01 Aug Back to Stress (aka School)
Back to school means lots of changes for many households. Maybe you are settling back into a routine, sending babies off to college or just noticing a change in traffic on the roads. This time of year is normally more stressful, but it is a key time to get in a self-care routine. The effect of added stress can take a toll on our bodies and the best medicine is focusing on yourself.
During times of stress, our bodies activate our adrenal glands to produce cortisol. This cortisol is intimately linked to our adrenaline and noradrenaline (AKA our fight or flight response). The cortisol response to stress is extremely valuable, especially if we are truly in a life or death situation. When we are stressed over psychological situations, we are rarely fighting for our lives or starving to death. Unfortunately, our bodies formulate the same response whether we are frantically trying to prepare the family for the huge list of new school activities or crouched and hiding from a hungry tiger. When hiding from a tiger, we require our bodies to bring more blood flow to our muscles, shut down our GI tract and reproductive organs and heighten our senses. These responses are imperative to surviving the possible tiger attack. While preparing for a new school year, none of these responses are beneficial to making the transition a bigger success. Instead of fighting or fleeing, we sit and stew about the oncoming change.
It happens to all of us, especially during changes in lifestyle. For this reason, we need to be prepared to handle the stress responses that are sure to accompany the many events planned over the next couple months. The following strategies can help you survive the new school year without the residual damage that can happen:
- Exercise. When we are stressed and preparing to fight or flight, the best thing you can do for your body is to be active. Find a physical release for your stressors, whether it is walking with a friend, kick boxing, yoga or a 10-mile run. Find a release and create time to move your body.
- Diet. One of the toughest stressors for your body is managing blood sugar. When you eat a simple carbohydrate or sugar, blood sugars rise. This rise is temporary and blood sugar levels will eventually crash leading to a stress response and a craving for sugar to return blood sugar levels to normal. Protein is the answer to keep blood sugars regulated. Eat protein every time you put something in your mouth. Limit simple sugars and carbohydrates.
- Hormone balance. Having your hormones balanced (specifically your progesterone and DHEA), allows your body to formulate stress responses when necessary even when the adrenals glands are struggling to keep up with the demand. It is a great time to test those hormone levels to make sure you are ready for the stressors ahead.
- Adaptogens. These herbs help regulate the production of cortisol in the body and can be very helpful in keeping the sleep cycle regular and your energy up. My favorite adaptogen product is Cortisol Calm.
- Glandular support. Occasionally, the hypothalamus and pituitary shut down the adrenal glands, so cortisol stops its usual production. Without cortisol, you lose the motivation and energy to rise and complete the tasks required. Adrenal glands can be supplemented in the short term to give some energy while the rest of the body recovers.
- Proper supplementation. When your body makes a lot of cortisol it uses up a lot of vitamins. The most important of these is vitamin B5, aka Pantothenic Acid. It is really challenging to get a substantial amount of B5 from food and I suggest supplementing with Dr. Wilson’s Super Adrenal Stress multivitamin or straight pantothenic acid 500mg.
The school season is a time of routine, sometimes crazy schedules and poor dietary options. Don’t let stress get the best of you. Take time to focus on yourself so you can be the best version of you!