wellbeing

Sleep Hygiene – What Does It Mean?

Photo by Vladislav Muslakov,  www.unsplash.com

Photo by Vladislav Muslakov, www.unsplash.com

One of the common issues that I experience with my clients is sleep complaints.   This includes the ability to get to sleep, quality of sleep, and the ability to wake up feeling refreshed after getting enough sleep.  The main sleep issue that I come across is the inability to fall asleep with ease (racing mind, laying awake, anxiety, overthinking), closely followed by waking up feeling lethargic, and like you’ve not actually slept well at all.

A 2016 Sleep Health Survey of Australian Adults found that sleep problems are quite common, with around 33-45% of adults having difficulty sleeping or feeling the results of inadequate sleep during the day.  Of these people, around 20% experienced problems relating to chronic insomnia.  Most interestingly, 26% of respondents stated that they use the internet right before sleep and experience sleep related difficulties.(1)  For some people, an underlying medical condition such as restless legs or sleep apnoea can cause problems sleeping, however for the majority of people its due to their sleeping and night time habits.

Lack of sleep can affect a person’s physical and mental health and wellbeing, as well as their ability to work and function with day to day tasks. Not only that, it could shorten your life expectancy, and put you at risk for diseases such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. (2)

Why is sleep so important?
When we sleep, there are many functions that the body carries out that are required for optimal health and well-being. 

Sleeping is important for maintaining memory and consciousness – and during REM sleep the brain can clear your working memory and improve the ability to process information when you next wake.  It is also during sleep that your brain is able to remove toxic accumulation of by-products of neural activity that are accumulated during the da.  This is due to the fact that when you sleep the space between the brain cells increases, allowing for the waste to be removed more effectively.

During sleep, your body also repairs itself.  The major functions designed to restore the body such as muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis and growth hormone release mostly happen during sleep.  It is also important for immune function and to conserve energy resources. (3)

So as you can see, sleep is pretty important!

Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t realize the effect their evening and pre-bed time habits have on their ability to get to and stay asleep.  And this is where the term “sleep hygiene” comes in.   These are first-step basics that you can implement to try and help you get a good night’s rest.  Of course some of you may require more – which I can definitely help with – but this is a great place to start.

1.  Your electronic devices are probably contributing to your sleep issues
When you consider the survey results above, you’ll notice the link between using the internet right before bed and prevalence of sleep issues.  This is not a coincidence, and it has to do with both the use of electronic devices and not allowing your mind to calm down and relax before bed.  Our bodies are designed to regulate our sleep / wake cycle based on light.  Electronic devices emit a “blue light” which is fine during the day because it can boost attention and reaction times, however at night it has been shown to inhibit the secretion of melatonin, which is essential for good sleep. (4)

If you have trouble getting to sleep at night, it would probably be beneficial for you avoid looking at bright screens for a good 2-3 hours before bed.  However we all know this may not be realistic at all.  A lot of people work late, or use TV to relax after a busy day, or like to read in bed.  If you can, try for at least an hour before you want to sleep.  If even that is too difficult, it would be worth investing in a pair of red lens glasses to wear in the evening.  Red light has the least power to shift your circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin, meaning it will reduce the effect that blue light has.  Smart phones also have the ability to either install an app that will put a red overlay over the screen, or may have a night time setting that will do a similar thing.  These apps can also be installed on some desktops/laptops.  I would strongly recommend taking the TV out of the bedroom if you have one, to avoid the temptation of watching TV while trying to get to sleep.

2.  Create a routine around going to bed.
This is something new parents do for babies, to help them wind down at the end of the day and teach them that night time is for sleeping.  The same applies for adults. If you are still rushing from your day, or try to jump straight into bed after working or watching a high paced TV show then your body hasn’t had the chance to wind down, and it’s fair to expect you won’t be able to go to sleep right away. 

If this is you, then maybe it’s time to create your sleep time routine.  What sort of calming and relaxing things can you incorporate into it?  For some, it’s the making and drinking of a bed time tea.  For others, it may be yoga or stretching in the quiet of the house.  Some like to read a book (best to use a real book or a red light filter if it must be an electronic device!), meditate, breathing exercises, have a shower or bath, or have a body care routine.  Anything is possible, but the key is to establish this routine and turn it into a habit.  And then your body will start recognizing this as “preparing for sleep”, and start to wind down as you begin your routine.  By the time you want to actually sleep, your body and mind should be ready.

3.  Create a sleep environment that promotes good sleep.
If you are sensitive to light, try block out curtains and covering your clock/putting your phone face down.  If you know that your phone will tempt you to check if you hear it beeping or buzzing, turn on flight mode so that you cannot be disturbed by it (or leave it in another room).  If you are someone who requires sound to sleep, consider a white noise machine or try a podcast like “Sleep with Me”.  Make sure your bedroom is free of clutter so that energetically you are not feeling overwhelmed or feeling confined when you are in your bed.   And try not to work in bed!

