the intestinal walls we talked about before) perform their best.

    This next tip is especially tricky for me, who, mind you, can finish a meal in six minutes flat. Since the digestion process begins in your mouth, experts recommend recommend chewing your food, even if it’s a green juice or a smoothie, 20-30 times before swallowing. By doing so, you’re releasing special enzymes that help spark the start of the digestive process.

    Congratulations

    We talked about your gut like adults!

    Now, that wasn’t too bad, was it?

     

     

     

  • TheLoDown