Stress Better to Function Well

| Mindset

Stress better to function well by Sylvia

I recently returned from an Andrew Huberman event where he said something that I found fascinating; “ stress is NOT bad for you, provided you get enough sleep’.
We have covered the basics of sleep already in a previous blog but let’s delve into STRESS and how we can function well alongside it, maybe even embrace it a little.

As I was doing my physiological sigh (two quick inhales followed by a longer exhale) as my domestic flight was delayed by 7 hours – I noticed how fast my acute stress level was impacted – this is Dr Huberman’s fastest method of influencing the autonomic nervous system to calm you down. There are plenty of videos online on how to do it but it’s as easy as it sounds.

Understanding stress involves recognising its types and impacts:
• Acute Stress: Short-term stress that can enhance performance and adaptation.
• Chronic Stress: Long-term stress without proper recovery, harming mental health and longevity.
• Hormetic Stress: Beneficial low-dose stress that promotes adaptation but becomes harmful at high levels.

Solutions to stress need to embrace a combination of approaches:

How we interpret stressors can significantly influence our physiological and psychological responses. Embracing some stoicism, which is focusing on what is within our control and focusing on strengths, virtues, and practices that contribute to a fulfilling life such as gratitude, visualisation, and setting meaningful goals can mitigate stress by shifting focus from problems to opportunities for growth.

Techniques such as box breathing (inhale-hold-exhale-hold) or the physiological sigh can help reduce acute stress levels by directly influencing the autonomic nervous system. These specific breathing patterns are particularly effective at calming the nervous system by balancing oxygen and Co2 levels.
I favour having a longer exhale than an inhale every time I feel my breathing is rapid and shallow (which is associated with anxiety and stress).

Light exposure:
Light exposure plays a critical role in regulating our circadian rhythms and mood. Exposure to natural sunlight, especially the morning blue spectrum, can significantly enhance mood, energy levels, and sleep quality by resetting our internal clocks. This, in turn, can make us more resilient to stress. So get outside within the first hour of waking up for at least 10-30 minutes of natural light exposure!

Regular physical activity is shown to release neurochemicals like endorphins and neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, which improve mood and resilience to stress.

Learning new skills or engaging in challenging but achievable tasks can improve the brain’s resilience to stress.
Having an ice bath is a wonderful example of a challenge that works on the hermetic response and fortifies your mindset!

Heart Rate Variability:
Learning methods on how to increase your HRV – we can explore these in a future article.
HRV is an important biomarker for assessing the balance between the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) and the sympathetic nervous system (flight or fight) and, consequently, is closely related to stress and overall well-being.

Social Connection:
Observations from clients wearing Oura rings indicate a clear trend: increased social engagement, family interaction, and support from loved ones are directly linked to improved HRV. This observation is supported by substantial research showing how positive social interactions can effectively mitigate stress impacts. Interacting with friends, family, like-minded communities and gym members offers emotional support, diminishes feelings of loneliness, and plays a crucial role in stress management.

When your actions are aligned with a higher purpose, challenges and stressors are more easily perceived as hurdles on the path to fulfilling one’s mission rather than insurmountable obstacles. This shift in perception can significantly reduce the impact of stress.

It’s important to consume foods that reduce cortisol and promote a balanced HPA axis including omega-3-rich foods, B vitamin-rich foods, vitamin C-rich foods, and magnesium, as well as probiotics and prebiotics for their role in reducing cortisol. Remember to avoid sugar, processed foods, refined carbohydrates, and inflammatory fats that can elevate cortisol levels!

Take away points:
The more sunrises and sunsets you watch – the better your stress adaptation will be. If you love more, move more, breathe and eat better and get the right light, you are well on the way to improving and managing your stress response.

I invite you to a free 30-minute discovery call with me to see how you’re handling your stress.