Discover 6 Easy Ways to Reduce the Effects of Physical, Mental and Emotional Stress for a Healthier YOU
Stress is a normal part of human existence, and a certain amount of stress is healthy. Without it, we aren’t challenged to grow beyond our comfort zones. The challenge is that in the Western world, most of us are under much more stress than is healthy!
The effects of this excess stress compound, pushes us into distress. Our bodies react by kicking into fight-for-flight mode. Biologically, we react the same way we would have thousands of years ago when being chased by a lion or facing a famine.
As we discussed in my last article about hidden weight stressors, prolonged stress triggers increase cortisol levels, a hormone that tells our bodies to store fat the way it would if a famine were on the way.
To release unwanted fat and excess weight, we need to start by reducing the effect of physical, mental and emotional stress.
Physical stress is created by:
- Consuming too little of the right things, which creates nutritional famine
- Putting too much of the wrong things into your body (i.e., toxins)
- Not giving yourself the ability to “detox” the body often enough, creating a build-up of toxins within your tissues
Physical stressors cover a broad range of items and situations, some of which you may not even be aware of!
Physical Stressor #1: Toxins
Toxins are everywhere:
- In the air we breathe
- In the food we eat to nourish our bodies
- In the water we drink to flush our systems
- In our cleaning products
- In our beauty products
Research has even found that toxins are present in newborns’ umbilical cords.
The Environmental Working Group’s study commissioned five laboratories to examine the umbilical cord blood of 10 babies of African-American, Hispanic and Asian heritage and found more than 200 chemicals in each newborn.
Obviously, babies aren’t consuming anything independently while in the womb. Instead, they’re exposed to toxins in utero based on what is in their mothers’ environments. The lipstick she wears, lotions she slathers on her skin, soap and shampoo she uses, the cleaning products she selects, the food and water she drinks … most of what we consume contain certain amounts of known toxins that are passed to her unborn child.
Now, it’s not as if our bodies can’t clean out toxins. Our lungs, kidneys, liver, intestines and other organs all play roles in cleaning our system.
The challenge is that we have too many toxins coming in, but not enough time to clean them out during our normal digest, rest and recover period. When this happens, our bodies store the toxins in our fat, safely tucking them away until a later time when they can be processed.
When we can identify hormone-disrupting toxins, we can make educated choices about which toxins we expose ourselves to. When we lead a healthy lifestyle, our bodies can process and flush toxins from our body, as well as address excess toxins that have been stored in our fat. Once toxins are cleared out, your body can release the fat that was used as a storage tank.
Physical Stressor #2: Excessive Exercise
Another form of physical stress is over-exercising. You’ve heard the weight loss formula of “Eat less, and exercise more.” But when you engage in too much cardio exercises – for hours and/or at long stretches of high intensity – it spikes your cortisol level. Because of elevated levels of this stress hormone and the calorie deficit you’re creating, your body thinks there is a famine coming and holds onto excess fat.
Here are three fun and more supportive ways to move your body:
- High Intensity Interval Training (a.k.a., HIITS). If you do want a high-intensity regime, try interval training. Rather than doing extended periods of high-intensity exercise, alternate between 90 seconds of high-intensity training and 90 seconds of low-intensity exercise. For example, run for 90 seconds, then walk for 90 seconds. Repeat this cycle for 10 minutes – no more than 20 minutes, maximum. That’s all you need!
- Weight training. Lifting weights increases lean muscle, which burns more calories and helps eliminate body fat.
- Bouncing. Bouncing the body, or rebounding helps stimulate the lymph system. The lymphatic system acts like a sewer system. It filters the fluid (called lymph) that leaks from our blood vessels into our tissues and then drains the fluid back into our bloodstream.
Unlike the circulatory system, which is pumped by the heart, or the digestive system, in which movement is created by muscle contractions, the lymph system doesn’t have a “pump.” Fluids move through our tissues only with bodily movement. Think of what happens to a retention pond without an outlet or any type of movement. The still water grows stagnant and becomes toxic and overgrown with algae. The same can happen within our lymph systems without movement.
Movement – particularly bouncing – keeps fluid flowing through the lymphatic system. Try rebounding on a mini trampoline, jump roping, even bouncing on a yoga ball or in a chair.
Physical Stressor #3: Insufficient Elimination
Another little-discussed way our bodies can be stressed is poor elimination. This occurs when we put in too much food, but not enough fiber-rich foods, fruits, and vegetables and/or not enough water. The digestive system gets clogged up and constipated. If we aren’t eliminating properly, the body turns toxic very quickly.
Here some simple solutions for improving elimination:
- Eat water-rich foods, such as cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelon celery, and apples.
