Tag Archives: stress

Take Deep Breaths To Build-Up Your Immunity

 

Most of us are feeling a lot of stress right now. At certain moments, that stress can feel overwhelming and sabotage our wellbeing, including our immune health. 

 

There is no better time than now to learn how to harness the power of your built-in stress-regulating tool — the breath.

 

One of my favorite things to do to manage stress levels — at any time, but especially now — is to carve out time to take deep breaths. Breathing is a great tool you can “call upon at any time” you feel that stress is overtaking your peace of mind.. And from years of observing my patient’s breathing, I can tell you most people don’t know how to breathe properly — they are under-breathing.  

 

Before I share how to incorporate deep breaths, let me explain to you what stress does physiologically to your body.

 

When you feel stress, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is highest in the morning and tapers gradually throughout the day. At least, that’s what should happen. 

 

When cortisol stays too high for too long, your:

  • Mood suffers
  • Sleep suffers
  • Energy suffers, AND…

You’re more likely to gain weight! 

 

Your immune system suffers, so you’re more prone to infections. You’re also more likely to develop diseases like diabetes.1 

 

And yes, if you haven’t guessed: 

 

High cortisol levels can damage the delicate balance of your gut microbiome, reduce the integrity of your gut wall, and lead to leaky gut syndrome.2 

 

Elevated cortisol levels create what we call a “fight or flight” response. When you feel a sense of danger — real or perceived — the sympathetic nervous system kicks in. This involuntary system regulates things like heart rate, blood pressure, and digestion.

 

The sympathetic nervous system helped your ancestors survive when a saber-tooth tiger chased them, and it can keep you alive today when someone swerves into your lane on the freeway. But the sympathetic nervous system should do its job and then simmer down. Too often, it can stay TURNED ON far too long when you no longer need it. 

 

Fortunately, your autonomic nervous system also has a balancing arm — the parasympathetic nervous system, which does the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system: it calms your body downWhen you turn on the parasympathetic nervous system, which is your calm self, you slowly turn down the sympathetic nervous system.

 

You can activate the parasympathetic nervous system through yoga, meditation, and you guessed it — Taking DEEP Breaths.

 

The key is to find balance. The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems should work together. Think of your sympathetic as your “start” button, whereas your parasympathetic is your “stop” or “slow down” button. You need them both to work effectively and harmoniously in order to respond to the varying challenges in life.

 

When they tilt out of balance — in other words, when your sympathetic nervous system runs the show — all kinds of problems can result, including diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.3

 

The good news is taking deep, controlled breaths is the one part of your autonomic nervous system that you can control to maintain balance between these two systems4 and manage cortisol levels.5 And let’s face it, we don’t need more sympathetic overdrive in our lives. What we do need is more parasympathetic “ahh” moments.

 

TAKING DEEP BREATHS

 

There are a few ways to practice this deep, mindful breathing. One of my favorites is called deep diaphragmatic breathing, which can help force out the air buildup in your lungs, improving oxygen levels and strengthening your diaphragm. Doing that can improve your breathing and support the immune system.6

 

Your diaphragm does most of the mechanical work to bring fresh air in and expel carbon dioxide and other gases out of your lungs. Babies know how to use their diaphragms effectively. Ask any mom with a crying baby — they’ve got pipes. But adults (in our “suck your tummy in to look good” society) forget how to do it. 

 

If new to deep diaphragmatic breathing, here’s how to start:

 

DEEP DIAPHRAGMATIC BREATHING

 

1 – Lie flat with your knees bent and feet flat on a bed or yoga mat. 

  • Relax your shoulders
  • Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach

 

2 – First, observe. Breathe as you normally would, and observe which hand moves more — the one on your chest or the one on your stomach? 

  • Here’s a hint: most people will breathe into the hand on their chest, while the other hand stays still or sinks as they suck their belly inwards 
  • This is the OPPOSITE of how to do deep diaphragmatic breathing, but very important to notice so you can see how difficult it is to take deep breaths this way. It takes much more work, and can tire you out quickly

 

3 – Breathe in through your nose for about two to four seconds. 

