Tips and Tools for Self-Care
Mind & Body Connection
Tuning in to our mind-body connection becomes important in building a self-care practice. This can help us better manage stress – the main culprit of illness.
A normal stress response involves an interconnected relationship between our brain and nervous system. It’s a complex orchestration of signaling and releasing hormones (like cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline) into the bloodstream. It is what causes our body to undergo several dramatic changes during immediate, and also chronic stress.
Our hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands, or what’s better known as our HPA axis, are heavily involved in this response. Located in our brain near the pituitary gland, our hypothalamus acts as a link between our nervous and our hormonal (endocrine) system.
The hypothalamus in many ways acts like the king of our mind and body connection. It commands and coordinates the activities of the short- and longer-term stress responses.
How to Tackle Stress?
When we are stressed for too long, our adrenal glands take a toll. After a while, unwanted symptoms may appear due to our adrenal glands secreting cortisol in overdrive; chronic fatigue, loss of appetite, decreased cognitive and immune function, and most notably, weight loss or weight gain.
Tackling stress is sort of like developing a six pack – or stronger muscle definition. You need to come at the goal from several different angles and be consistent about it in order to see results.
Your best approach is to include a variety of practices weaved into your daily routine.
Tid-bits for Tackling Stress:
- Incorporate deep breathing techniques on your commute
- Connect with your community
- Take a short walk at lunch
- Drink more water
- Make time once a week to de-stress in your favourite way
- Journal your thoughts
- Learn something new
- Do more acts of kindness
Practices like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT, can help us become more aware of inaccurate or negative thinking. This helps us get a clearer view of challenging situations that might be causing stress, so that we can respond in a more effective way.
Reflect on current coping patterns and start to bring more awareness to what your daily and weekly habits are. We can inherently have negative coping patterns such as staying up late, or indulging in nutrient robbers like alcohol, sugar, caffeine and refined carbohydrates. These will only add fuel to the fire.
The Meditation Movement
Mindfulness meditation is designed to develop the skill of paying attention to inner and outer experiences with acceptance, patience and compassion. It teaches individuals to be fully and actively present in the moment. This is a good tool to access for enjoying more moments, even when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Regular exercise can be tremendously beneficial. Matching your weekly routine and time restrictions with your current energy levels (especially during stressful periods) is wise. Allow yourself to do just this! Start with a gradual program and work your way up. Restorative exercise may be the most beneficial to start with – including yoga, tai chi or swimming.
Healthy Food for the Win!
Providing the body with a well-rounded diet is critical. High-quality protein is important for maintaining the immune system and providing the necessary resources for important brain neurotransmitters.
Stress also induces protein breakdown from muscle to provide resources for the fight or flight response. Minimizing packaged, processed and nutritionally empty calories is also very important. Regular planned meals are key, and frequent healthy snacking can also help us feel satiated and makes better choices.
Recognizing chronic stressors, working on self-development (personal time, setting boundaries), sleep hygiene and exercise are critical for long-lasting changes. Technology has made it easy for us to track and improve our behaviour.
Here are a few apps that can help you do just that:
No Substitute for Sleep
A simple reminder that there is no substitute for consistent and good quality sleep. There’s no denying that the impact of a lack of sleep can negatively impact our health. When we make sleep a priority, we are proactively decreasing our cortisol levels – keeping stress in check.
Herbs and Supplementation
Nutritional and herbal supplements can help restore normal processes in the body that have been compromised because of prolonged stress.
Adaptogens, like ashwagandha, have a long history in Ayurvedic medicine for helping to counteract the negative effects of stress on the body. A specific root extract of ashwagandha, called KSM-66®, has been clinically proven to help alleviate the impact of elevated cortisol levels.
What’s unique and impressive about this root extract is that it has over 20 human clinical trials to support its efficacy in areas of memory and cognition, stress and anxiety, female sexual function, thyroid health, athletic performance and weight management.
CanPrev’s Adrenal Chill is a therapeutic blend of nerve-soothing L-theanine and proven KSM-66® ashwagandha root extract.
With clinically proven research for helping to balance cortisol levels, Adrenal Chill also helps promote sound sleep, boost libido, improve weight-management and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. L-theanine is combined with this unique ashwagandha to help promote relaxation without sedation.
A sure win for anyone who is looking for a stress aid or support when life’s stressors start to get the better of us.
Visit Your Local Health Food Store
Mass amounts of health-oriented information online can be overwhelming to weed through. But visiting your local health food store is a great place to start if you are curious. Staff are usually well trained in natural nutrition and complementary therapies.
Although challenging, the benefits of establishing a calm inner self allows us to respond to life’s hurdles without succumbing to them.
Continuing to redefine your self-care practice, as the waves of life’s adventures roll in, will hopefully help improve your health and your happiness – here’s to keeping calm and chillin’ on!
Jenna Mangan, CNP
Is a Holistic Nutritionist from Toronto. She specializes in working with athletes and has a particular interest in Ayurvedic medicine and nervous system health. Her favourite self-care tactics are yoga and learning something new. She uses CanPrev’s Adrenal Chill for improved physical, and mental well-being and to help manage stress.