Have you noticed you’re reaching for the sweet treats or bags of chips a little more often than you normally would?? There’s a pretty good explanation for that. With the Covid Virus at the top of everyone’s mind and the top of every single news station, radio station and social media stream we are being bombarded with more scary news than ever before and that is impacting our stress levels significantly. And when we are stressed our body craves the kind of food that will give us a boost of mood and energy as quickly as possible, even if the aftermath is a crash of energy and mood.
When we are scared our cortisol levels rise and many of us are in a constant state of fight or flight. Even if we are safe at home, not in any immediate danger. Our brain works in a funny way, regardless if the fear we have is real and immediate like being chased by a tiger, or if you are just watching the news your brain interprets that fear the same way and causes the fight or flight response in your body. You release Adrenalin and cortisol (the stress hormone) which increases blood pressure, your heart rate and makes you feel a little shaky as you are preparing to run away from the threat. But being in a chronic state of fight or flight puts you in this self protective mode which makes you do things like stock up on too much toilet paper, but worse than this is, it actually impacts your immune system and weakens it. In fight or flight mode you end up wasting a ton of energy constantly preparing to run away. Your body then shuts down all non-essential systems like your digestive system, your reproductive system and any other system not needed to fight off this threat. With all this energy waste overtime it weakens us. It makes us crave those comfort foods that a typically not supportive of our immune system but will give us a burst of energy. We need to find ways to switch this response off quicker and return to a more relaxed state.
Here are a few simple ways you can do that:
1. Deep belly breathing. I talked about the importance of breath work and the immune system in one of my more recent posts. During our day we tend to breath shallow, breathing just into the chest, but this means there is a lot of stale air trapped in the lungs. When you belly breath or breath diaphragmatically more air expelled from the lungs and more fresh are is able to enter. Imagine your rib cage is an umbrella, take a deep breath in and expand in all directions, filling the lungs full of clean fresh air. Then exhale fully.
2. Take a break. It’s ok to stop what you are doing and step away for a few minutes. Even a brief gap of space away from your work or project has been shown to lower stress levels. If you are sitting at a desk and computer set a timer so that it prompts you to get up at least every hour (if not more often). If you can get outside for some fresh air that is even better! But if you can’t get outside simply stepping away from your desk, or taking your 15 minute break and not working though it, will be beneficial to help lower your levels of stress.
3. Music! Music soothes the soul or the savage beast. Well stress is one heck of a savage beast and listening to instrumental/classical music can help reduce it. Studies have shown that classical music can also lower blood pressure. Personally I always notice a huge difference in my mood and stress levels after I’ve listened to some chill yoga tunes.
4. Screen time can be a big player in your stress levels too, especially at night. It’s been shown that the blue light emitted from our screens can impact our melatonin (sleep hormone and powerful antioxidant) production. The light can cause headaches and disrupt our sleep. When we don't get enough sleep our body isn’t able to rest and rejuvenate and it becomes a bit of a vicious cycle that impacts us on many levels. Lacking sleep also causes the body stress. Turn your screens off at least an hour before you hit the sheets. Turning the lights down and using a dimmer or lamps is also helpful to help you start to wind down and tell your body it’s time for sleep.
5. Keep your body moving. Exercise can be a great distraction from the challenges you may be facing. It’s also like a two for one deal as it also provides you a break from your work or project. It releases endorphins that boost your mood so you can come back more productive and feeling good. I may be partial to yoga, but it’s a great way to move your body, do some breath work and find some quiet in a busy busy world.
6. Eat Well. There are a lot of non-foods in our grocery stores these days and the body has no idea how to process and digest these which increases stress on the body. The easiest way to eat better is to simply start to increase your fruit and veggie intake. Don’t worry about cutting out “bad” and just worry about adding in more good. Eventually the good stuff will crowd out the less good. If fresh veggies and fruit aren’t an option, frozen is the next best thing. Adding frozen cauliflower or zucchini into a smoothie is a great way to get a few more veggies in and they wont compromise the taste of your smoothie. Winning!
In times like these I know everyone is impacted. It’s a challenging world and we are all dealing with it in different ways. Energetically speaking this issue is related to our root chakra, our sense of being safe and grounded. But our world does not feel safe right now so anything you can do to help yourself get more grounded will be beneficial. If you have a backyard get outside in your bare feet and walk in the grass or the mud! Feel yourself connected to the earth. Getting grounded also helps take you out of the fight or flight mode and helps you find some peace in the present moment. And remember to have courage, and be kind.
Stay well - with love