6 Tips to Lower Your Stress

The biggest factor that could transform your health has nothing to do with diet or exercise….
Say what?! You thought physical health is all about dialing in nutrition and hitting the gym on the regular, right?! While those are important components, there is one factor that is going to determine if the work you’re putting in at the gym and in the kitchen will come to life.
The big factor is STRESS.
The amount of stress you are under and your body’s ability to handle stress will drastically change your physical health.
I hear this all the time “I’m eating right and working out but I’m just not seeing progress.” Does this ring a bell for you?
One reason that you could not be seeing progress is STRESS.
Let’s dive into what stress really is all about, the effects it’s having on your body, and ways to combat it so that you can live your best life.

What is stress?
Stress can come from quite a few places. Here are the big ones: 
  • Emotional stress
  • Relationship stress
  • Work stress
  • Trauma
  • Environmental stress (toxins, chemicals)
  • Food (processed foods, food additives, pesticides/herbicides)
  • Internal stress from gut issues, hormones imbalances, hidden pathogens
The first few most people know about and aware of, the last few generally surprise people. All of these areas add to the stress that your body is under. So even if you don’t necessarily “feel stressed”, your body could still be responding to stress.
How does your body handle stress?
Through the stress response. Have you heard of the fight or flight response? This is how your body responds to stress; regardless of if you fight or flee, your body still goes through the same process – a huge release of cortisol.
When the body comes across stress (from any of those areas mentioned above), the brain signals the adrenals to release cortisol. This is why cortisol is commonly referred to as the “stress hormone”. Makes cortisol seem like the bad guy, right?
Cortisol isn't a bad guy though. Cortisol is there to protect and preserve your body. If you’re getting chased by a bear, you want cortisol to be pumped out so that you have a surge of energy to fight the bear or run from the bear. Cortisol accomplishes this by releasing glucose (aka ENERGY) into the bloodstream.
The problem comes in when stress becomes chronic. When they aren't actually running from a bear, all that excess glucose that’s in your bloodstream doesn’t go back into the cells for later use, it gets stored as fat (this is what happens whenever there is an excess of glucose in the bloodstream). Often people will notice that during times of stress they put on weight even if eating habits haven’t changed and it’s due to this response.
 Ever notice that when you are stressed, you crave sugar and carbs? This is not a lack of self-will issue, this is actually your body looking for energy, looking for fuel (glucose) to handle the stress. 
Other signs of chronic stress:
  • Weight gain, especially in the waist, hips, and thighs
  • Feeling tired, even after a good night's sleep 
  • Getting sick more easily
  • Changes in menstrual cycles (flow being different, cycle lengths changing)
  • Not recovering from workouts like you used to
  • Being more hungry and craving sugar
  • Insomnia or trouble sleeping
Recently, stress levels for everyone have been HIGH. Times are pretty uncertain, there’s be a lot of changes and disturbances to routines and lifestyles.
How to lower stress overall
Now you know what stress is and the impact that it could be having on your life. So, what to do it about? There are certain stressors that you can’t just avoid, so how do you lower stress while still dealing with the stressors?!
1. Eliminate or reduce the stress you can. 
This is where changes in nutrition do matter – buying more whole, unprocessed foods. Buying organic where you can. Drink filtered water. Change up products to less toxic versions.
2. Focus on self-care
 Create a self-care practice that is unique and special to you. Perhaps baths are soothing for you, or going for walks in nature, maybe it’s blasting music and dancing. Find something that makes you FEEL good and schedule it into your routine. 
3. Journaling
 Spend time journaling and reflecting, connecting to yourself is a great way to tap into knowing and understanding what you and your body needs. Even just slowing down and stopping for a moment to check in with yourself can help reduce stress levels. 
4. Speaking of routine 
 this is a great way to lower stress. Planning and scheduling out your days and weeks helps to bring about stability, your body thrives off of routine and structure.
5. Practice mindfulness and meditation
These are great tools for changing/shifting perspective, because again you’re not going to be able to eliminate all the stressors in your life, but you CAN start to have a different relationship with those stressors.
6. Deep breathing
 This is a great tool because you can do it anywhere, anytime – your breath is always with you. Taking deep breaths, filling your lungs, diaphragm, and belly with air helps to activate your vagus nerve which is one of the quickest ways to relax and calm the body. 
Hard to believe that doing these things can transform your physical body, right? Give it 30-60-90 days and see what happens!
Want the perfect stress reducing companion?! Check out the Better Me By SP challenge that is a daily guide to wellness; focused on daily check-ins with yourself, daily journaling and affirmations, and creating habits to improve your mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
Grab the Wellness Journal and SP Jug while you’re at it for a complete stress less kit!
This blog is by Shannon Miller, 
Shannon Miller is a holistic nutritionist and functional health practitioner. Her mission is to empower women to rebuild their health and reclaim their happiness, so you can stop fighting against your body and start falling in love with yourself again… or for the first time. She is obsessed with all things hormone, digestion, and immune related - let's talk periods and poop! She works with driven women who want to get to the root of their fatigue and female issues so they can finally live the life they deserve and chase the future they desire. Through her own struggles with her body and food, Shannon understands that physical transformation has to begin in the mind. If you want to learn more about your body and how to turn it into your best friend and ally, follow Shannon @3leafhealth or www.3leafhealth.com