  • Feel the air moving through your nostrils into your abdomen, making your stomach expand, and the hand on your stomach move up
  • Your stomach should move outward while your chest remains still — imagine you are filling your lungs with air from the bottom up, like pouring water into an expanding barrel
  • Your chest will rise last, towards the end of your inhalation — remember, when you use your diaphragm, your abdomen pushes out as you inhale

 

4 – Press gently on your stomach and breathe out slowly for about six to eight seconds.7 

  • Pretend you’re about to drink from a straw and purse your lips 
  • Squeeze all the air out of your lungs using your diaphragm and abdominal muscles to squeeze your belly button towards your back 

 

Another favorite of mine is box breathing, used by Navy Seals to stay calm in stressful situations. Also called square breathing, this involves slow, deep breaths. Box breathing can improve performance and concentration, support good sleep, boost your mood, and lower stress levels.8 

 

When performing the following, use your diaphragm as you did for the deep, diaphragmatic breathing exercise above.

 

BOX BREATHING

1 – Inhale for 4 seconds

2 – Hold for 4 seconds

3 – Exhale for 4 seconds

4 – Hold for 4 seconds 

5 – Repeat

 

You can also work your way up, starting at 3 – 3 – 3 – 3. (follow steps 1-4 above for 3 seconds each)

 

You’ll find several variations of box breathing, including 3 – 3 – 6 – 3, modified with an extended exhalation. From here you can build up to a more advanced sequence noted below.

 

ADVANCED BOX BREATHING (with extended exhale) 

1 – Inhale for 5 seconds

2 – Hold for 5 seconds

3 – Exhale for 10 seconds

4 – Hold for 5 seconds

5 – Repeat

 

Experiment and find what works for you —the key here is to breathe regularly and deeply.

 

Set a timer for five, 10, or 15 minutes. If you can, set a timer that isn’t on your phone so you won’t be interrupted. As explained in my previous blog post on using meditation to improve sleep, it’s best to commit to a time, then give 200% of yourself into it.

 

Now you can go back to my tips on sleep for better immunity and incorporate this:

 

EVENING MEDITATION BREATHING TECHNIQUE

1 – Sit comfortably in a lotus or cross-legged position with a cushion under the sits bones (aka your “buttocks bones” or part of the pelvis that bears weight in seated positions)

2 – Close your eyes, forget about time, and breathe

3 – Hold your breath to the counts until you hear your alarm go off

 

You will be shocked how fast the time passes when you practice these box-breathing techniques, counting your inhales, exhales, and holds. 

 

Deep breathing can have a dramatic effect on calming your parasympathetic nervous system. Consistent practice of deep, diaphragmatic breathing can help you relax and lower how much cortisol your body releases.9 

 

And here’s my quick tip for stressful moments —in lieu of reaching for something sweet, a bag of chips, or glass of wine — be present, stop, and take three deep, diaphragmatic breaths while standing, to give your diaphragm the most freedom to move.  

 

Taking deep breaths will help you maintain a more relaxed state and not only make this difficult time more manageable, but will also give your immune system the ability to work at its best.

 

You can lower inflammation, keep your immune system in optimal condition, and overall create a stronger sense of happiness and wellbeing simply by tuning into your breath and bringing these techniques into an often overlooked natural process.10

 

With all that comes with having to shelter-in-place or the stress of a loved one who works in harms way daily, to socially distancing yourself from family and friends, remember to Take Deep Breaths to Build-Up Your Immunity.

 

REFERENCES

1 https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ways-to-lower-cortisol#section1
2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5736941/
3 https://www.livescience.com/65446-sympathetic-nervous-system.html
4 https://www.healthline.com/health/diaphragmatic-breathing#whats-happening
5 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27995346
6 https://www.healthline.com/health/diaphragmatic-breathing#whats-happening
7 https://www.healthline.com/health/diaphragmatic-breathing#whats-happening
8 https://www.healthline.com/health/box-breathing
9 https://www.healthline.com/health/diaphragmatic-breathing#whats-happening
10 https://www.intechopen.com/books/autonomic-nervous-system/inflammation-and-autonomic-function

Structure Your Time To Step-Up Your Immunity

 

Right now, most of us have some sort of shelter-in-place rule as we move through the COVID-19 pandemic. That probably means working at home and even spending most of our time inside. And that’s a dramatic shift from how most of us normally live.

