As with anything in life, the best way to learn and grow is to look at things from a ‘child’s mind’, that is, pretending that you don’t know anything about it and allowing your brain to pick up information as if it was brand new. Give yourself the gift of ignorance in this situation and pretend that you don’t know how to relax (because really, a lot of us don’t). Let go of any previous experiences that maybe made you think that self care is useless or anti-stress techniques just don’t work, and explore these tips as if it was the first time.The goal here is to interrupt the neural pattern in your body that automatically goes into a stress response. This involves being hyper self aware, recognizing the need to change behaviour patterns and creating daily regimes that work towards stress management. PROACTIVE > reactive!
Here are some of my favourite ways to let go of stress:
- Talk therapy – talk to a professional and gather tools to manage stress or just to talk it out of your system. Shout out to our psychologist Karyn Zuidhof who is an amazing listener. Not only does she specialize in stress management but she has a regular ‘Mindful Moments’ section on our blog.
- Meditation, yoga, baths, journalling, a general mindfulness practise. Science tells us that longer, slower, deep breaths will lower cortisol. Simple as that.
- Supportive nutrients. Supplements such as magnesium, omega 3 fatty acids, calmative herbs, l-theanine.. the list goes on! These can be very helpful in interrupting the stress response. Note: supplements can help to calm the body and mind but ultimately you don’t want to rely on supplements forever. Imagine them as crutches when the goal is to be able to walk on your own again.
- Sleep for 8 hours each night. If you’re not sleeping adequately then definitely get help. If you feel like you’ve tried everything already, a naturopathic doctor can help you sort this out. (sleep is non-negotiable and high priority)
- Start using your benefits to their full extent: massage, crainosacral therapy, acupuncture, float tanks etc. Be proactive – book appointments for when you know things are going to be stressful. Devote specific time for yourself.
- Exercise – exercise can definitely lower cortisol but very strenuous exercise can also be a body stressor. Things like walking, VERY slow running, yoga, swimming, are all good ones though that shouldn’t exhaust you. Just take it easy, 30 minutes a day to start is all you need. AND if you can do it outdoors, that is much much much better!
- Hugging. Yup, it’s cheesy but hear me out – oxytocin is a ‘love hormone’ that is released when love and trust are felt. It has anti-depressant effects on the body and modulates fear and anxiety.
- Gratitude lists. Being thankful puts us into a parasympathetic nervous response (decreases stress) and while writing them is the best practise, what I like to do is think about five things I’m grateful for while taking five deep breaths as I’m falling asleep. This helps focus my mind and relax my body for rest. Works like a charm.
Make relaxing a daily habit, something that you continually work on so that you don’t get caught up in the disastrous effects of high cortisol. Stress and busyness is not a badge of honour to wear on your collar, let’s start looking at it for what it is, toxic for our minds and bodies.
So if you’re trying to lose weight, or just lose the old waistband pudge, make sure you take an active role in clearing out that extra cortisol with daily relaxation techniques
Did you miss Part 1 of our Cortisol series? Click here to catch up!