“Every stress leaves an indelible scar, and the organism pays for its survival after a stressful situation by becoming a little older.”
– Hans Selye
I used to think stress was no big deal. I could manage. I was young. I liked the adrenaline high. It’s all good.
Until, I learned more from Josh Rubin, Dr. Ray Peat, and father of stress, Hans Selye. No doubt, stress ages us.
Need convincing? Take a look at the last two U.S. Presidents before and after they entered office.
We can eat a perfect diet. Workout regularly. Practice forgiveness and love. But if we don’t reduce stress, we’re in trouble.
Scientist Hans Selye coined the term General Adaptation Syndrome which shows that stress is a major cause of disease since it produces lasting, negative chemical changes in the body.
You see, our body will go to great lengths to maintain homeostasis. This is survival of our species at the most basic level. Selye observed that the body would respond to any external biological source of stress (bad and good) with a predictable, biological process with 3 stages.
#1 – Alarm Stage
This is the flight or flight stage. In response to the danger (stress), our body releases cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline, to help us deal with the impending threat. If this energy isn’t used through physical exertion, it becomes harmful.
Too much of these circulating hormones can damage blood vessels, increase heart attack and stroke risk, and increase risks of gastric ulcers, increase blood pressure and sugar levels.
#2 – Resistance Stage
Once the alarm phase is complete, our body moves to the resistance stage.
This is when the body moves back to homeostasis and a period of recovery and repair takes place. Stress hormone levels return to normal but you’ve now reduced your body’s adaptive energy levels.
Problems set in when you don’t allow your body proper time to repair and restore… something very common in our fast-paced living today.
Eventually, our body gives out and moves to the final stage.
#3 – Exhaustion Stage
By now, stress is a way of life. Your body has lost it’s ability to “resist” and instead the body starts breaking down.
This is where we see disease set in… from diabetes to heart problems to high blood pressure that requires medicine. It can also result in brain dysfunction including memory loss, depression and anxiety.
That’s because Selye determined that there is a limited supply of adaptive energy to deal with stress and the supply declines with continuous exposure.
How to Reduce Stress
While you can try to reduce the demands on your life (family, work, etc.), you can also practice these steps to help reduce stress.
1. Practice some form of reflection
This can be 5 minutes a day. Pray. Meditate. Journal. Listen to soothing music. Take a hot bath. By taking a few minutes in a resting, conscious state, we’ll help reduce stress hormones.
2. Eat smaller, more frequent meals
This helps reduce stress by keeping blood sugar balance and our “alarm” system at bay. Be sure to always combine a carbohydrate with a protein. Eating carbs OR protein on its own can lead to an adrenaline response. Of course, reduce or eliminate white sugar, white flour and caffeine which can cause fight or flight responses if not used properly.
3. Check your temp and pulse
Every once and awhile, spot check yourself. Check your temperature and pulse about 30 minutes after eating a meal. This will help you know if you’re meeting your biological needs. Shoot for a temp of 98.0 + and pulse between 75-85 beats per minute.
4. Get enough sleep
Getting enough sleep can help reduce stress. Easier said than done, but make it a priority. Sleep helps restore the body and reduce stress like nothing else. Aim for 8+ hours a day. Nap when baby naps. Turn off the tube and go to bed early a few nights a week. Nap on weekends. However you get it in, do it for your health.
5. Eat gelatin daily
Gelatin, in the form of bone broths or protein powder, can reduce stress within the body. That’s because it’s filled with the pro-metabolic amino acids glycine and alanine while free of the amino acid tryptophan which can be inflammatory. When you eat muscle meat (from fish to beef), which is high in tryptophan, be sure to include gelatin to help balance the amino acids. (1 TB per 3 oz. of meat)
6. Bask in light
Darkness can produce a stress response. (Think about it. We’re less able to respond to dangers when we can’t see clearly.) In the summer that means spending at least 1 hour outdoors in the sunshine (wearing natural sunscreen for kids and adults, of course). In the winter, you can sit near a 200 watt incandescent light or use red light to reduce stress. Forest bathing may help here too.
7. Let go of the small stuff
You need to reduce stress. So the dishes are loaded in the sink. Or that guy cut you off in traffic. Or you’ve gained 5 pounds. Learn to ACCEPT the small things and be gentle with yourself and others. Breathe deep and remember “this too shall pass.”
How about YOU? How do you reduce stress? Share with us!