Christmas is a great time of the year, though for some people, it can be a busy and stressful time. If you’re worn out from the year, juggling tired kids, squeezing in all the Christmas parties and tackling the crowded shops, then you could be finishing the year flat and exhausted, rather than rested and happy. According to Relationships Australia, Christmas is considered one of the six most stressful life events, along with divorce, moving house and changing jobs. That’s astounding!
During times of stress, like last minute shopping on Christmas eve, the fight or flight response is activated in the body. This is a biological response that occurs automatically to ensure our survival. The brain sends a message to our adrenal glands to pump epinephrine or adrenaline into our bloodstream. Now our heart starts to beat faster, pushing blood to our muscles. Our pulse quickens and our blood pressure goes up. We start to breathe more rapidly. The small airways in our lungs open wide to allow us to take in as much oxygen as possible with each breath. Extra oxygen is sent to our brain, increasing alertness. Meanwhile, epinephrine triggers the release of blood sugar or glucose from storage to supply energy to our muscles.
After the initial surge of epinephrine subsides, if the danger hasn’t passed, the brain will prompt our adrenal glands to now release cortisol. This helps us to stay revved up and on high alert. When the threat has finally passed, our cortisol levels fall, and our body returns to balance. But what happens if the threat doesn’t pass? What happens if this stress response is ongoing and our periods of calm and peace are few and far between?
Short term cortisol serves a purpose, but the consequences of prolonged high cortisol and adrenaline levels, aren’t great for our health. If cortisol is elevated continuously in response to our busy lives, we can start to feel wired and unable to wind down. We may become reactive, irritable and snappy. Our sleep may become disturbed and we can feel anxious. We often start to gain weight, especially around our middle, because our cells are struggling to use up all the glucose we’ve released into our bloodstream as part of the stress response. So, while we may not be able to change the fact that December is going to be a little wild, we can incorporate a few simple things into our daily routine to restore our bodies to calm a little quicker.
Number one… always, always, always, anchor every meal and snack with a little protein. This includes breakfast! Your brain loves a constant supply of fuel. If your brain has no fuel, it’s much harder to control how you feel and control your response in stressful situations. If you eat things that turn to sugar really quickly in your bloodstream, they will also disappear really quickly, leaving your brain without the energy it needs to regulate your emotions. Including some protein will serve as an anchor, slowing the release of glucose into the bloodstream, meaning your brain has a constant supply of fuel for longer. A constant supply of fuel helps you to feel calmer and happier. Unsure of some good protein sources? Explore our recipe page for ideas. https://perthhealthfertility.com.au/recipes
Number two… use your Many Small Breath Holds. Many Small Breath Holds is a gentle breathing exercise that helps reset the respiratory centre in the brain. When you breathe better you have better oxygenation of your tissues and your organs, including your brain. This exercise is particularly helpful for anxiety, at times of stress and to help you fall asleep or get back to sleep. The more you practice it, the better you get and the faster it works. Watch this short video from naturopath Mim Beim as she talks you through it. https://www.bobbiemcphail.com/new-page
Lastly… Take a ‘nature pill’. Taking at least twenty minutes out of your day to stroll or sit in a place that makes you feel in contact with nature will significantly lower your stress hormone cortisol. If you spend a little more time immersed in nature, 20 to 30 minutes sitting or walking, your cortisol levels will drop at their greatest rate! After that, additional destressing benefits continue to add up but at a slower rate. https://www.frontiersin.org/…/10…/fpsyg.2019.00722/full
Hopefully by incorporating these three simple suggestions you will emerge out the other side of Christmas feeling calmer, happier and more centred.