Stress takes a toll on our bodies:
- Stress can lead to insomnia, or sleep deficiency. According to the National Institute of Health, “Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Sleep deficiency also increases the risk of obesity. For example, one study of teenagers showed that with each hour of sleep lost, the odds of becoming obese went up.”
- Stress eating is a well-known phenomena in our hurried culture, when we find ourselves eating on the run, or eating when we’re not hungry. Our minds are consumed with mental stress, and not listening to the cues of our body. Other negative behaviors connected to stress are drug and alcohol abuse.
- According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the liver ‘metabolizes’ stress in the same way it metabolizes alcohol. The Hepatitis C Support Project published their findings on the connection of stress and liver disease: “In the part of the brain that controls the liver, stress was found to impair blood flow and may lead to or trigger liver damage. Stress can exert a dual effect(enhancement or reduction) of the inflammatory process that takes place in the liver. … Stress, depression and anger can go hand in hand.”
This article from the European Journal of Pharmacology examined the relation of stress and brain plasticity (meaning our neural connections will re-wire in an adaptive response to environmental stimuli, sometimes these new neural connections are temporary and can be reversed, chronic stimulation can lead to ‘hard-wired’ connections):
“Stress begins in the brain and affects the brain, as well as the rest of the body. Acute stress responses promote adaptation and survival via responses of neural, cardiovascular, autonomic, immune and metabolic systems. Chronic stress can promote and exacerbate pathophysiology through the same systems that are dysregulated. The burden of chronic stress and accompanying changes in personal behaviors (smoking, eating too much, drinking, poor quality sleep; otherwise referred to as “lifestyle”) is called allostatic overload.”
Many of my clients come in with chronic conditions that are the body’s compensation for long-standing and deep stress. Take a moment to identify the stressors in your life, write them down with gentle awareness and kindness toward yourself (as opposed to using this as another source of stress…)
Should we treat the presenting dis-ease symptoms or the underlying cause? Depending on the urgency of the case, we may need to start immediately with symptoms, and once those are calmed down enough, we can take a deeper look.
Easy DIY Self-care Strategies
No matter what kind of treatment you are receiving, taking the initiative to incorporate hard core self care will accelerate your healing. One of the best systems of self-care that I have encountered so far is Ayurvedic. If you’ve ever travelled to India (or if your best friends are from India), you will notice some of these rituals are ingrained in the culture: neti (saline sinus rinse) and nasya (cleansing and lubricating sinus oil), self-abyangha (self-massage with warm oil), yoga Nidra (here’s a link to a guided Yoga Nidra meditation), afternoon tea. Consulting a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner is a great way to learn about your constitution, and what self-care rituals would be most potent for your personal healing.
Other self-care rituals that I recommend incorporating – not as a special pampering, but as an actual prescription for health:
- take a long, hot bath with epsom salt, essential oils, candles and soft music
- take a long, slow walk through nature
- foot soaks with Epsom salts and essential oils
- do an herbal respiratory steam: place one to two Tablespoons of herbs (I like to use our Deep Breath Tea, my mom would toss in every kitchen herb, basil, rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano) in 5-6 cups of cold water. Place on the stove, bring to a boil. When it’s boiling, place pot on a trivet and lean over the steaming pot with a towel or blanket over your head. Breathe deeply, slowly, and relax deeply as your pores open, and allow the essential oils from the steam to permeate your sinuses, your throat and your lungs. When it stops steaming, strain out the herbs and drink the tea slowly.
- Castor oil packs! Wherever you have chronic pain, cramping, or even acute sharp pains on the abdomen or back rub in castor oil (or put oil onto a cloth) and place over the affected area. Place a hot water bottle, wrapped in a thin towel over the oil and rest at least 30 minutes while the castor oil soaks into the skin, muscles and organs releasing tension, and cleansing out accumulated toxins.
- Skip a meal and take a nap instead.
Are you inspired to take radically amazingly good care of yourself?
Turn your paper over an draw your self-care plan. Take a picture of your creation and send it to connect@theholistichomestead – we’d love to see your creativity, and your strategies for a stress-less and self-loving life.
Here’s to your health! – Arwen