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7 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Stress Levels and Rebalance Your Hormones

Jul 12, 2019

Have you ever found yourself faced with something frightening and felt your heart race, your palms go sweaty, your breathing speed up, and your entire body get tense or shaky?

That’s exactly what happened to a friend of mine one day when she was running in her local park on a lovely summer’s day.

There she was, enjoying the freedom of being out in nature, feeling that gentle breeze blow through in her hair as her feet flew over the ground. She was running at a comfortable pace and the world felt great.

Then suddenly, out of nowhere, a deer came charging straight towards her.

Reacting instantly, she picked up her speed  and ran like the clappers to get herself to safety. Her heart was pounding hard in her chest and she couldn't think about anything else apart from escaping that deer until she finally found safety.

What happened to my friend is called the ‘fight or flight’ response which helps us to face stressful situations and either rise to the challenge or flee in order to keep ourselves safe.

This week I’d like to talk more about stress, the fight or flight response and the effect it can have on your overall health.

We’ll also see how this relates to difficulty sleeping, racing thoughts and heart disease, learn the role that our thoughts play when it comes to our stress levels, and what we can do to help ourselves get our stress levels under control.

What is the fight or flight response?

When my friend encountered that deer, the fight or flight response, (also known as the acute stress response) kicked in to help her get away from the threat and get to safety. The same thing can happen when we’re faced with an important meeting at work, an examination, visiting the dentist or even speaking in public.

The fight or flight response happens when the body suddenly releases hormones such as cortisol, norepinephrine and epinephrine. These help the body react by increasing blood flow to the limbs, increasing blood pressure, and raising the breathing rate so that you can be ready for increased physical activity.

However, it’s important to note that this stress response isn’t only triggered by a physical threat.

You see, the part of your brain which first reacts to stress, your amygdala, can’t tell the difference between physical stresses such as a deer running through the park or a perceived danger such as worry, challenging beliefs, difficult feelings, and negative thoughts.

It will react just the same whether there is a physical or psychological threat and can have the same impact upon your overall health and happiness.

The risk of having high levels of stress hormones

Stress is much more than an irritation or issue that only makes you feel overwhelmed. It can also have a significant impact on your overall health.

When we are subjected to chronic stress, our body’s natural repair systems that help fight infection, repair injuries, fight cancer, slow ageing, balance our hormones and protect our cardiovascular health go offline.

They can’t work as efficiently as they normally do and we find ourselves vulnerable to health problems such as:

  • Raised blood pressure
  • Heart attacks
  • Immune responses and inflammation
  • Fatigue
  • Mild anxiety/ depression
  • Hot flushes/night sweats
  • Digestive issues
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Sleep issues
  • Hormonal disturbances
  • Increased vulnerability to addiction
  • Weight gain

But stress hormones aren’t always bad

It’s important to remember that our stress hormones are there for a reason and provide a valuable function in the body. Not only do they help us to escape a physical threat- they also help control our energy levels and bodily processes throughout the day.

For example, your levels of cortisol should be high in the morning and low at night, following our natural sleep patterns. If you struggle to drop off to sleep at night or you wake in the early hours with racing thoughts, you are likely to be suffering a dysregulation of the stress hormones.

The good news is that this is a problem that can be fixed. Firstly, we can test your hormone levels using the DUTCH test so we can paint a clearer picture of what is happening within your body.

Then we can work to minimise stresses in your life, build your stress-management skills and help you increase the amount of joy you experience so you feel lighter, calmer and find it much easier to fall asleep at night.

Here are seven things I love to do to stay calm and keep my stress levels in check.

1. Listen to music

Music helps lift our spirits, release stress and helps to simply be and enjoy being alive. So grab your favourite tunes that make you want to move, turn them up loud and dance if you feel like it. Don’t worry about your neighbours!

2. Sing!

Humming or singing is one of the easiest ways to calm your nervous system and feel better.

This is because when you sing or hum, you naturally activate the vagus nerve and therefore help regulate your breathing, relax your digestive system, calm your mind and signals to the rest of your body that you’re safe from harm. So why not turn those tunes up and sing along or even consider joining a local singing group?

3. Check your antihistamines

If you’re taking antihistamines such as Sudafed for hay fever or other allergies, it can be a good idea to consider whether you could stop taking them altogether. This is because antihistamines can raise levels of norepinephrine and epinephrine, which increase the amount of stress your body experiences.

4. Laugh!

It’s true- laughter really is one of the best medicines because it releases a huge amount of endorphins which help you feel happier whilst also reducing your stress hormone level. It also gives your immune system a well-deserved boost and helps rebalance your hormones. What could be better?

Spend time with friends who make you laugh, enjoy watching comedies and try to see the lighter side to life whenever possible.

5. Check your adrenal health

To get an accurate picture of how much stress is taking a toll on your body, it’s always a good idea to get your hormone levels tested. I’d advise you check your adrenal health using the DUTCH test so we can develop a personalised plan that can help you combat stress and feel at your best.

6. Practice calming practices

There are many practices that can help you disconnect from the chaos of everyday life, reduce levels of those stress hormones and feel calmer and more centred. These include getting out into nature, having more organisms, practising yoga and mindfulness and learning the art of visualisation.[Download my free relaxation recording here]

7. Start a relaxing hobby

As you might have seen on Facebook, I’ve recently started life drawing and found it to be a very calming activity that helps me become more creative, whilst claiming vital ‘me time’, learning a new skill and helping myself to feel great. What hobby could you do that would provide you with the same benefits?

Take action to get your stress levels under control and you can make a massive difference to your health and happiness. Notice what makes you feel stressed, take time to practice self-care, laugh, explore new hobbies and take time to help yourself feel calmer and more in control of your life, instead of the other way around.

Do you feel like you’re constantly under stress or feeling overwhelmed by racing thoughts, worries or other health problems? Let me know in the comments section below.

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