 

With the wrong habits and a poorly managed schedule, this can affect your immune health in a negative way. 

 

But these aren’t normal times, and we’re all doing our best to adapt to a new environment. Being in an office during your workweek creates a routine and order that helps maintain discipline. Going to the gym or a yoga class provides a structure that makes sticking to your workout easy.

 

You don’t always have that routine and structure when you work from home. 

 

Many of us are facing newfound hurdles that can throw a major wrench into our already-busy schedules. Maybe you’re trying to manage your normal workload while home-schooling your kids. Or you’re finding that endless temptations and distractions can quickly sabotage your productivity. 

 

You’re not alone — we are all managing a completely new routine that can feel overwhelming.

 

That’s why I emphasize to my patients — who I’m seeing virtually right now, by the way — the importance of establishing and maintaining a consistent routine. Not only does it help your mental health, but it also will keep your immune system strong as we weather the world’s biggest pandemic challenge since the Spanish flu of 1918.

 

A strong, structured routine benefits your health and happiness in so many ways.

 

When you have a system, you know you can get most things done. In that routine, making sure to factor in enough time for sleep is critical to keep your immunity up to beat. Falling asleep at a specific time ensures you get great sleep and wake up refreshed to tackle the day ahead.

 

You make smart food choices that support gut health and you’re able to fit in some kind of exercise that improves your mood and wellbeing.

 

All of these little wins add up in big ways. You find that you have more control over things than you might initially think.If you don’t believe me, think about when you don’t structure your time

 

In that scenario, the day flies by as you get that nagging feeling that you haven’t done the things you need to. And you probably spend so much time going back and forth between text messages and emails, that you finish the day feeling mentally exhausted.

 

You might mindlessly graze on junk food while you’re reading Facebook, which only amps up your stress levels. You complain that you don’t have the time or energy to exercise. All of these things cut into your sleep levels, creating a vicious cycle that increases your stress and anxiety, while decreasing your body’s defenses.

 

In turn, these things pack a powerful punch straight to your gut — or immune system.

 

TWO THINGS TO TAKE-AWAY

1 – The gut is the gateway to your immunity.

2 – Lack of sleep chips away at your ability to fight off infections.

 

What affects your gut affects your entire body. This is because the gut microbiome doesn’t exist in a vacuum. This complex system interacts with inflammatory, metabolic, and circadian clock systems.

 

When you structure your time, you structure how your gut and immune system work in a positive way.

 

FOCUS ON THESE THREE THINGS..that we all have control over

1 – SUSTENANCE

2 – STRESS

3 – SLEEP

 

How you structure your time can dramatically impact all of these, which in turn can shape your health and wellbeing for better or worse. Let’s look at all three in detail and how you can manage them well. 

 

SUSTENANCE

 

A lot of us are stress eating right now. Stress eating often involves mindless eating, and more specifically, mindlessly eating unhealthy foods. It might not feel like it at the moment, but our current situation will end. Let’s move forward lean and healthy, not packing on extra weight and sabotaging our health.

 

Maintaining a regular eating schedule will help when you’re working from home

 

Your  immune health, your gut, and your waistline will all benefit when you keep structure and consistency. That includes not reaching for snacks or fasting between meals, which improves blood sugar and insulin sensitivity — two very important processes that help maintain a healthy weight.

 

Studies show that regular meal timing and consistency can benefit you in many ways. Doing so can lower inflammation levels, improve how well you sleep, make your body more resilient to stress, and improve your gut bacteria. All of that can support a healthy immune system.

 

Trust me, I know how easy it is to graze all day long when you’re working. But even with healthy foods, constant grazing can take its toll on your gut and overall health.1 

 

THREE WAYS TO STAY HEALTHY WHILE AT-HOME

1 – Plan your meals and snacks ahead of time. Prep as much as you can to make things easy. If you need to, portion out snacks ahead of time. 

2 – Get delivery*. Right now, restaurants are really suffering. One way to support your local businesses is with curbside pickup or delivery. You can manage portion sizes, and letting someone else fix your food can give your day some excitement. 

