Stress is a core cause of most chronic illnesses. Stress creates leaky gut, and it wreaks havoc on all our major organs.
To return to health after getting autoimmune disease several years ago, I had to get my stress under control. When I got sick, everything came to a screeching halt. My cortisol was so depleted that I was almost at Addison’s disease but since I was not “dis-eased” conventional medicine did not know how to help me.
I believed BEFORE I got ill, that stress propelled me forward to accomplish more. Now I know that the reality is, it was hindering my productivity. Stress is a mechanism from our ancestors to escape wild animals. Well, those animals almost caught and ate me.
Chronic stress can affect every physical and psychological system. We all deal with stress as we go through our day. It is when it accumulates that it becomes an issue. It is important to release your stress every day so that it does not build up to toxic levels.
Chronic stress impacts the following:
• Heart Disease
• High Blood Pressure
• The immune system making us susceptible to infection
• “Leaky gut,” which leads to inflammation and pain. Stress releases inflammatory substances that travel through your body and attack body tissues.
• Our muscles, causing them to tighten, and over time stress creates back and neck pain and headaches
• The permeability of the blood-brain barrier, allowing toxins, viruses, and poisons to flow through.
• Our sugar levels, causing us to crave high-sugar, high-salt foods that release dopamine, a feel-good brain chemical that leads to more cravings. Sugar is a toxin, as addictive as cocaine, and it feeds cancer and causes inflammation. It turns off Ghrelin, a hormone that regulates appetite.
• Our memory and brain functions. Stress impacts mood, causing anxiety and depression.
• Our weight and increased belly fat.
• Blood flow to the skin causing skin disorders (Psoriasis, Eczema, acne)
• Blood getting to the brain, which slows productivity.
• Sleep problems
Finding ways to reframe stress in our lives is crucial for reversing inflammation and squelching the degeneration of our tissues and the diseases of aging. Powerful stuff.
Recovery is not negotiable; you can either make time to rest and rejuvenate now or make time to be sick and injured later.
The long-term activation of the stress-response system and the overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones that follow can disrupt almost all your body’s processes.
“If you knew what was happening to your body when you’re stressed out, you would freak out.” Mark Hyman, MD
I now see stress as an instant pot. I stop a couple of times each day to release the buildup of the “steam” in my body. As I do any of these exercises below, I feel my body being energized as the blood flows to my limbs and up to my brain, and that feels great.
Some of the exercises below are breathing exercises. Others are small movement exercises. None of them take more than 3 minutes. It is important to use them singularly throughout the day. Most do not take equipment and can be done right next to where you sit. I have published a desktop guide with additional exercises so that it is handy whenever you are ready to choose an exercise.
1. The first breathing exercise is one I have now been utilizing since I first got sick. This is the 4-7-8 breathing exercise by Andrew Weil, MD, the father of integrative medicine. You can google him and do the exercise with him on YouTube.
I use this exercise when I feel frustration or stress building up. I use this exercise when I am having a hard time going to sleep at night. I use this exercise in LA traffic when I realize I could be late for an appointment, and there is nothing I can do about it. In most cases, no one around me even knows I am doing it. It immediately calms me and resets my parasympathetic nervous system.
2. Take your fingers and push into your belly button and jiggle for 1 minute. The theory is that your belly button is the beginning of our life, and through our belly button,we can calm the entire body.
3. If you are in a private space, use the Belly Button Wand. But if you are in a public space, your fingers are fine. This affects your reptilian brain at the back of your neck (the early brain in development) and significantly reduces your stress as proven by Dr. Emerel Mayer, executive director of the Oppenheimer Center for Stress and Resilience (uclacns.org) and the Co-director of the Digestive Diseases Research Center at the University of California at Los Angeles.
4. Stand and bounce in place to break up the day. Stand up by your desk, let your arms hang, and bounce. Do this for 1-2 minutes. This brings energy to the brain.
5. Tapping the body starting at the ankles and working up to the top of the head. Don’t hurry. Do front and back of your feet, ankles, calves, thighs, tummy, heart zone, go over to your arm and start with one hand and tap all the way down and then up, then do the other, now tap your shoulders, your face and the top of your head. This should take 2 minutes.
6. Stretch at your desk. Be sure to stretch up and stretch out. You can do it seated, or you can stand.
You are at your best when you are in balance and fully present in your life. You are at your best when your stress is low, and your brain is clear. These exercises will allow you to achieve that. Start them today. Your health depends on it.
And remember, it is never too late to begin healthy habits.