Stress is something everyone is familiar with, and it is something that impacts every area of your life. It can have a significant impact on your quality of life, as well as the quality of your relationships, your home and family life, your career, your energy levels, your mood, and so much more. Stress is inescapable, it is a factor in our busy lives filled with work, family, friends and personal goals. It is a complaint I hear about from the majority of my patients in my NW Calgary Naturopathic Medicine practice…and of course it is something I deal with myself on a daily basis. Everyone can use some support with Stress Management!
Stress alters the level of the hormone cortisol in our body, and this in turn affects levels of other hormones, impacting our sleep, energy, moods, ability to concentrate, ability to put on muscle mass or lose fat. A lot of my patients complain about feeling tired but wired, feeling unable to wind down, gaining weight especially on their abdomen or being unable to lose their belly fat, a weak immune system, feeling exhausted no matter how much they sleep, or a feeling of blah, lack of motivation and loss of interest in things that previously brought them joy. It can also be a trigger of more chronic illness or auto-immune disease. If we could be better at managing the stress levels in our lives, we would be able to minimize the above symptoms and maintain optimal levels of health as much as possible.
So, what if there was a way to alter the perception of this stress in our lives, and reduce the impact it had on our minds and bodies? Keep reading below to see how I address Stress management with my patients (and myself!) in my practice.
Lifestyle Counseling for Stress Management
Lifestyle is of course one of the main methods of managing our stress levels. Exercise is probably one of the most important things we can do to manage our stress levels! When we are stressed, our bodies are secreting higher levels of cortisol and adrenaline (the fight or flight hormones). These prepare our body for “flight” such as running from the bear that is chasing us. Our pupils dilate, our heart rate elevates, and blood is shunted away from our vital organs and into our limbs so we can run fast. So, the only way to “burn” or use up these hormones is to be physically active! A cardiovascular workout (walking briskly, running, biking, etc) that elevates our heart rate and allows us to breathe faster and sweat, will use up these hormones and allow us to feel more calm afterwards. If your medical doctor has given you the go ahead for cardiovascular exercise, this will be a very powerful method for you to deal with your stress hormones.
Of course, yoga and meditation are also great for dealing stress, as is being outside in nature, or by the water, or whatever you like personally for grounding your thoughts. A good social network is important here too, people you can talk to and “vent” rather than keeping everything inside. When you speak about your problems, you brain is about to analyze the information differently than when you were just thinking it. This is why journalling also can be a good method of releasing your troubles.
It is always important to make self-care and fun a priority in your life. These are ways to “fill your tank” so you’re not running on empty. These are activities that really make you happy, that give you an escape from your stresses….activities that really pull you into the moment and make you feel joy.
The above methods are just as important as any treatment that I can provide in my clinic, but used in combination, you can get even more powerful results.
Acupuncture for Stress Management
Acupuncture is a very powerful tool for dealing with the effects of stress: poor sleep, poor digestion, anxiety, active mind, fatigue, and more. By performing the Chinese Medicine tongue and pulse analysis, in combination with my patients symptoms, I can choose the most powerful points to treat them. The needles are left in between 20 to 30 minutes, and patients report feeling more calm, better digestion and improved sleep after treatments. Treatments are spaced closer together initially but eventually treatments are once a month for maintenance. You can read more about Acupuncture here.
Herbs for Stress Management
Herbs are also a very powerful tool in stress management. Based on the patients presentation of symptoms, I use either calming herbs (to reduce anxiety, calm the mind, improve sleep) or stimulating herbs (to help the blah, lack of motivation feeling). Of course the patient is first screened for any contraindications to these herbs. However, caution must be used in choosing the herb. Sometimes a patient is exhausted because they are so wired…and in this case, stimulating the patient would make things much worse. In this case calming herbs would be better to calm the patient first, and then build them back up again. You can read more about Botanical Medicine here.
Vitamins and Supplements for Stress Management
In periods of stress the body depletes nutrients much more quickly. It is important to replete these nutrients to impact energy, concentration, sleep, immune system, and more. Sometimes when a patient is deficient in certain nutrients, their ability to handle stress is decreased and they feel more easily overwhelmed. Supplements can help with stamina and moods as well so the perception of the stress is more balanced. You can read more about Professional Grade Supplements here.
Bowen Therapy for Stress Management
A lot of my patients complain about the physical impacts of stress, such as a tight neck and shoulders, headaches, aches and pains, and sports injuries. Bowen Therapy is a powerful tool for putting the body into a “parasympathetic” state, meaning the stress hormones are lowered and the body is more able to heal injuries. This treatment is very relaxing and is one of my personal favorites. You can read more about Bowen Therapy here.
Diet and Nutrition for Stress Management
Eating a balanced diet is important. Inadequate protein and high carbohydrate intake causes fluctuating blood sugar levels, which in turn elevates your cortisol levels, which you translate as feeling stressed. This also impacts your energy levels, your moods, your cravings, and your weight. Although it is difficult to make healthy food choices when you are stressed, if you can balance your blood sugar right from the start of the day, it will be easier to make healthy choices through out the day and decrease those stubborn food cravings. Trust me it does get easier! Food prepping can be very useful here if you can find the time in your schedule. I will take a look at your diet and see where you can make healthy changes, and help you with how to minimize your cravings so those choices are easier to make. You can read more about Diet and Nutrition here.
As you can see, there are so many treatment options to help you manage your stress levels! Please don’t hesitate to call me at my NW Calgary Naturopathic Medicine practice to discuss the treatment options that could be useful for you!
Naturopathic Vitality Acupuncture and Wellness Clinic
#205-5403 Crowchild Trail NW
Calgary, AB T3B 4Z1