3 – Create a kitchen curfew. Being at home all day gives you constant access to foods. Chances are, if foods are readily available, you’re more likely to graze. Have a substantial dinner and close down the kitchen for the night! Take any evening snacks to the living areas. This is a great time to experiment with intermittent fasting, which has so many benefits for gut health, immune health, weight loss, and more. 

 

*TOP TIP – Order more than one day’s worth of meals, and follow…

STANDARD CONTACT PROCEDURES

1 – Throw out delivery bags

2 – Wash your hands

3 – Eat off your own plates 

4 – Store food in your own containers

 

When you eat healthy foods within a certain time frame, you’ll find the scales are moving favorably in your direction. You feel better and look better. 

 

If you’re a fasting newbie, you don’t need to go crazy here. Even an overnight 12-hour fast can work wonders here. That means you eat within a 12-hour window and don’t eat during the remaining 12 hours. You’ll be sleeping for part of that time anyway. Fasting has so many benefits. Doing so can positively impact your gut microbiome, lowering gut permeability and improving inflammation2.

 

A happy gut means a healthier immune system!

 

Once you get over the initial hurdles — fasting can be hard in the beginning — you can enjoy the benefits that fasting can create. Some patients even enjoy fasting: They have more energy and mental focus when they fast regularly. 

 

Keeping a strict eating schedule that incorporates some type of fasting will improve the quality of your gut microbiome and strengthen your gut barrier3As a result, you’re less likely to have problems like leaky gut. Because most of your immunity lies within the gut, you maintain a strong immune system.

 

STRESS

 

I haven’t met many people who didn’t struggle with stress before this pandemic. But for just about everyone, those stress levels have been dialed up to 11. More than any other time, this current situation is creating the perfect opportunity to develop a resilient mindset that manages stress.

 

A little bit of stress can make you stronger, but that stress response should eventually taper down. Feeling nagging, low-key stress — which many of us do right now — can worsen nearly every disease on the planet. 

 

When you don’t manage stress levels, your health takes a big hit. You increase your risk for problems like heart disease.4 Equally alarming, other areas of your health can be affected as well, most notably the gateway to your immune system and immunity — your gut.

 

I see this all the time with my patients who struggle with gut problems. Your brain and gut are very intricately connected. When one is out of balance, the other is quick to follow.5 Think about a time when you felt anxious, depressed, or stressed out. Did you find yourself running to the bathroom more often or otherwise experiencing gut issues? 

 

That’s the gut-brain connection!

 

And it used to happen to me a lot when I was younger — way before I got my gut in order using the protocol I put together in my Gut C.A.R.E. Program™

 

Research shows the stress response can alter the natural balance of healthy bacteria in your gut, causing the gut ecology to shift in favor of a more hostile group of bacteria. Stress also delivers a massive hit to your immune system. One meta-analysis looked at over 300 studies about immunity and stress over three decades. Researchers concluded that chronic, low-grade stress can damage your immune system.6 

 

Stress can suppress the immune system’s ability to respond to infections.

 

When you’re stressed out, you’re also more likely to make other unhealthy choices — including binging on junk food or reaching for a third glass of wine — that impact your immune health, gut, and more.So, in order to step-up your immunity, stress management is a key component of an immune-boosting strategy. And the best way to manage stress is to structure time in your day that is dedicated to activities that lower stress.

 

Little measures can go a long way to manage stress levels. Here are my go-to 

 

STRESS-REDUCING ACTIVITIES

YOGA. One of my favorites  since it can help you quiet your mind so you can feel and then release the tension stored in your gut and other places in your body. You don’t need to do it long: Incorporating yoga as part of a daily routine can take just 10 minutes. 

SCHEDULE* time for breaks. Take five minutes out of every hour and do something fun. Call a friend, step outside to get some fresh air, watch a funny YouTube clip, play with your pets, or do some deep breathing. (Learn more about that in tip three)

MOVE often. You don’t even have to call it exercise. Just get your body moving. Most of us are sitting throughout the day, whether that involves working or scrolling your news feed. Even doing some pushups or squats throughout your day will benefit you tremendously. 

 

*TOP TIP – Set your phone or other electronic device to remind yourself to pause, breathe, and find gratitude for the present moment

 

SLEEP

 

Several of my patients have told me they aren’t sleeping well right now. Many of them are glued to Fox, CNN, MSNBC, or whatever their poison is, which builds anxiety and fear that cuts into their sleep cycle.

