Are your coping mechanisms maxed out?
As a population, we are overwhelmed with too many demands on our time. Only you know what is stressing you out. Maybe it’s your family, your boss, finances, job security, or school. Whatever it is, there may be steps that you can take to remove that source of stress. If you can’t do that, here are a few ways to help you handle that burden more effectively.
- Exercise is key. A healthy, active body copes with stress better. Not to mention that exercise also produces feel-good endorphins.
- Get outside! Your cortisol (stress hormone) level is lower when you are outdoors (1)
- Add some meditation, deep breathing, or yoga to your day, even if it’s only for 5 minutes. Five is better than zero!
- Change your mindset. Your perception is your reality. How you perceive a stressful situation affects your body’s response to it. A simple mental shift helps your nervous system to remain in a calm, therapeutic state. Look at a challenge as an opportunity to grow and learn rather than a monumental problem or setback.
- Find ways to be helpful. Volunteering to help others keeps your mind occupied, prevents ruminating over the situation, gives you the satisfaction of making someone else’s life better, and makes time pass more quickly.
- Don’t over commit. If your ability to cope is compromised, maybe you have too many responsibilities. Take a close look at your commitments and think of how you can eliminate any unnecessary demands. Remember that the goal is to rest, relax, and restore your nervous system.
- Make time for the activities you enjoy. What do you love to do? Read a good book, take a relaxing bath, or do some tai chi, meditation, or yoga.
Be sure to support your stress systems
Your adrenal glands are your stress glands. They help your body to deal with stress. They communicate with your brain via your HPA axis. Under stress, your HPA axis fires up to increase the secretion of adrenaline and cortisol, and elevate your heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
Long term stress depletes vital vitamins and minerals for your adrenal glands and your HPA axis. Restoring these sometimes works wonders to restore resiliency and coping skills.
Eat a balanced diet
For the HPA axis to function correctly, it needs lots of vitamin C, vitamin B5, B6, magnesium, and zinc. A healthy intake of these vitamins and minerals helps your coping glands do their job effectively.
The best foods for these vitamins and minerals are dark, green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, Swiss chard, rapini, and spring mix salad greens. Incorporate plenty of these every day, along with protein, healthy fats, and a variety of fruit and vegetables.
Certain herbs are suitable for your HPA axis and help your body handle stress more efficiently. These are called adaptogens—one of the most common adaptogens is ginseng. I don’t often recommend this one for anxious people, as it can be too stimulating.
Adaptogens that I often use are Schisandra, Centella, Rhodiola, Ashwagandha, Astragalus and Holy Basil.
Supplementation is best discussed with your naturopathic doctor to get the right product, at the correct dose, that doesn’t conflict with any medical conditions or medications that you are taking.
Focusing on a healthy lifestyle, eliminating stress (where possible), exercising daily, eating a balanced diet, and making time to find joy and peace, will all help you to cope more effectively with the everyday stressors life throws your way.
Authored by Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND
Dr. Pamela has been in practice as a naturopathic doctor in Toronto since 1999. She has been the recipient of numerous “Best Naturopath in Toronto” awards. She is registered with the College of Naturopaths of Ontario.
Dr. Pamela Frank uses a natural treatment approach that may include acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutrition, diet, vitamins, supplements, and other natural remedies to restore balance and provide long-term resolution of almost any health problem.
- Ruth Ann Luna, Jane A Foster, Gut-Brain Axis: Diet Microbiota Interactions and Implications for Modulation of Anxiety and Depression, Curr Opin Biotechnol. 2015 Apr;32:35-41. doi: 10.1016/j.copbio.2014.10.007. Epub 2014 Nov 21.