Stress Recovery 101

The key to recovering from stress is to give your adrenals glands some extra TLC. This is because your adrenals are the organs responsible for responding to stress in your body by releasing cortisol and adrenaline. This process is essential as it ensures our body is able to react to the stress so we can survive, however it can take a toll.  With the constant barrage of stress in our day-to-day life, little or large, it can leave our adrenals feeling overworked and pretty depleted. 


So what are some signs that your adrenals need some support:

  • Unexplained fatigue

  • Feeling overwhelmed

  • Not being  able to handle challenges well, like a long checkout line or having a difficult conversation with a boss

  • Feeling rundown

  • Trouble waking up in the morning or not feeling well rested when you wake up

  • Getting a second wind later in the evening, making it hard to fall asleep, despite being tired

  • Craving salty or sweet foods

  • Feeling the need for caffeine to keep you going

  • Weight gain, especially around the stomach/hips section

Do some of these sound familiar? Time to support our adrenal health, check out these ways to show your adrenal glands some love.


Get Better Sleep. This is a challenging one, because sleep is essential to help your adrenals heal, but the more dysfunctional your adrenals are, often the worse your sleep patterns are. This is because cortisol, which is released when you are stressed, impacts your regular circadian rhythm and sleep pattern. Some tips for a better sleep:

  • Aim for 8 hours of actual sleep. This means the 45 minutes of lying in your bed each night before you can get to sleep, does not count towards your 8 hours. 

  • Go to bed by 10pm at the latest. This is because our body has natural sleep patterns making falling asleep more difficult after this point. 

  • Keep a consistent bedtime and wake-up time as this helps your body regulate its circadian rhythm. 

  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine. This is going to be different for everyone, so try different things maybe stretching, reading, meditating, skin care routine. Avoid stimulating activities like scrolling on our phones, watching TV, checking work emails and eating etc.  


Add in Gentle Exercise. More isn’t always better. Exercise is a stress on our body, albeit a good one, but if your body is already dealing with a lot of stress, it can be overkill. I know encouraging you to take it easy when it comes to exercise goes against the cultural norms and likely even our own personal beliefs about exercise, but take it slow, once you have recovered you can go all out again. Some tips for exercise that will help you recover:

  • Focus on gentle, restorative exercises, like walking, yoga, cycling and swimming. 

  • Slow your pace and reduce your intensity. 

  • Listen to your body. Often when my body needs to recover, whether or not I am aware of it, my motivation for more intense exercise, like running, isn’t there. I want nothing more than a nice hike in the woods. 


Balance your Blood Sugars. We have all felt them, those mid-afternoon energy crashes. This is a sign of blood sugar imbalances. Since cortisol is responsible for controlling our blood sugar, it makes sense that constant stress leaves our blood sugars out of wack. Some tips to help you balance your blood sugars and reduce the impact of cortisol on your body:

  • Have balanced meals that contain fat, protein and carbohydrates. Having all three macronutrients slows down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, so our blood sugar doesn’t spike.

  • Add seeds and nuts to a meal or snack. This is a great source of  both fat and protein, which is what people are typically lacking in their meals. My favourite are brazil nuts, almonds, pecans, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds and chia seeds. 

  • Watch out for refined or added sugar in processed foods. It’s often hiding in our favourite hot and cold drinks, “healthy” snacks and bars, dressings and sauces. Read the nutrition facts table for more information, and remember 1 teaspoon is 4mg of sugar.

  • Eat within 1 hour of waking. I know intermittent fasting is all the craze, but similar to exercise, it can be too much additional stress on your body if your adrenals are not functioning as they should. 

  • Have small snacks to avoid blood sugar dips. Remember to aim for snacks with  fat, protein and carbohydrates. Think veggies with hummus and guacamole, dried fruit, nut and seed concoction, plain yogurt with nuts, celery and nut butter, roasted chickpeas or hard-boiled eggs.  


Avoid Excess Caffeine and Sugar. It's natural to reach for that that extra cup of coffee or to grab that mid-afternoon danish when our energy is dragging, but these are simply crutches. They make us feel better in the moment, but hurting the adrenals in the long run by impacting our sleep and blood sugar balance. Some tips to limit your reliance on caffeine and sugar:

  • Substitute non-caffeinated or less caffeinated beverages. 

  • If you are having a caffeinated beverage, opt for a medium instead of a large.

  • Have healthier snack options easily available, especially some some that satisfy those sugary and salty cravings. Check out the snack ideas above.


Reflection

  1. How is your sleep? What can you do to improve your sleep quality, quantity or routine?

  2. Are you finding ways to move your body everyday?

  3. Do you find your physical activity routine leaves you feeling more exhausted and leaves you recovering for days?

  4. Do you find yourself having energy crashes throughout the day? What do you do when you feel this way?

  5. Are you making sure you have a healthy source of fat, protein and carbohydrates in your meals?



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