 

Sleepless nights spell terrible news for your gut, immune health, and so much more. 

 

When you don’t get enough sleep, your body makes fewer immune cells called cytokines that target infection and inflammation. Your body creates and releases cytokines when you sleep. Not getting good sleep can spell bad news for your immune system.8 

 

Studies show that when you don’t get enough sleep or high-quality sleep — both of these matter — you’re more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus. If you do get sick, poor sleep means you don’t recover as quickly.9 That’s because poor sleep can be a stressor on the immune system. Researchers found that poor sleep can even reduce your body’s response to the flu vaccine, making you more susceptible to getting sick.10

 

When you don’t sleep well, your gut takes a hit. 

 

You throw off your gut rhythm by adversely affecting the balance of favorable and unfavorable bacteria and compromising the gut wall.11 This can lead to things like constipation or diarrhea in the short term, and over time can even affect insulin signaling.12

 

But even if your circadian rhythm seems normal and you are spending eight hours a night in bed, if you are waking up during the night, the overall quality of your sleep suffers. Scientists call this poor-quality sleep “sleep fragmentation.” Just as missing out on sleep affects the gut, sleep fragmentation can also adversely affect the gut microbiome.13

 

In other words, when something is off — in this case, sleep — your gut feels the impact. 

 

Poor sleep can also mess with your fat-regulating hormones like insulin. You’re more likely to graze throughout the day because you’re hungrier. And you’re not exactly making gut-friendly food choices!14 All of those things add up to weight gain. 

 

Staying up late at night, watching TV, surfing the web, or looking at social media on your smartphone, all mess with your melatonin secretion, and this can spell horrible consequences to your immune system. 

 

If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, consider taking a melatonin supplement. Melatonin has been well-studied for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. As the study that I mentioned shows, melatonin limits virus-related diseases, making it ideal for COVID-19. Melatonin can help you better manage anxiety and sleep better.15  

 

THREE TOP TIPS:  HEALTHIER SLEEP

 

1 – Avoid Blue Light at Night

Once upon a time, we got most of our light from the sun — NOT TODAY. 

 

On average, adults spend about half of their waking hours staring at screens.16 That screen time — staring at laptops, TV, phones, and tablets for hours — can mess with your body’s biological clock, impacting sleep levels but also contributing to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. That’s because blue light suppresses melatonin, which helps regulate circadian rhythm. Blue light can help you stay more alert during the day, but at night it can impede sleep levels. 

 

Researchers compared the effects of 6.5 hours of blue light and green light exposure. They found that blue light suppresses melatonin for about twice as long as the green light. Blue shifted circadian rhythm patterns twice as much.17

 

I encourage patients to turn off electronics about two hours before bedtime. Read a physical book, take a hot bath, do some meditation or yoga, or find what helps you relax and unwind. If that’s not always possible — I know how addictive those Netflix shows can be! — invest in a pair of glasses that block blue light. Studies show wearing these before bed can significantly improve sleep quality.18 

 

2 – Meditate Before Bed

Meditation is a great way to end the day and sleep more soundly. Even meditating a few minutes before bed can help your body better relax. 

 

Meditation also improves control of the autonomic nervous system. Doing it regularly can activate parts of your brain that control sleep. Meditation can also increase sleep-supporting neurotransmitters like serotonin and melatonin.19

 

It can even reduce nighttime cravings and help you relax before going to sleep. Once you get into this habit, you will find that your sleep is more restful and you will wake up feeling refreshed. Personally, I have the best sleep when I take time to meditate for 20 – 30 minutes before I retire for the evening. 

 

HOW-TO MEDITATE BEFORE BED TO BETTER YOUR SLEEP

  • Find a place in your home that is peaceful and provides a comfortable location to sit, ideally on a cushion so that your sits bones are supported and your back is straight
  • Turn the lights down, and light a candle. You can put the candle across from you in your line of vision as a point to focus on.
  • Commit to an amount of time you’ll sit in meditation: 5, 10, 15 or 20 minutes and set a timer so you don’t have to think about it.
  • Soften your eyes as you look at the candle or close them (as I prefer to do when I want to go inwards), and start tuning into your breath.
  • Take a deep breath in, hold it in for a moment, then exhale.
  • Develop a rhythm: 4 second inhale; 4 second hold; 8 second exhale; repeat
  • Let thoughts roam freely in and out of your mind, but don’t hold on to them or follow them like Alice down the rabbit hole of your ever-active mind.
  • Bask in the break the stillness gives you until your time is up. 

