By Dr. Danielle DeBlock, ND
As is the case with the management of any health-related condition, diet and lifestyle are the first stop when considering stress. Before using supplementation, an inventory of what we eat and drink, how we sleep, and how we spend our time should be taken so we can optimize our foundation and avoid Band-Aid solutions.
Optimizing our foundation can be particularly challenging in today’s society. It has become normal and even celebrated to have jam-packed schedules and numerous commitments, leaving little room for days without plans or even dinner at a table. We tend to convince ourselves that our busy-ness is unavoidable and just a reality of life; however, we have more choice than we have been conditioned to believe.
Saying “no” to activities and engagements is not just okay, it is important. Releasing yourself of the pressure to always be doing and acknowledging that you have more choice than you’ve been led to believe can quickly free up ample time in your weekly schedule. The art and practice is learning to recognize which commitments bring you life and increase your energy, and those that are just increasing your stress or draining your energy. The art and practice is also rejecting the notion that your worth based on your productivity or how much you’re doing. Your worth is inherent to your being and remains the same whether or not you sign up for a new volunteer position, get a promotion, make it to the gym today, clean your house, watch every hockey game, or reply to the text messages on your phone.
Taking inventory of our schedule and learning to say “no” more often is so important because proper selfcare and stress management takes time. We need time to be with ourselves, to prepare and eat nourishing food, to sleep, to breathe. There are always going to be stressful parts of life. The secret is not avoiding the stressful parts; the secret is being able to endure them with less suffering, which requires a strong foundation of selfcare built on nutrition, sleep, meditation and breath.
As discussed in Part 1, our primary stress hormone is cortisol and it is secreted by our adrenal glands. When we lack nourishment, have irregular sleep habits, or don’t get enough sleep, our adrenal glands become taxed and our cortisol secretion become irregular. Normally, we get a spike in cortisol in the morning to wake us up and give us energy for the day, and it gradually drops off throughout the day until bed time (making us sleepy and ready for rest). When our cortisol secretion gets disrupted, we lose these natural wake-up and fall-asleep cues.
To keep our adrenal glands functioning optimally, a nourishing diet and regular sleep pattern are crucial. While there are numerous diets one can follow for specific benefits, the following are some general healthy-eating guidelines:
- ½ of what you consume in a day is veggies and fruit
- ¼ of what you consume in a day is protein (mostly fish and poultry, less red meat *or lentils, legumes, tempeh, tofu on a vegan or vegetarian diet)
- ¼ of what you consume in a day is whole, unrefined grains (quinoa, oats, buckwheat, brown rice, rye, spelt) and healthy fats (nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut)
- Avoid processed foods
- Consume 2-3L of water per day
- Try to eat home-cooked meals and eat slowly, undistracted
In terms of sleep, routine and amount are both important. Our hormones like routine and function optimally when we have a relatively consistent schedule. This means trying to be in bed at roughly the same time every night and out of bed at roughly the same time every morning. Additionally, most of us need somewhere between 8 and 9 hours of sleep. This number can vary and the important and simple thing to pay attention to is how you feel after less or more sleep. The quality of our sleep also matters; it shouldn’t typically take more than 15-20 minutes to fall asleep, and you shouldn’t be waking up more than once or twice a night and only for a brief moment (unless to pee). If we are in a state of adrenal fatigue or our cortisol is out of balance, it is very unlikely that we are experiencing this ideal sleep pattern.
While we begin establishing our foundation by taking inventory of our schedules, learn to say “no”, and focus on eating well and sleeping enough, we prepare for the incorporation of meditation and breathwork and supplementation. Stay tuned!
Dr. Danielle’s passion for naturopathic medicine is rooted in her passion for sustainable living and holistic wellbeing. She believes that every human is unique and shaped differently by their own lived experiences, and, as such, believes each person’s journey to health and wellness requires unique consideration and exploration.
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