7 Common Sense Ways to Have Uncommon Peace of Mind (or How To Stop Your Stress Hormone In Its Tracks)
1. Don't "find time" for sleep. Make time for sleep. You may have always said, "I'll sleep when I'm dead." What you should have known was, "If I don't sleep, I'll be dead." Sleep is incredibly important to reducing cortisol levels, disease risk, promoting healthy weight and a host of other essential functions your body performs.
a. You should be getting a minimum of 7 hours a night, and a maximum of 9 (studies have shown that sleeping past nine hours a night is actually harmful to your long term health, although scientists haven't pinpointed exactly why, yet.)
b. Note: if you have trouble falling asleep and/or are sleeping poorly, your cortisol levels are probably out of whack. This is very common with busy, stressed people. Instead of the cortisol spike in the morning as nature intends, their cortisol levels are low in the morning (cue the cranky, I dont want to go to work feeling), and high at night (making it hard to fall asleep). Sounds familiar?
2. Use an alarm like Sleep Cycle to wake up when during your lightest phase of sleep. Sleep Cycle (get it on your smartphone) measures your body's movement during the night and detects when you enter different phases of sleep. It's easiest (and lowest-stress) to wake up to an alarm when you're in the lightest phase of sleep, so you set a "range" of time for the app (so you still wake up with enough time to get ready for the day). It will then detect your brain waves, figure out when youre in your lightest sleep phase, and wakes you up then.
3. Exercise consistently, but no more than 60-75 minutes on any day (including warmups). When you have a workout routine that incorporates strength training and cardiovascular exercise, you build muscle, increase your brain's creation of new serotonin and dopamine receptors (thereby reducing your anxiety and risk of depression) and help to use up energy unleashed by your alreadyhigh cortisol levels. By releasing extra tension through a workout, you also feel better and make your body less apt to flood your bloodstream with stress hormones. Youll also sleep like a baby the night of a hard workout.
4. Meditate (or pray). Taking time to really focus on staying calm and relaxed, and to think about all of the blessings and kindness in your life can have a wonderful impact on your overall wellbeing. It's also one of the most effective methods out there for relieving your high cortisol levels. If you don't have much experience with meditation, it's okay there are many helpful and secular guided meditation videos on YouTube or around the Internet you can use to get started. The best times to meditate are in the morning, just before bed or any time during the day you're feeling particularly stressed out or anxious. Take some time, find your center, rediscover how good it feels to be grounded in the present moment, and feel your stress slip away from you.
a. A companion to meditation, or even replacement if youre not ready yet to meditate, is a journal where you record 3 wins for the day and 3-5 things to get done the next day. This is one of my secrets to massive productivity/GSD (getting sh*t done).
5. Eat a protein-rich breakfast. When you wake up, you're generally in a catabolic state, because your body is fasting. This doesnt mean your body is breaking down all your muscle, but it does mean your body may not function at 100%. When you're eating breakfast, though, you're breaking the fast hence the name of the meal and doing so with a healthy, proteinrich breakfast gets your energy levels higher, faster.
a. If youre doing intermittent fasting (IF for short; well discuss this later), I would definitely have the morning cup of coffee (with some MCT oil or butter/cream) so youre not a walking corpse all morning.
i. Even most cultures or religions that fast have small, light meals throughout fasts. So dont think you have to be a Spartan and starve yourself just because its called a fast.
6. Grab a nap. If your schedule allows it, skip the afternoon coffee/energy drink/soda and take a power nap instead 1520 minutes is all you need to start feeling the benefits.
7. Reduce your alcohol intake. You shouldn't be drinking much if you're trying to lose weight and get healthy anyway, but alcohol also causes major problems for your stress levels. Don't exceed a single beer/glass of wine/1 oz. serving of liquor per day. This is one of the major causes of slow, or no, weight loss even on a perfect plan. We just dont realize that what we think is 1 glass of wine is actually 3 glasses of wine. So, have a max of 1 oz. shot of liquor, a 5 oz. glass of wine, or 12 oz. can of beer, and make sure you count it in your daily calories. (Or just get super serious and cut it out all together!)
Bonus point: Cut out electronics within 1-2 hours before sleep. Instead, train your mind to get into sleep mode by reading taking a bath, just relaxing, or reading some fiction (non-fiction gets you thinking and making plans before bed, which wont help you fall asleep). Ill admit, Im not great at following this rule, but when I do it successfully even for a few nights, I sleep like a baby.
Besides these strategies, there is ONE thing you should do to resolve the biggest source of stress in our lives - staying at a healthy fit, weight. Do solve that, make sure you do this...
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