Lets face it- we all have stress. If you don’t, you must live in a little cabin in the woods but even that isn’t an assurance that you will be free from stress. It is in all of our lives. The key is learning how to manage it.
Let me just say that not all stress is bad. Sometimes stress can be motivating, pushing us to achieve important goals, but it is vital that we learn to manage our stress rather than allowing stress to manage us.
I want to discuss two types of stress in this article: acute, and chronic. Acute stress is more of your day-to-day, short-term stress like the feeling of being caught in traffic, cooking dinner under a time pressure, hurrying to get to work on time, etc. Acute stress tends to come and go as the day goes on and in most cases it is fairly simple to manage.
Chronic stress is the type you want to avoid. Doctors Lyle H. Miller and Alma Dell Smith have stated, “Under long-term chronic stress, your body begins to think that it is being threatened and in response it begins to shut down your major organs, including your nervous and immune systems, endocrine system, and gastrointestinal system in order to preserve energy to fight off the attack against it. This, of course, can lead to sickness, memory loss, cancer, depression, insomnia, and a long list of other conditions”.
Let’s talk about how chronic stress can affect you gut. Growing up I had a relative that was always having stomach issues that included painful and sleepless nights, and now I’ve learned why. That person lived a really stressful life.
In Dr. Josh Axe’s book, Eat Dirt (which I highly recommend), he talks about the gut-brain-microbiota axis. To quote something he said: “There is a connection between your brain and your gut. There are bundles of nerves that run from the base of your brain along the spine connecting the hundred million neurons in the gut’s enteric nervous system”. Dr. Axe goes on to say that this connection is at the root of the “butterflies in your stomach” feeling we get when we’re excited or like the “kick to the gut” feeling we get when we’re stressed.
In addition to this gut-brain connection, there are millions of enteric nerves that are called our “second brain”. There are a couple more components added to this that I won’t go into now, but when chronic stress becomes a part of your life, it will change the balance in your gut and most people end up with what we call “leaky gut”. Digestive problems begin to occur like constipation, diarrhea, upset stomach, candida, unwanted bacterial growth, and inflammation. Who knew that stress could play such a role in your gut health?
What can we do to not be STRESSED OUT? There are actually several ways to help deal with the stress we have in our daily lives and most of them are free. I have listed some below:
- Schedule the time you need to rest.
- Spend non-stressful times with family and friends.
- Focused exercise! Take a walk, get to the gym, or go on a bike ride.
- Meditation and prayer that focus on the goodness of God.
- Find a hobby.
- Get a massage.
- Read a good book.
- Practice breathing deeply throughout the day.
- Take a good probiotic to help your gut to restore. (The best are refrigerated and found in most health food stores.)
- Grounding: Walking in sand, dirt, grass, or cement barefoot. I personally like to do this in the mornings in my backyard. It’s so relaxing. (You can read more on this in my book Healthy and Free or in my previous post Let’s Get Grounded!)
- Take a hot Epsom salt bath and add a few drops of lavender essential oil.
- Anti-stress supplements such as Ashwagandha (I personally take this one. It helps lower cortisol and balances the thyroid hormones. It also reduces anxiety and depression). Others that are good: B-stress complex supplement, Gaba before bed (it rewires the neurotransmitters in your brain so your thinking calms down), and magnesium (helps relax your muscles and aids in a good nights sleep).
- Eating A LOT of plant based foods. Eat those veggies! This will bring healing to your whole body and not just your gut.
Living a stressed out life will never pay off. It will only cause you harm. We must all learn to navigate our lives and take time to rest and relax to bring healing to our body, soul and spirit.
To Your Health
Author of Healthy and Free