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Four Easy Ways to Dial Down Your Stress Response

As a Business Owner, you have a lot of stress. It’s nearly impossible to clock out. You push, and push, and then push some more.

You are not alone.

It seems by nature that I have always been a stressed-out person. I think most high-achieving business owners are.

We have high standards. We put that pressure on ourselves – not to mention the pressure put on us by our jobs, our families, and our culture.

Stress manifests in different ways. For me it’s short-temperedness. For others, it could show up as weight gain, insomnia, depression or high blood pressure. For everyone it feels like general unhappiness.

And it’s this constant state of stress that leads to fatigue, among other health issues and diseases.

You see, when your mind perceives a stressful situation, your body has only one stress response. This means that your body reacts to all stressors (whether real or imagined) in the exact same way—by activating the sympathetic branch of your nervous system, known as the “fight or flight mode”. Every time we are stressed, our bodies automatically enter fight or flight mode, getting us ready, for instance, to either engage in battle or run away from it.

While we can’t necessarily eliminate the stress in our lives – particularly living in our current time of a pandemic, economic uncertainties, political and social unrest, among other issues – we can do things to keep our bodies from experiencing the stress.

While our minds perceive stress, our bodies don’t have to respond to it. That way, you are working to keep your body in what’s called the “rest and digest mode” – or parasympathetic dominant mode.

Your parasympathetic nervous system is crucial for relaxation, regeneration, and repair.

In fact, all health maintenance processes — including digestion, detoxification, immune activities, tissue regeneration and arousal — are turned on only when your body is in a parasympathetic state.

So how do you help your body enter a parasympathetic state?

Reducing stressors in your life is an obvious first step. But easier said than done, right?

For instance, how easy would it be for you to:

• Put less pressure on yourself?
• Ask for help?
• Say "no"?
• Delegate to someone else?
• Finally, make that decision?

No matter how hard you try, you won’t eliminate stress altogether. So, here are four ways you can help reduce its effect on you:

1. Making physical changes can have a huge impact in how your body reacts to stress. All the following suggestions are scientifically proven to minimize the negative, physical effects of stress, even when your mind can’t stop:

  • Deep breathing
  • Meditation
  • Walk in nature
  • Unplug (read a book, take a bath)
  • Exercise (yoga, tai chi, etc.)
  • Connect with loved ones
  • Think of something nice, something that brings you happiness and joy

2. Food choices that have the right kind of nutrients can help calm your nervous system and set you up for better energy. If you choose the right foods, you can actually transform your stress response with zero extra time. I’m not talking about subtle changes. I’m talking about serious transformation.

Here’s why:

Your dietary choices have a dramatic impact on the balance and function of your nervous system. Diets high in sugar, artificial chemicals, and stimulants — including caffeine, soda and many chemicals found in processed foods — can activate your sympathetic nervous system and trigger the release of stress hormones.

Conversely, a nutrient-dense diet rich in organic vegetables, ethically sourced protein and healthy fats can help support the parasympathetic nervous system and calm the sympathetic nervous system.

Protein helps provide a healthy source of vital amino acids that calm your nervous system. Similarly, a variety of organic fruits and vegetables helps support the optimum balance of beneficial bacteria in your gut, which prevents the overgrowth of opportunistic bacteria that can activate your sympathetic nervous system and contribute to health problems.

I have put together a free 6-day meal plan, "Eating for Happiness".  It's packed with nutrients such as magnesium, vitamin B6, iron and fiber to offer extra support during times of stress. Click here for free recipe plan.

3. Take a load off

We can often be in the sympathetic mode (flight or fight) because we have outstanding tasks or to-do's that are lingering in the back of our minds … they’re nagging us. Every time you are reminded of these things you haven’t done yet, your body has a stress reaction – whether you realize it or not.

What is one thing that you have been wanting to do but keep putting off? That could be clearing your desk, returning a phone call(s), a decision that you have been putting off, etc. Once you decide, put the time in your calendar for when you will do it.

4. How you eat is just as important as what you eat

Ask any business owner how many hours per day they simply relax and enjoys themselves. They’ll probably laugh.

Feelings of overwhelm and trouble sleeping. Trouble conceiving. Digestive issues. Sugar cravings. Low sex drive. Relying on coffee to wake up. Holding onto weight as a crisis-mode energy reserve.

These are signs that your stress response is getting triggered over and over and over, without you even being aware of it.

We all have to eat as some point in the day. Mealtime is an easy way to purposefully activate your rest-and-digest response.

By activating your parasympathetic nervous system before and during eating, you can ensure optimal digestion. This helps to reduce reflux, indigestion and as well as helping you to better absorb the nutrients from your food that are critical to so many body processes. That’s one reason why it’s called the “rest and digest” mode.

Here’s how you can do it:

  • give thanks, express gratitude or take 5 deep breaths before each meal
  • chew slowly – so that each bite becomes like paste in your mouth before swallowing
  • avoid watching TV (or any screen) so that you’re not mindlessly eating
  • sit down while you’re eating and avoid standing, working at your desk or driving in your car
  • engage in relaxing conversation during your meal, tell jokes or plan your next trip

If this seems a bit too much to do, try incorporating just one new tip each week.

Remember, the goal isn’t to eliminate all stress. It’s nearly impossible in our modern lives. The goal is to keep your body from responding to the stress that your mind perceives.

If you commit to following these strategies for a few weeks, you will notice a big difference. You’ll be able to manage more and perform better. You’ll sleep better, smile more easily, and wonder why the heck you didn’t start sooner.

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