- Drink at least 8 glasses of alkaline water each day. Tap water contains toxins that can be removed with a reverse osmosis filter. Also avoid drinking out of plastic water bottles as much as possible, especially plastic that contains the hormone-disrupting chemical BPA.
- Eat plenty of fiber-rich food, while avoiding “sticky” foods such as cheese and cream. Fiber helps grab and remove toxins that your body is trying to expel. Think of eating fiber as scrubbing your intestines!
- Experiment with intermittent fasting or “eat, stop, eat.” This is a great way to give your body enough hours to digest, eliminate, rest, and recover. Give yourself a 4-, 6- or 8-hour feeding window, then don’t eat the rest of the day.
- Load up on fruits and vegetables. In addition to fiber, plant-based foods are loaded with antioxidants, nutrients and micronutrients. (Bonus tip: Eat lots of broccoli, which is consider a “power” vegetable. Exciting new research reveals that broccoli sprouts are the new “super food” – more on that in a future article!)
Your body is resilient. If you drink more clean water, eat fiber- and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, and consume fewer hormone disruptors … your body will heal. If you’re like many of my clients, you could start seeing the weight melting off your body in no time at all.
Mental Stress and Emotional Stress
Physical stressors abound. But our lives are full of plenty of emotional and mental stressors, as well – especially right now! It’s important to pay attention to these stressors, too, as our mental state affects our emotional and physical states. (Just think about how your heart races or your whole body gets tense when you watch a scary movie – and how some movies affect you emotionally long hours after you watch them.)
Many of the events and people who affect our mental state are outside of our control. However, you get to choose what you focus on, think about, and talk about. We have more control over our mental state than we give ourselves credit for.
Just as you can deliberately choose what foods, beverages and even toxins you allow into your physical body, you can choose what influences you allow into your mind. To reduce mental and emotional stress, make “healthy” choices.
For example, choose to connect with people who lift you up, rather than bring you down. Choose entertainment that makes you feel joyful or makes you laugh. Dive into a good book rather than mindlessly scrolling through social media. Pay attention to how your thoughts and emotions change based on the activities you’re engaged in, and then make choices that create the states you want to experience.
6 Power Move to Dial Down Stress
If you’re ready to take control of your physical, mental and emotional health, here are 6 power moves to incorporate into your daily routine:
- Deliberately decide how much media you consume. It’s important to be informed about what’s going on in the world. But it takes only a few minutes to bring yourself up to speed on what’s happening. You do not need to immerse yourself in the news all day long. A constant flow of negative news immediately turns off the feel-good hormones and puts us in a state of stress, which means the weight you want to lose will go nowhere.
Instead of checking your Facebook feed or keeping the news on in the background, read an empowering book or watch a movie that sparks joy and laughter. Talk to a positive friend with a great mental attitude who makes you feel uplifted in their presence.
- Choose more organic (non-toxic) fruits and veggies, foods that are full of fiber, micronutrients, and water. Put extra focus on getting several servings of green vegetables such as organic baby spinach and broccoli
- Surround yourself with positive people. Who makes you uplifted and empowered? Who makes you feel better simply by being in their presence? Even one positive person can make a difference in your stress levels.
- Meditate for at least 5 minutes each day to put yourself into a calm, confident state. Research at New York Academy of Sciences and other respected studies has shown that meditation can lower cortisol levels.
- Give yourself the gift of fun movement each day to get your lymph flowing. Rebounding, the type of movement you get from bouncing on a mini trampoline or jumping rope, is especially powerful at moving toxins through our system.
- Vote with your dollars. We can control what we buy, so seek out non-toxic and/or organic products. For example, buy and refill your own metal or glass water bottle rather than polluting your body and the environment with plastic water bottles.
Also do research into which chemicals are in the products you’re buying. Many chemicals that are banned throughout the world are allowed in products that are manufactured and distributed in the United States. Products that are good for our body also are good for the environment. Aspartame found in many diet sodas is a good example of this. In 1980 the FDA banned aspartame from use after having 3 independent scientist study the artificial sweetener. Why? Because they found that aspartame came with a high danger of inducing brain tumors. However, later it was reversed. When you vote with your dollars, you’re send a message to the corporate world about what we value and what you allow.
Step by Step, Day by Day
Reducing physical, mental and emotional stressors is not a “one and done” process. It’s a daily practice. We cultivate radiant, healthy, happy lives just as we cultivate beautiful gardens. It’s a matter of choosing one thought at a time. Taking one healthy bite at a time. Making one healthy choice at a time. Spending one dollar on a healthy item at a time.
To help you on this path, I have a gift – a free guided weight loss meditation to help you reduce physical, emotional and mental stress … and give you a few minutes of renewal and rejuvenation time. Claim your gift here.
I’d love to know which of these tips resonated the most with you. Which ideas will you put into practice? Which are you already using, and what have you noticed as a result? Join the conversation below!