Get to SLEEP by 10.30pm. If you need time to wind down before you sleep, make the appropriate adjustments. Getting to bed at 10pm and then reading until 11pm defeats the purpose! Minimise your exposure to bright lights, particularly fluorescent lights, for at least 2 hours before going to bed. Sleep in a room that is completely dark. Avoid the consumption of stimulants (caffeine, sugar and nicotine) after lunch. Drink plenty of water. Our bodies have very little water reserve, and once dehydrated, the body responds as though it’s experiencing stress. Remember, if your body is stressed it produces stress hormones, which are awakening hormones. A regular exercise plan or general physical activity during the day will help you sleep at night. Intense exercise or cardiovascular exercise, particularly when performed for longer than 30 minutes, can increase cortisol levels, making it hard to get to sleep. Try unplugging all electrical appliances in your bedroom, including clocks, TV’s and lights. If your sleep quality improves, rearrange your bedroom so that all electrical devices are as far from your bed as possible.
Caffeine is the surest way to ramp up that SNS (Sympathetic Nervous System) response. How many people start their day with a caffeinated beverage? More than 90% of people in the West consume caffeine every day. It is a powerful nervous system drug and also drives the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline. Like stress, caffeine demands your body use glucose as its fuel, drawing on glucose in the blood or drawing the stored version of glucose (glycogen) out of the liver and the muscles into the blood to be used as fuel in highly alert state. The body doesn’t like high circulating levels of glucose in the blood as it can damage the vessel walls. If the adrenalin had been made to literally get you out of danger, you would use the glucose in your fight or your escape. But typically, we are sitting in front of a computer screen whilst consuming caffeine, and with very little glucose utilisation. In that state your body must make another hormone, called insulin, to move the glucose out of the blood. Insulin is one of the fat storing hormones and this is one of the mechanisms that links stress as a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. ACTION – Take the load off your SNS by taking a break from coffee. At first, switch to green tea, which contains caffeine (about 30mg per cup) but much less than coffee (about 80mg in a single shot, expresso-based shot), plus it is rich in anti-oxidants, anticancer properties and benefits the liver. Some may even find green tea too stimulating, so once you have weaned off coffee using green tea, you can switch to herbal teas that do not contain any caffeine. Dandelion tea is also a great coffee alternative. Or simply make warm water with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice as your hot drink.
We were not designed to drink alcohol. The metabolism of alcohol in the liver can affect your livers ability to produce energy and drastically affect blood sugar balance leading to hypoglycaemia particularly if consumed on an empty stomach
- If you choose to consume alcohol, drink in moderation
- Consume alcoholic beverages made from organic sources when available
- Always eat fat and protein with alcohol (for example, cheese, nuts and meat)
I can’t stress enough the importance of diaphragmatic breathing. This is one thing that we CAN control CONSCIOUSLY as part of our ANS (Autonomic Nervous System which covers all the things our body does unconsciously). A daily ritual that focusses on breathing well will be a key to shifting many aspects of our chemistry which is crucial for cultivating calm. Your body follows your breath’s lead. Breathing dominates your autonomic nervous system, and because you breathe 5,000 – 30,000 times a day – or two to five hundred million times in your lifetime – it has the potential to influence you positively or negatively in many ways. There is nothing in this world that communicates safety more effectively to your body than your breath. Breathing in a shallow way, with short, sharp inhalations and exhalations, the kind of breathing we often engage in when we feel stressed, communicates to your body that your life is in danger. Long slow breathing that moves your diaphragm, communicates that you are very safe. Schedule regular breathing intervals into your day until it becomes your new way of breathing. Make appointments with yourself to breathe. Do it numerous times over the course of your day and link it to daily routines like taking a shower to anchor it. Book a meeting into your calendar each afternoon at 3pm. If you work at a computer, have a reminder that will pop up on the screen that it is time for the meeting with yourself to do 20 long, slow breaths.
An inability to say no
Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) dominance (that drives the fight or flight response) can make many of us have the perception of what we have to do in a day as overwhelming. How many of us say yes to please other people and keep the peace. We want others to like us and we behave as if saying no sometimes will either lead them to believe we don’t like them or make them think we are a terrible person. And when we spell it out on paper, we can see how crazy that sounds. When we say yes it and we secretly wish we had said no, it doesn’t serve anybody. This pattern, the inability to say no, is a major drain on our energy, not to mention our time. It revs up our stress response, driving us into, or holding us into SNS dominance. And our adrenal glands, which release the stress hormones, can also be significantly impacted over time. It is crucial to learn to say no.