 

A meditation before bedtime lowers your blood pressure, regulates your heartbeat, calms the nervous system, and sets the tone so your brain can enter the healing state that restful sleep is for the body. By the way, remember to blow out the candle before you go to bed. 

 

3. Get Early Morning Sun 

The way you start your day will make a big impact on your sleep patterns. And the best way to do that is with sunshine. Research shows that phototherapy can provide the following:

 

LIGHT THERAPY BENEFITS

  • INSOMNIA
  • CIRCADIAN RHYTHM DISORDERS, 
  • DEPRESSION 
  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • SAD (seasonal affective disorder)

…and MORE!

 

Among its benefits, sunlight can boost levels of your feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin can also optimize levels of melatonin and improve your circadian rhythm. 

The source is critical: 

 

Get light from the sun, not artificial light. 

 

Timing matters too. Aim to get sunlight in the morning, within the first hour after you wake up. If possible, get 30 – 45 minutes of direct sun exposure. If a walk around the park or lake isn’t possible, opening your window in the car or office can also give you some morning sunlight.20 

 

Try Something New

 

One final idea about structuring your time — try something new! 

 

Right now, you might find yourself in a pattern of the same activities day in and day out — including meals. Variety can beat boredom and improve your mood. 

 

Rather than focus on the lack of, like not being able to do or eat your favorite meals, find the opportunity within the limitations imposed upon us. Without a commute for most of us, you have gained time you can spend in a variety of activities to shake things up and enrich your day.  

 

Understandably, even with keeping stress at bay and getting your ideal sleep, putting into place a healthy immune-boosting diet can prove more difficult than the first two combined. From queuing up outside markets for groceries, to discovering your options are limited if not sold out, each week can be a bit of a toss up. 

 

To maintain the optimal levels of the vitamins and nutrients required to step-up your immunity is no easy task, let alone getting variety in your diet to avoid the boredom that leads to mindless grazing while having to work from home. Meal replacement smoothies make the most efficient way to meet that challenge head on and provide support for immune health.

 

But you also want to choose the right meal replacement

 

Unfortunately, many commercial brands contain poorly balanced formulas, don’t provide the right delivery system, and contain gut-irritating ingredients such as dairy and gluten. These and other problems mean that you’re not always getting the right amount of these nutrients to support immune health.

 

That’s why I created H A P P Y  G U T® Cleanse Shake — where you can rest assured that when you order, you’ll receive a top quality, professional-grade meal replacement.  This is the exact gut-restoring and detoxing meal replacement I use myself and with my patients. 

 

From raw material selection through manufacturing, to shipping of the finished product…

H A P P Y  G U T® adheres to the strictest of quality control standards, including the requirements of the FDA Dietary Supplement Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs).

 

 

For a limited time, you can Stock-Up & Save*

 

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Managing the quality of your sustenance, stress, and sleep are all part of how to Structure your Time to Step-up Your Immunity!

 

 

 

*20% off first product:  20OFFSHAKE1; 25% off second product:  25OFFSHAKE2; 30% off third product: 30OFFSHAKE3, LIMIT 3 per client, one-time use only. Promotion ends April 26, 2020 11:59 PM EST (Cleanse Shake only)

REFERENCES

1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6520689/
2https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6520689/
3https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25470548
4https://www.nm.org/healthbeat/healthy-tips/health-benefits-of-having-a-routine
5https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/the-gut-brain-connection
6https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361287/
7https://www.simplypsychology.org/stress-immune.html
8https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-sleep-affects-your-immunity
9https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/expert-answers/lack-of-sleep/faq-20057757
10https://psychology.unt.edu/node/9186
11https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0222394
12https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20371664
13https://stm.sciencemag.org/content/8/363/363ec177
14https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/07/20/sleep-loss-weight-gain/7507503/
15https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0024320520303313
16https://www.studyfinds.org/survey-americans-spend-half-waking-hours-looking-screens/
17https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side
18https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20030543
19https://www.healthline.com/health/meditation-for-sleep#how-it-helps
20https://www.verywellhealth.com/morning-sunlight-exposure-3973908

