All of us are stressed. In fact, though many health professionals know the answer to the question of how to lower stress they are still over-stressed.
Stress is likely our generation’s biggest enemy, as we now live in a world rife with over-stimulation. We have constant e-mails, notifications on our phones, television, multiple streams of social media, noise pollution, demanding schedules, and children.
Though we might not think we’re stressed, when we list all of the stressful elements placed upon us, the evidence is overwhelming. While this could be problematic, there are a number of easy ways to lower our stress level.
Why Are We Stressed? It’s Likely Cortisol
When it comes to stress, the hormone cortisol first has to be mentioned. Cortisol is likely the most recognizable hormone within the human body. In addition, it is likely the concealed component thatâs making you fat.
Do you get up each morning, and feel like you’re already behind? Do you run to lunch, to your automobile, or get thrown out of your morning routine by staying up way too late on Facebook? You’re definitely not by yourself.
Nevertheless, your hormonal system is thrown by all of these choices. And when your hormones get out of whack, the stress piles on.
Since cortisol is an important component in modulating energy, insulin, and metabolic processes in the body, dysregulation of it can cause huge problems.
One of the most worrying aspects of cortisol dysregulation, is the trouble that it may bring to your waistline. Usually working in a cycle known as diurnal variation, cortisol can become unbalanced, mistimed, or nearly shut off. All of these issues are closely related to weight gain.
Cortisol is normally lowest in the evening, and greatest in the morning. But if it gets out of balance, our body starts to want to be awake at nighttime, and asleep late into the morning (or even the afternoon!) Any night owls reading this likely know exactly what cortisol dysregulation is all about!
One of the worst problems with cortisol, is that it often means a huge addition of bodyfat in our stomach area â it isnât usually evenly distributed to other parts of our body. This is pretty much everyoneâs worst nightmare.
Not only is this unpleasant to look at, it’s much worse for our health, compared to fat found in other areas. Many of us may overlook the fact that all our weight gain is is happening on our stomach, and this can lead to disastrous results, when it comes to our health.
As the world becomes increasingly complex, the ability to juggle multiple stresses, and manage anxiety, is becoming increasingly difficult. But it may be one of the best ways to combat long term weight gain and health problems.
What About Caffeine?
If youâre like 9 out of 10 Americans, you frequently consume caffeine. In fact, you may drink it so frequently, that you have all but forgotten what it feels like to be without this psychoactive substance.
But whatâs happening behind the scenes with caffeine, is actually causing all of us to be perpetually stressed. Thatâs because caffeine blocks adenosine from doing its job â which is to help us relax.
The scary thing about caffeine is that addiction can creep up on us. Our brain has all but forgotten that we are in a heightened state of alertness (to put it mildly) when drinking caffeine. But our bodies have not forgotten! The tremors, the shakes, the foot tapping â we know when someone has just had a few shots of espresso!
When it comes to stress, there is nothing worse than chronic stress. And if youâre nursing a big caffeine habit, you are in the midst of chronic stress. Whether you realize it or not, your body is constantly in a heightened state of readiness.
And when 3PM comes, and you feel exhausted, you need caffeine just to feel normal! This is crazy, right? Believe it or not, a huge daily caffeine habit can have long term damage on our hormones.
We all likely know adrenaline junkies â people who skydive, thrive on stress, and love living on the edge. And yet we also know people who canât handle any stress at all â scared to even drive on the highway, for example.
This is a classic example of different hormonal responses to stress, and remember â we are all wired differently. So itâs important to find out what works for you, individually.
Food â surprisingly â can play a huge role when it comes to regulating our stress levels. Protein and fat (especially the healthy kind) impact our hormones positively, and a healthy diet can help rein in excess stress.
If one looks to the science, you will find that stress also involves other neuroendocrine pathways. This means leptin, the gonads, the growth hormone system, and many others â even including our central nervous system.
As you can no doubt tell, stress and weight gain are complex processes and are very intertwined â as well as interdependent.
How To Lower Stress
Though lowering stress requires a multi-faceted approach, it is one of those scenarios where you likely will want to start with supplements. This is because the supplements which lower stress and cortisol, can take time to work, and will often offer physical benefits that may not be easily obtained from our other methods listed.
By trying some stress-relieving supplements, you offer yourself a great opportunity to actually improve things, while fighting the battle on other fronts â simultaneously.
A nice bonus is that most herbal supplements that help with cortisol and stress relief â are not very costly. All of our recommendations cost less than $50 â with many costing less than $20.
To get technical, this supplement is a negatively charged aminophospholipid. For those without a biology degree, that means a kind of fat which comprises around 10% of all fat cells within our body.
