Growing up, if I started to freak out about a paper that was due or a big test, my mom would tell me to ‘take a chill pill.’ No need to freak out. Relax! Don’t get your panties in a wad!
Easier said than done, Mom.
There are plenty of actual pills out there that claim to calm your nerves or help you de-stress, but I don’t personally recommend them. Way too many adverse side-effects for something that doesn’t even address the root cause of an issue. I do, however, highly recommend everyone figure out ways to get rid of stress in their life!
If you follow my blog at Laurel of Leaves, you’ll quickly figure out that I’m all about getting back to my roots, whether that be through addressing the root cause of a health issue or finding the most truly sustainable way to live. I’m super passionate about sharing everything I’ve learned over the years. I post yummy real food recipes, natural and toxin-free beauty tips, urban homesteading articles, and often some politically incorrect controversial topics.
Stress may not be one of those hot button topics like circumcision or veganism, but it’s uber important in its own right. Don’t get caught up in the whirlwind that is modern, Western life and mistake it for ‘normal.’ It takes a big toll on your body!
Stress & Hormones: It’s More Than Just a Feeling
Here’s the deal with hormones. They play a HUGE role in our overall health and most people are grossly unaware of just how important they are. They play into just about every single bodily function there is. When it comes to stress and your hormones, Dr. Dan Yachter sums it up nicely:
“Just by thinking stressful thoughts, your body produces negative hormones. When you think negative thoughts or experience stress on a regular basis, several things happen. There is an increased production of cortisol and catecholamines . . . Again, the body in response to stress produces cortisol. It is a catabolic (break-down) hormone when produced in more than needed quantities (occurs with chronic exposures to high levels of stress). Cortisol, in large quantities, will destroy or ferment skeletal muscle. Cortisol is also known as “the death hormone.” When floating around the bloodstream in large quantities, cortisol signals to the body that it is time to spontaneously end its own life. These stress hormones also cause inflammation, weight gain, and fatigue. When you think thoughts, stress hormones that are being released cause your body to expend tremendous amounts of energy. So, if you want to control the amount of energy you have, it’s absolutely essential that you control the way your process and perceive the stressful events that may be occurring in your surroundings.”
(That’s from his book, Doctor of the Future, if you want to read more.)
Um, wow. This is serious stuff, people! Dr. Yachter also reminds us that even conservative medical experts will tell you that as much as 75% of human illness is related to stress. 75%! So, not only does stress steal your joy and your energy and make you a bear to be around, but it also contributes to illness and disease.
So here are a few ideas and action steps to reducing stress in your life. Consider it a ‘natural chill pill!’
7 Ways to Chill Out & De-stress
1. Set a timer. Take a timer of some sort and set it to 5 or 10 minutes (or longer if you want). Then just sit there. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. The world can wait 5 minutes for you to gather your thoughts and clear your mind. It helps knowing that in just a short amount of time you can jump right back into the race if you so choose. No need to be anxious in those few minutes, though. The timer will tell you when the world can start turning again.
2. Eat cashews. Have you seen the documentary Food Matters? It’s one of my favorites, and if you haven’t seen it yet, stop reading this immediately and find it on Netflix or borrow it from a friend. It was in this film that I learned that eating a handful of cashews has the same effect as taking a Prozac pill. Huh, what? Yep, that’s right. Why in the world do you need an overpriced, dangerous, synthetic medication to calm your nerves? Cashews, and other healthy fats in general, help regulate and balance your hormones (see above about the importance of balanced hormones!)
3. Magnesium. So many people are deficient in magnesium and, as such, experience fatigue, constipation, insomnia, and muscle cramps. But supplementing with magnesium can help relax your body and restore balance. Check out this comprehensive list of ways to boost your magnesium intake via food and supplements (as well as ways to make sure you’re not blocking magnesium absorption).
4. Go to sleep before midnight. Our bodies are meant to follow a rhythm and a cycle that corresponds to light and dark and the pull of the moon on the earth. They’re known as circadian rhythms. When it’s dark outside, we’re meant to be relaxing and sleeping. That’s why going to sleep before midnight can actually cause you to get better quality sleep than waiting until 2 or 3 in the morning to hit the hay. Sleeping from 10p-6a I get a better quality of sleep than I do if I sleep from 1a-9a (that’s even with a full 8 hours, folks!)
5. Take a bath in the evening. Just make sure you’re using filtered water so you’re not absorbing toxins from the water through your skin. It also helps to shut down the computer and the television before you go to sleep.
6. Practice laughing. This may sound silly, but laughter has been shown to help with the healing process and help change your mood – even if you don’t actually think something is funny! If you’re super stressed, try putting on a funny movie or simply force yourself to laugh. You’ll probably sound so awkward that you’ll get a genuine laugh out eventually!
7. Change the station. My world was never the same after I discovered the classical music station on the radio. I love to rock out to some Top 40 hits or sing along with a good indie folk rock tune while I drive, but there’s just something about soothing classical music to help you de-stress. You might think you’re releasing some pent-up energy with the urgency and the driving beat of a lot of popular music, but a soothing, flowing piece will do more to relax you.
What are your best tactics for chilling out and de-stressing?
Lori Winter of Laurel of Leaves is on a mission to change the world. Or at least her slice of it. She blogs about her journey in true health and natural living at Laurel of Leaves where you’ll find delicious real food recipes, fitness tips, herbal remedies, natural beauty formulas, urban homesteading stories, and a bit of controversy thrown in for good measure. After spending an incredible nine months traveling in New Zealand she’s happier than a bird with a french fry to be back home in Tennessee teaching BarreAmped fitness classes and making messes in her own kitchen. Connect with Lori on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.