Founder Jovial King in her garden (photo from DIY Bitters)
We have all heard that our moods (and even our thoughts) don’t live in our heads. For example, we’ve known for a while that serotonin, an important neurotransmitter that regulates mood, is found in abundance in the GI tract. Its role there includes managing mucus production and acid production, as well as – possibly – helping to regulate mood. Serotonin-producing cells in the GI tract, furthermore, seem to need the right signals from our gut flora (the beneficial bacteria that live in our intestines) to function properly, which lends additional credence to the notion that our moods are intimately connected to our internal ecologies.
But what of our external ecologies? Is there any evidence that being outside might positively impact our moods? We are, in fact, exploring this connection more and more: from “forest-bathing”, which consistently seems to reduce stress and anxiety, to Dr. Andrea Taylor’s work on relieving symptoms of attention deficit by walking in nature
As the year comes to a close, with some relief; and some anxiety about the state of our world in the future, we can turn to some simple routines to nourish ourselves. Sometimes it feels like time is moving too quickly, and the sense of longevity dwindles with the daily checklists and the demanding reality of our jobs, family lives, and social responsibilities. Time seems to speed up and the practice of personal time isn’t high on our lists. Living in a world that demands every ounce of your energy and attention requires radical self-care, particularly at the New Year and after the holidays. It builds the foundational blocks for the rest of the year and re-establishes a relationship with our deepest self and a genuine meaning of who we are and what we love.
Self-care not only builds our reserves and keeps our systems healthy and well, but it also de-clutters our mind and allows for more positive thinking to take place.
The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to turn inward and refocus on our needs. We will be better people for it. And our world needs strong and fiercely passionate people to be engaged and connected.
We all know what happens with elaborate New Year’s resolutions: they aren’t very lasting, and then we feel worse about letting them slip a week into the new year. Focus on small, tangible habits that will sustain the core of who you are and the changes you’d like to see. Everybody has different wants and needs— a nourishing ritual for […]
Spoiler alert: there’s no single silver-bullet to manage your stress. Because there’s probably not one single thing that’s stressing you out. That’s normal – you’re busy, and busyness and stress often go hand-in-hand.
And that’s ok. In fact, some stress is actually good for you.
But most of us (me included) could do with less stress. And that’s when stress management techniques become helpful.
Here are five simple ideas to try when the going gets tough.
- Deep breathing
Stress response can include difficulty breathing. When we take shallow, rapid breaths, it signals to our brain that things are not ok.
One simple technique is to concentrate on breathing deeply. You can try roll breathing for daily maintenance, and 4-4-4 breathing throughout the day as-needed. Simply inhale slowly for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and exhale slowly for 4 seconds.
Seems easy right? That’s because it is! But don’t let the simplicity fool you: this exercise can have a profound effect on stress by quieting your mind and slowing your heartbeat.
Sometimes the best response to stress is to think about something else until you are in a place to calmly (and productively) address whatever is stressing you out. But that can be difficult in the moment. A trick that works for me is to move my body.
Go for a short walk. Do some stretches. Do a handstand (safely). Jump […]
Our two adrenal glands are located on top of each kidney. From this perch, they not only have access to a rich blood supply, but are also close to the site of fluid and mineral balance in the body. This makes sense given their role: they participate in the stress response, of course, but are also involved in energy, libido, lean muscle growth, immune response, blood pressure, blood sugar, and water balance. So you can see how the hormones secreted by our adrenal glands have far-ranging effects: from the short-acting jolt of adrenaline to the longer-term influence of cortisol, which modulates metabolism in the liver, reduces our sensitivity to insulin, and suppresses inflammation (and immunity). We think of the adrenal glands as producing stress hormones, and this is true – but while we can perceive the effects of acute stress (heart racing, clammy hands, perhaps some anxiety), it is the more subtle ongoing hormonal activity of the adrenals that ends up having more profound effects on energy, metabolism, sleep, and mood. Unfortunately, this is hard to see until it’s gone: when our adrenal function begins to drop off, we notice fatigue, lack of motivation, metabolic slowdown, sleep disruptions, and more pain.
It is this last piece that usually serves as a good indicator that our adrenal function is sub-optimal: if we recover more slowly from vigorous exercise, feeling more fatigue – and crucially, more pain – after a big hike, or an extra-long jog, it can often mean that our reserve of adrenal hormones is flagging. This ability to recover and feel ready again is a key piece of the adrenal response, and, as it turns out, to healthy sleep patterns, too. […]