One theme that is emerging in the clients I am currently working with is stress. One of my clients said, “I need to find ways to lower my cortisol” and another stated, “I think handling stress appropriately is key”. I commend both of these women for the clear insight into and communication of their needs, and their recognition that less stress = better health.
The anti-inflammatory diet I promote on this blog will help reduce the stress hormone cortisol, and the exercise I encourage will help manage stress. But I want to go further today and suggest some other ideas that are more obscure.
1. Consider a supplement.
There are adaptogenic herbs that help relieve anxiety by boosting the body’s natural resilience to stress. Some examples are ashwaganda, ginseng, holy basil, and licorice root. These are difficult to incorporate naturally into one’s diet, so supplementation and teas are the easiest method of ingestion today. Consult your medical provider before starting any supplement regimen!
2. There’s an app for that.
Calm: Meditation to Relax, Focus & Sleep is the #1 app for mindfulness and meditation, with 1500+ 5 star reviews. Like most apps, there are some free features but also some that would have to be paid for….that said, the amount of free content appears to be generous. I downloaded the app to my iPhone and find it to be a great multi-tasker, with meditations (both guided and not), “sleep stories”, in which someone narrates a tale as you drift off in bed, and a visual deep breathing aid.
3. Get Dirty, Live Clean
Okay, everybody hang on, now we’re veering more into New Age-y territory. I want to introduce the concept of “earthing” or “grounding”. Essentially, it is the practice of connecting your bare feet with the earth (dirt or sand, not pavement) in order to equalize your energy with that of the earth. If you are familiar with or have a Himalayan Salt Lamp, it’s the same concept – introducing natural negative ions and discharging the positive free radicals.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time or words on the (pseudo) science behind it, but I’m including it because perhaps it’s something to be taken on faith. Nature is objectively therapeutic, and we are unquestionably disconnected from it. Laying on the ground or walking barefoot is truly primal and it does, in my experience, both energize and calm. I turn to Dr. Andrew Weil as a respected medical figure for his words on the subject, “Earthing…is intriguing but we need additional studies of better design. I’m all for going barefoot whenever possible, it stimulates the feet and can be very relaxing. Those who practice reflexology often recommend walking barefoot to help stimulate pressure points on the feet.”
So, have you connected with your mother (Earth, that is) lately? Take a 10 minute meditative stroll barefoot through your yard or a park and lay on the ground. We instinctively did this as children….why did we stop?
4. Try a sensory deprivation tank/float spa
In the name of research for this blog, I visited Theta Float Spa here in Springfield, MO for the first time last week. I like trying new things and getting out of my comfort zone!
I was instructed to shower and insert earplugs, and then I got in the sensory deprivation tank. I closed the door but you don’t have to if you struggle with claustrophobia. The water is 94 degrees, so you have absolutely no stimulation of any kind, and 800-1000 lbs of Epsom Salt mean that you are DEFINITELY going to float!
I ran the gamut of experience. I had a few moments of panic and anxiety at first; I checked to make sure I could locate and open the door a few times! When I was anxious, I would deliberate bump off the walls to orient myself.
Once I relaxed into the experience and recognized that I was safe, I set my intention to be receptive to insights and messages, and simply counted my breaths as I would in meditation. I had the sensation of floating in space. At one point I felt beautiful and miraculous.
In the last 10-15 minutes of the 60 minute float, I felt antsy. When the music began playing to signal the end, I showered off and checked out. I didn’t sign up for a package or a membership. But I can see the appeal. To force oneself to disconnect for an hour is pretty powerful these days. I was going to work afterwards and was worried I would feel drugged or excessively sleepy, but in fact I felt a sense of calm clarity. I was relaxed, but not tired. Also, I had been working out hard, and I’m sure all that magnesium assisted my recovery (many athletes use these tanks, and the Patriots had one installed in their training room!)
The 4 action items above have all demonstrated a reduction in cortisol in studies. I hope they inspire your own brainstorming session as you discern what to add to your stress management toolbox. Don’t be afraid to try something new. See how it makes you feel. You may be surprised!