Phosphatidyl serine actually has many potential neurological benefits, but we recommend it here due to its favorable effects on cortisol.
We highly recommend phosphatidyl serine as an overall supplement also, since it has been studied numerous times to help with a wide variety of mental functions, including improved memory.
Relora is a great supplement, that can help to normalize cortisol levels.
In addition, it offers appetite suppression benefits, which will be of great interest, if you are trying to lose weight while lowering your stress.
Relora may also have positive benefits on blood pressure, fatigue, and sleep issues.
A large number of studies show the benefits of ginseng on stress and cortisol.
Technically classified as an adaptogenic herb, ginseng also has a variety of other positive properties.
Users report that ginseng may also help with: diabetes, depression, fatigue, heart disease, erectile dysfunction, and even blood sugar.
Holy basil is the go-to supplement for cortisol management. It has been studied many different times, and seems to offer many positive benefits.
Holy basil also is a huge help with blood sugar, and can even help improve immune function.
If you have to pick just one supplement for stress, we recommend holy basil.
Ashwaganda is a popular supplement in the health community, and for good reason.
One study showed a 30% decrease in cortisol levels, for the subjects who took ashwaganda on a daily basis.
It may also help with pain, diabetes, neurological function, and other health issues.
Astragalus root is a vital herb that can help to lower cortisol levels.
It also has a long history as an immune system booster, as well as being a key herb to help fight off various diseases.
In Chinese medicine, it has been used as an adaptogen for many thousands of years.
Licorice root is a popular choice for actually increasing cortisol, as opposed to lowering it.
While this may be ideal for some, it is not ideal for everyone, as many will want to perpetually lower their cortisol levels.
That being said, licorice has the fairly unique feature of being able to decrease the breakdown of hydrocortisone.
Another adaptogenic herb, rhodiola is often recommended for those going through caffeine withdrawal.
Interestingly, rhodiola has been proven to help with mental performance, as well as physical performance.
We like rhodiola because it has been clinically studied to help blunt cortisol response, when subjects are exposed to stress.
Cordycep mushrooms are a great overall choice for anyone looking to boost their health.
When it comes to stress, they have been shown to increase energy, and reduce fatigue.
They are also loaded with antioxidants, so they make a good choice for many health-related issues.
If you are a heavy coffee drinker, Teeccino is definitely the product for you.
An herbal coffee, that is USDA Certified organic, you can get the flavor and feel of coffee â without any of the nasty caffeine.
By mixing your coffee with Teeccino, and slowly lowering the amount of real stuff in your cup, you can easily lower your stress levels in just a few weeks. Highly recommended.
Like Teeccino, Choffy is a great alternative for those who are stressed because of their crazy coffee intake.
If the words âbrewed chocolateâ get you excited, Choffy is definitely the right choice for you.
A great placebo for your daily coffee, we keep this around the office for our own, regular use.
2. Make A List
To start with, make a list of all the things causing you stress. And this isnât a list of acute stressors, like a death, a traffic accident or an important meeting on the horizon.
This list should be chronic, unending stressors. This means things like traffic on the way to work, social media notifications, e-mails â things you may be able to change, or at least control.
3. Forgive Yourself
This is a tough step, but it shouldnât be. However, perhaps one of the greatest stresses in our modern society is that weâre not âallowedâ to admit weâre overwhelmed.
Everyone must silently suffer, it sometimes seems. However, take some solitude to quietly think, and make sure you forgive yourself for becoming overly stressed. Usually it creeps up on us, and we usually had good intentions when we were taking on whatever stressful things are now too much.
Using your list, number it, with things that cause the most stress, being at the top. Then, start planning ways to eliminate some (or all) of these things. Sometimes stress just comes from not having a plan, and feeling unorganized.
However, organization is another tool you can use, to lower your stress level. But one of our best stress-relief tools, is next to come.
Mediation is not nonsense â science has shown that it really works. Changes in four brain regions have been observed, in those that practice meditation.
The four areas that saw growth were: the posterior cingulate, the hippocampus, the temporo parietal junction, and the Pons. In addition, meditation shrank the amygdala, the fight or flight part of our brains, which is closely related to stress.
In The End
We are living in the most stressful environment in human history, arguably. While we donât have lions and tigers chasing us on a daily basis (which would be an acute stress) â we have a million tasks to stimulate and drain us.
This is chronic stress â and this is the kind that is truly deadly for our bodies (and brains).
Start with a supplement or two, and then work on our other recommended steps. With some planning, organization and prioritization, soon you can have a much lower stress level.
And remember â that coffee may seem to be giving you energy, but in reality it is likely stressing you out â and draining you of energy. Drink wisely!