The Happy Gut Holiday Stress Tool Kit to Your Rescue

Paula-Tursi

Dear friends of Happy Gut,

As we approach the final crunch before the holidays and the end of the year, I asked my friend, colleague, and yoga teacher, Paula Tursi, how she keeps her calm during this stressful time of year. Here is her tool kit, which I know as a practitioner of mind-body medicine, will help you get through these last few days of the year with a smile on your face.

In health,

Dr. Pedre

***

How Breathing (and a few other tools) get me through the Holidays!

The holiday season is a stressful time, without question! Even if you love your job, your spouse, your children, and all your family members beyond words, you will still feel stress building at some point during the holidays–whether it’s unmet expectations, preparing to host a party, or having to spend it with the in-laws.

Don’t we all feel increased pressure to get all the shopping done and still have “fun,” while putting on a bright smile through it all?  In anticipation of all the year-end, to-do’s, last year I felt the stress coming on as early as October!  That was when I decided to try and do things a little differently.  I used time-honored stress “fix-it” tools I have acquired throughout the years.

Here they are for you to try:

1   The Embrace It Tool

What if you accept things as they are, perfect or not?  The holidays can be very commercial, and they can be full of obligation, but they also offer an opportunity to delve deep into the meaning of the season.  The holiday season is a time for reflection. It’s a time to meet with old friends and get out of your day to day. You get to break out of your life’s patterns.  However stressful stepping out of your routine may feel, you can change that by re-framing it in your mind. Be present. Embrace each moment as a special one to be cherished with family and friends. Take in this celebratory time of year.  Get excited about being social and doing things a little differently.

2  The Meditate Tool

One of the routines I make sure not to break during the holidays is my meditation routine. I ground myself  every morning with at least 5 minutes of meditation.  That gives me focus and clarity and a guaranteed few moments of stillness before the chaos of the day begins.

This is a simple way to do it: 1) sit on the edge of your bed or on the ground in lotus pose with your pelvic bones supported by a small bolster pillow, 2) clear your mind, and 3) quietly focus on your breath, before you do anything else.  This morning meditation routine makes for a kinder transition from sleep to wake, and the slow breathing will stimulate the calming part of your nervous system.

3  The Breathe Tool

Even when using these tools, there are still moments when life gets ahead of me. In these times, I turn to my breath.  When you get angry or anxious your breathing pattern changes, and you get into a cycle of negative thoughts and/or feelings. For instance, everyone can relate to holiday stresses, for example, when the person in front you in line has a cart full of items and a different coupon for each one!

Instead of losing your cool, take advantage of the “extra time” and practice conscious breathing.  By this I mean, without trying to control your breath, take notice of how long your inhale is, then your exhale. After a couple of rounds of this, try to extend your inhale beyond your exhale. For example, inhale for 6 seconds, then exhale over 4 seconds. It’s likely that by the time you are done with this breathing exercise, the irritating coupon shopper will also be done!

4  The Gratitude Tool

The last and most useful tool is gratitude.  During the holidays, when I get upset that I have too much shopping to do, or I just can’t take another social gathering, or my sister is really driving me nuts about this gift thing– I sit myself down again and think about how lucky I am to have the health and friends to celebrate this time of year with.  I remember less fortunate times and feel my heart expand just a bit.

Take a moment, and find something you are grateful for. Breathe in that gratitude, and all the feelings associated with what you are appreciating in your life. Maybe it’s the smell of your favorite dish cooked up by your grandmother, the smile someone gave you while walking down the street, or simply admiring the beauty of a sunny day. Let that moment take over all of your being.  Become one with your gratitude.  Take it into your heart, then feel it expand into every cell in your body.

I  hope these 4 tips help you find peace and joy during this holiday season.

Wishing you love and light and a moment to breathe,
Paula

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 Read more tips from the Happy Gut Life team here!

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