Have you ever wondered why Zebra’s or other animals that are prey to scary predators don’t have a large array of health issues?
Me either until I was introduced to this research in undergrad.
I had an awesome professor that recommended the book “Why Zebra’s Don’t Get Ulcers” by researcher and author Robert Sapolsky. (Worth the read if you ever have a free moment 😀) The book combines research and practical advice to explain how prolonged stress causes a whole range of physical and mental afflictions: depression, ulcers, colitis, heart disease, and reproduction issues, including hormones!
You, a Zebra, are enjoying a refreshing drink at the watering hole with your friends. Mr. lion jumps out from the tall grass and wants to make you his lunch.
You lunge to the left to escape his first swipe and take off sprinting across the Savanna. Your muscles are tense, your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate increase, all to transport nutrients and oxygen at greater rates.
During this fight or flight response, your body is taking energy away from the expensive building projects including: digestion, tissue repair, sexual drive, ovulation, building sex hormones, and immunity.
The problem isn’t within the moment but more so with the prolonged stress. Overtime, the stress-response itself can become harmful leading to all kinds of issues.
Now, I wish it were as easy as saying stop being stressed and all would be peachy but I think we all know it is easier said than done.
I think the first step in the right direction is realizing that we need to prioritize recovery so that our bodies can get back to homeostasis.
When you skip out on eating or you grab coffee and a muffin for breakfast but then don’t eat the rest of the day, this can take a major toll on the adrenal stress system. This is because your brain is dependent on a steady supply of glucose to keep it happy and low blood sugar triggers your stress response. So to feed your brain, you need to plan ahead and have protein and high quality fat at every meal. DON’T SKIP MEALS!
If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no 😀
There are plenty of invitations, offers, and requests we feel we need to say “yes” to. In the moment, some of those things may seem pretty exciting. But pretty soon, we end up with too many events, activities, or volunteer clubs. Like buyer’s remorse, we end up overwhelmed and stressed and wish we had said no.
People will always push the boundaries so we need to be radical about setting them.
Try this: learn to say yes to only the things that you spend some time thinking about in advance. Assess your time and energy for doing those things and whether or not they will support your “brand” for living a fulfilled life.
Fix your “energy leaks”
We all know the person who shows up on our phone id or text wanting your help/advice. After 5 minutes of back and forth, you feel exhausted and depleted. Some relationships just drain our energy.
I am not saying you need to just shut people out of your life unless there is a very good reason to do so but rather setting bold boundaries with these “energy sucking” people.
I think we have a misconception about what exercise needs to be for it to be beneficial. Exercise can be a huge stress reliever but overexercising can be a thing too. What I recommend is 30 minutes of some form of movement everyday. This can be walking, gardening, or running around with your kids. Then three days a week, ideally, a combination of cardio and weights.
I really hate the word “self-care”. I feel like it is a cliche word that gets thrown around often. So, I am going to use non-negotiable time for yourself 🙃. Whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, everyone needs time to themselves to recharge. Some activities I personally love to recharge are:
Whatever brings you comfort and relaxation…do those things
Side note: This does not include drinking alcohol despite what all the cutesy kitchen towels are saying out there. Don’t get me wrong, I love a glass of wine every now and again but alcohol can wreak havoc on our hormones, sleep, and overall health.
I think it’s important to check in with ourselves. Asking ourselves, how are we feeling? Do you notice tightening of your shoulders, jaw, or pelvic floor? Are you taking a more shallow breath pattern? All of these things are symptoms of stress.
Outside the physical signs of stress, we spend a lot of time in our heads. Worrying about the things we cannot control, trying to control everything around us, or even having a one-sided perspective of things. When you find yourself stuck in a hamster wheel, checking in and asking yourself, what is truth? Is this serving me? Awareness can bring about a lot of change.
Does all this stress you out just thinking about it? 😂
My only ask, choose one thing you can do today to take steps in the right direction of change.
You are worth it, friend.
PS…if you feel like your hormones may be a little whacky…let me help! Send me an email and we can hop on a call.