Everyone is looking for less stress. The problem is our identities are often tied to our stress levels. The ability to slow down, take a break and rest can only come when you allow yourself to let go of your identity as someone who’s always “on” and always providing or working or hustling. I see it daily with the clients I work with: constantly running in fight-or-flight mode, fatiguing adrenals, terrible sleep, but the real issue is that they’re not willing to allow themselves to rest because hustling is a part of their identity.
Stress is a silent killer. It’s the precursor to almost every illness. While we need some level of stress in our lives, we can’t live in it constantly. Chronic stress can lead to everything from heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers and weight gain to depression and anxiety.
The following are my 5 favorite ways to de-stress and turn off that constant fight-or-flight mode. In addition, try adding this warm ginger citrus tonic to your nightly routine to unwind and relax instead of grabbing a glass of wine.
- Meditation is one of the best ways to tap into the sympathetic nervous system and release stress. To start, sit quietly with your eyes closed for 3-5 minutes daily and just breathe. If thoughts come up, notice them, and let them go. Don’t cling. If you feel yourself getting distracted, count your breaths and focus on the gentle rise and fall of your belly.
- The best type of exercise is one that you enjoy. Good news is, the exercise you enjoy can also help reduce stress levels. Yoga, running, weight training, cycling, whatever you enjoy. Aim for fitting in movement 3x/week for optimum benefits.
- The foods you eat absolutely can contribute to your stress response. Large amounts of processed foods, added sugars, caffeine and alcohol can spike cortisol (stress hormone) levels. Opt for real foods, lots of veggies, fruits and whole grains to keep stress and blood sugar levels balanced.
- Prioritize sleep. The number one indicator of chronic stress I see in patients is poor sleep. Turn off screens at least 1hr before bed, keep your phone out of the bedroom, get blackout curtains and an eye mask. If you find yourself tossing and turning all night, keep a journal or notebook and pen by the bed so you can get pesky thoughts out of your head.
- Adopt an attitude of gratitude. Gratitude is an incredibly effective way to lower your stress levels while making others feel better, too. It’s a win-win! A few ways to express gratitude: write a list of 10 things you’re thankful for before bed each night, say ‘thank you’ more often, write letters to friends for no reason other than to say hi and thanks. Don’t forget yourself! Each day, thank yourself, your body, your mind, for all it does for you.
Warm Ginger Citrus Tonic
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 1/2 TBSP ginger (sliced)
- 1 clementine (peeled)
- 1 TBSP maple syrup
Add the water and ginger slices to a small pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, or longer if you prefer a spicier drink. Use the end of a wooden spoon to mash the clementine in a mug. Add the hot ginger water and maple syrup to the mug. Stir until dissolved. Enjoy!