I had the pleasure of listening to Dr Libby Weaver recently talking about the challenges for women to get off the stress express. She believes women have less energy and are now more stressed than ever. A lot of women have fathers jobs as well as mothers responsibilities. She said one needs to think of energy levels like a bank account. If you are not depositing (with things like eating healthy, sleeping well, meditating, exercising, getting sunshine and doing all the other ‘right’ things) and always withdrawing, even going into overdraft, you will soon pay interest.
When the body is stressed (or in danger as our ancestors would see it) the body will choose glucose to support it to run from that danger. Not such a bad problem thousands of years ago, but today we are more stressed and eating more sugar than ever before. Sugar has fast become our energy source and this is playing havoc with our bodies, hormones and wellbeing. Nothing replaces an amazing way of eating. Real food is the foundation of everything. Good fuel in will give your body the best chance to survive and even thrive through stressful and challenging times. You don’t have to be perfect with your eating but it’s what you do consistently that matters. There are fifty trillion cells in your body. It is essential each one of them gets the right nutrients for optimum output.
Let’s take a closer look at what stress is doing to your nervous system and eating habits. The CNS (central nervous system) is seen as the conscious mind; the ANS (autonomic nervous system) the unconscious. This breaks down into the SNS (sympathetic nervous system – the red zone – the fight or flight response) and the PNS (parasympathetic nervous system the green zone – the rest, digest, repair and reproduce centre!) When you are stressed or in fight or flight mode the adrenaline needs kick in. Blood supply to the digestive system digresses from the gut to the extremities. (Interesting that one in five women have IBS – irritable bowel syndrome.) When the body feels in danger or stressed it will choose glucose to fuel it. Thousands upon thousands of people use glucose not fat as their fuel. And if you are constantly in SNS – the red zone – it changes your desires to consume. Your body naturally will want more sugar, more sweet foods. No wonder so many reach for refined sugary foods like a muffin or cake at 3pm in the afternoon for example. The worst part is often eating like this can lead to guilt. Many women get home and figure they ate the cake, they have ruined it for the day so they have wine and cheese when they get home and then think stuff it – I have blown it might as well have dessert too! Then, they lie in bed trying to sleep feeling so guilty and beating themselves up. And whilst you might think oh well start again tomorrow and even if you think you will find the will power you have to remember we are built on ancient mechanisms – glucose to power the fight or flight response – and these will override and dominate behaviours. We forget and seem to think that we cannot control what we do. That something else is controlling us.
Well, in fact you can change those mechanisms and slowly but surely with the right intention – especially one of gratitude – you can simply take yourself out of the red zone and into the green zone. Creating less stress is a great place to start. Being kinder to yourself is a real winner. If you can begin your day thinking about how ridiculously grateful you’re you are giving your body the best chance to be in the PNS – the green zone. You wake up feeling energised and avoid long periods of time in the red zone. Better still add in a ritual like the Daily Body Boost and you are really setting yourself up for a great day.
But here’s another step further. It has been proven that the biggest thing that truly helps to change the bio-chemistry is your external breath and extending it. Taking nice long deep breaths into the belly where your tummy extends as well as your chest has been proven to massage internal organs and create internal calm. Aim to take three to twenty nice long slow breaths each day. First thing in the morning might be a good time for you to try or just as you are going to bed. When you breathe slowly fat is used way more efficiently and your desire for sugar lessens. How good is that! Simply become breath aware. Place your right hand over your naval then the left hand over that. Practice breathing by moving your tummy as well, see your hands move as you breathe.
Most people believe the opposite to stress is calm. Dr Libby believes it is trust. Two things in particular that cause stress tend to be about:
1. What you really care about or
2. What frightens you
So much stress comes from your beautiful heart. It is remarkable that you care so much or are worried about something… And most women are raised to be a good girl. It is the highest of human needs to serve and contribute. That’s all very well but what is this really doing to your health? Think about the things that really stress you. Even take a moment to write them down just so you are aware of them. Do you wake each morning feeling like – Wow! I have such a busy day today, I am so excited! Or do you feel like – OMG! I have got so much to get done today…
Now ask yourself if you are stressed about it – is it fear? Fear you will miss out? Or fear of letting other people down? Your emotions drive a lot of behaviours and experiences. Sometimes a change in perspective can help. Trusting that it is all imperfectly perfect. You are ok and it is what it is. Remember – you’ve got this. Good nutrition is obviously another highly important factor. Just remember that any diet change should come from a place of kindness not harshness. You want to eat better because you value yourself, not because you want to lose weight or someone told you that you had to. Adopting a more SLOW food (seasonal, local, organic and whole) approach, even eating more greens and increasing your water intake will certainly serve you and set you on the right path.
And try the breath exercise. Here’s a bonus – add in essential oils to your breathing exercise to truly anchor in its benefits. One of my absolutely favourites for this kind of work and de-stressing is Sandalwood.
Sandalwood is one of the most beautiful, grounding and most of precious oils to create a sense of oneness. It is renowned for promoting a profound sense of well-being. It can soothe nervous tension and anxiety and is ideal when you are worried or feeling like you have little control. It is a wonderful oil to help relieve stress and support an increase in confidence and self-esteem. Take your beautiful bottle of Sandalwood, try this amazing ritual and see what unfolds.
Place a drop of Sandalwood onto a tissue and tuck it into your top. Light your vaporiser, add 4 drops Sandalwood, 2 drops Geranium and 3 drops Lime or Orange. Or make a spritzer with the same oils. Find a place of rest, either sitting on your bed, on a comfortable chair, even the floor. As long as you are upright and comfortable and your vaporiser or spritzer is close. Now sit quietly, take three deep, relaxed breaths and centre yourself. Now focus on the breath and as you take a breath in say aloud or within ‘I am at one with the universe, I am grounded and embrace all that is.’ Then breathe out relaxed and slowly. Repeat it again and now really focus on those words and what you are actually saying. Aim for twenty long slow breaths. Then slowly, allow your breath to carry your thoughts for another few minutes or for as long as you desire. And trust when you feel the time is ready to slowly bring your awareness to the present moment, you can smile and be grateful for all that is.
I hope you love this Sandalwood ritual… In my humble opinion it is pure magic in a bottle! Combine that with the knowledge you can reduce your stress levels with your breath alone is mind boggling. Add to that a quality whole food diet and you will find your health and mood improving in no time. Give it a try… you have nothing to lose!