We talk a lot about hot topics like Big Pharma and carbs. But today we’re going to share some of the best tips for both preventing and addressing stress. Stress is ultimately at the root of many, if not all, of our most pressing health issues, including aging.
Of course this depends on your understanding of “stress”. An unhealthy diet that triggers an inflammatory response or the development of arterial plaques is one definition of “stress”. So does the emotional anguish of being in an unhealthy relationship. Another big one: the oxidative stress that promotes cellular breakdown. And simply failing to use your body actively – not moving your body daily – is stressful to your heart, muscles, bone tissue and even to your brain.
A little stress is useful: it’s how we learn, and grow, and survive. Indeed, when you work out, you’re stressing your body, just as if you were pruning a rosebush. There’s some value in moderate amounts of stress, which is a good thing, since life will never be free of it. But most of us probably suffer from too much chronic stress, and if we aren’t taking prudent steps to healthily deal with stress, the cumulative effects are devastating. Whether from the environment, lifestyle, injury or the way you use – or don’t use – your body, stress is really an umbrella term for a critical host of factors affecting your health.
Here’s what we recommend:
10. Take a vacation.
Really. Just find a way to do it – even for two days. For some of you that means actually taking the weekend off. It’s amazing how a brief change of scene literally refreshes your spirits and helps you gain some perspective. On a daily basis, apply this shift logic and take a brisk walk outside or call a friend.
9. Say no.
This one is on every stress list, but everyone has a hard time following it. No one needs you that much. Strangely, the world will go on without you. If someone is trying to make you feel otherwise, you need to go on without them.
8. Stay away from processed food.
Most processed, packaged foods are land mines of sugar, empty calories, fat, sodium, chemicals, dyes and other ingredients detrimental to overall health. Refined foods spur inflammation, but they also can alter your mood, especially if you’re sensitive to drugs and chemicals. Very simple: eat food, not food products. You can get salads, veggies and fruit to go, just about anywhere. (What to eat in a day.) No excuses…unless you like running around at 80% all the time. Eat food that nourishes you, energizes you, and strengthens your brain.
Most Americans don’t. We’ve blogged about one major overlooked reason why. Here’s a trick: just put on your sneakers. Don’t think about the workout. Just don’t think. Simply think “I’m going to put my sneakers on.” If you do that, and give the workout three minutes, you’ve won the battle. Exercise is just too much of a health panacea to forgo. It stimulates a better stress response (we all know about serotonin – see below). It helps you sleep. It boosts immunity and can speed healing. It’s a tension reliever. It can help you lose weight. Exercise will cut your risk of every major disease and health condition drastically. Exercise helps you eliminate toxins, it improves digestion, and it stimulates your organs.
6. It’s the beating yourself up that hurts.
We all have negative thoughts and emotions, and “bad” desires or feelings. It’s not the feelings, even the supposedly “bad” ones, that really harm us – it’s worrying about them, repressing them, fighting them. Don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect.
5. Be your own best friend.
4. The usual suspects are no-no’s.
Smoking. Excessive drinking. Dessert. Junk food. Mindless television. Breathing exhaust fumes. You know, the usual self-destructive habits that all add up to a lot of stress.
3. Engage your mind.
Most people stop learning and reading after college (or kids, mortgage, whatever). Mental health and longevity studies consistently show that humans who engage their minds with activities like puzzles, reading, art, travel, new hobbies, and languages are happier, healthier, and live longer. This is your one, precious life – make the most of it! It doesn’t matter if you’re a lousy painter or can barely catch the ball. If you like it, do it.
2. Fish oil.
Fish oil may help prevent Alzheimer’s. It reduces inflammation. It’s essential for cardiovascular health, mental health, and antioxidant support. Fish oil is truly a super star stress tool because it’s a double positive: fish oil addresses both physical and mental stress.
1. What else?
What’s your best tip for stress? What aspects of stress have you learned to address successfully? What kinds of stress do you need more suggestions for properly managing?
In next week’s Primal Health post we’ll be discussing the whole cortisol/stress issue. Tomorrow’s PH topic: sugar.
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