Live Happy and Overcome Stress

by Kimberly Albarran, PT, DPT, ISSA Fitness, Nutrition Specialist and Health Coach

We have an autonomic nervous system: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), “fight or flight,” and parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) “rest and digest.” We need a balance, spending the majority of time in our PNS for proper sleep, digestion, mental health, clarity and hormone balance.

The term “stress” often has a negative connotation, but stress is not always bad. When faced with a new experience, like running a race or giving a speech, the stress response through the SNS helps us focus and be energized. After the activity or stress reduces or stops, the nervous system finds balance.

During prolonged stress day after day, month after month, physical or emotional, due to trauma, injury, family life, work, or whatever else, the SNS takes over increasing levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, into circulation. 

Excess cortisol causes increased circulating glucose, raising blood sugar and overtime can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes. It can also override production of certain hormones, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and DHEA contributing to hormone imbalance and inflammation, weight gain, sleep disturbance, mood imbalances, chronic pain and other chronic conditions.

This does not have to stay our fate. With wellness coaching, I focus on four pillars of health: nutrition, movement, mindfulness and sleep. These tools can help:

  • Sleep seven to nine hours in a dark, cool bedroom wearing loose-fitting clothes. Keep a regular sleep schedule.
  • Try Calm magnesium or Epsom salt baths.
  • Turn off electronics: Blue light at night causes reduced melatonin production and increased cortisol production.
  • Seek counseling.
  • Pray, meditate, use positive affirmations.
  • Eat whole foods and foods high in fiber (fruits/veggies); reduce processed, refined and packaged foods high in sugar. 
  • Move every 90 minutes to use cortisol and metabolize carbohydrates. 
  • Fasting. Intermittent fasting is beneficial for reducing insulin levels and using stored fat for energy. 

Before fasting or using oral magnesium check with your health care provider to make sure it is safe for you, especially with medications or conditions needing special consideration such and cardiovascular conditions, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.