4.  As always, diet is important!
It’s not just a matter of what you eat, but when you eat.  Heavy meals right before bed can hinder your sleep.  Not only that, it could cause you to wake during the night with reflux and indigestion.  This is because our bodies are designed to better digest foods while in an upright position. (5) The stomach can take up to 3 hours to empty, which is why it’s best to eat at least 3 hours before bed OR have a very light dinner. 

If you were to look at the Chinese Medicine perspective, the stomach has the highest amount of energy at 7-9am (which is why a decent breakfast at this time is a perfect way to start the day), which means that it has the least amount of energy between 7-9pm (which is when most people eat a heavy dinner).   So if falling asleep is an issue for you (or night time waking due to heartburn or digestive discomfort), consider eating earlier (by 6-6:30pm) and have a lighter, easily digestible meal – and then keep a food and mood diary and see if it makes a difference.

These are just some suggestions you can start straight away to make some changes to improve your quality of sleep.  Of course, there are a number of herbal remedies and nutritional supplements that can be helpful in promoting sleep, such as magnesium, chamomile, lavender and passionflower.  Essential oils, bath salts, and magnesium lotions can all be helpful too.  If you feel you require some guidance or further support in this area, then that is what I am here for!

 

 


References:
1.         Adams R, Appleton S, Taylor A, McEvoy D, Antic N. Report to the Sleep Health Foundation 2016 Sleep Health Survey of Australian Adults The Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health; 2016.
2.         NHS. Why lack of sleep is bad for your health2015 16 Feb 18. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/tiredness-and-fatigue/Pages/lack-of-sleep-health-risks.aspx.
3.         Osiecki H. Promoting Restful Sleep: The Overlooked Factor for Wellbeing. n.d.
4.         Health H. Blue light has a dark side2012 16 Feb 18. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side.
5.         Brodwin E. Here's Why You Should Never Eat Right Before Bed2016 16 Feb 18. Available from: https://www.sciencealert.com/here-s-why-you-should-never-eat-right-before-bed.

 

Remedial Massage Therapy – Not just your regular massage!

back-view-portrait-of-a-fitness-woman-stretching-hands-over-gray-background_rYeM68RBs.jpg

I am not sure about you, but for a very long time the only massage that I was aware of was relaxation massage.  I knew that remedial massage could help with tension, stress and backaches, but I had no idea that there was so much more to it than that.

Generally massage practice in Australia is divided into two levels based on the level of qualification – Relaxation/Swedish massage therapy and Remedial massage.   Massage falls under the “Complementary and Alternative Medicine” (CAM) umbrella, and so is a great therapy to complement other therapies including your regular primary care from a GP or other health professional.

The role of a Remedial Massage Therapist (RMT) is to assess and treat musculoskeletal and other system disorders. (1)  So it’s not (always) just a case of show up, hop on the table, treat and off you go.   There are various assessments and techniques that are available to provide a holistic treatment in order to get you well and more importantly KEEP you well.

Below I’ll discuss what to expect during your remedial massage treatment, what techniques are offered as part of your treatment plan, and what you may expect with regards to long term prevention strategies.

First things first….
If it is your first time coming for a remedial massage treatment or you are coming in because of a new injury or problem, then I’d strongly recommend booking in a 90 minute appointment instead of a 60 minute appointment.  The reason for this is because in order to come up with a suitable treatment plan both for that day and long term, I may need to do some musculoskeletal assessments or screening processes in order to determine what is causing the problem and how to provide the best treatment for you.  Sometimes we will re-assess during the treatment to determine the outcome of some of the techniques, however in most cases they’ll be done again after the treatment to compare pre and post treatment range of motion and/or pain levels.

I’ll also take a thorough case history to get a general idea of your level of health, the history of the complaint and any other relevant health history details.  Depending on the problem that you are presenting with, this can take anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes.  If you’re just after a relaxation massage, the health history interview will be brief – however the treatment will only consist of relaxation massage which is of course beneficial for stress and tension reduction but may not specifically address your health concern.

A remedial massage treatment may consist of a combination of techniques including relaxation massage, deep tissue massage, trigger point therapy, stretches, myofascial release and kinesiology taping.

Deep Tissue & Trigger Point Therapy
Deep tissue massage consists of strokes similar to relaxation or Swedish massage, however they are deeper, firmer, and can feel more intense depending on the area being treated.   Deep tissue massage is intended to reduce pain, lengthen and stretch muscle fibers, improve lymph and blood flow, separate adhesions and deactivate trigger points.  Trigger point therapy will generally be incorporated at the same time as deep tissue techniques, as usually the trigger points are found during the massage.  A trigger point is a localized area of hyperirritability within a muscle that can be extremely tender when touched or compressed.  In some cases, you may not know you have any until the massage, but in other cases they can be what’s causing your pain.  Trigger points usually have a “referral pattern” of pain, that feels like a dull ache or a pain that you can’t quite work out how to describe or know where its coming from.  Once trigger points are deactivated, pain can be reduced or eliminated completely. (1) When working on a trigger point I’ll ask you to let me know what level the pain is (on a scale of 1-10) to determine how much pressure is used.

Myofascial Release (MFR)
Myofascial release works within remedial massage to reduce adhesions and restrictions in the connective tissue throughout the body.   The fascia within the body connects everything together – and is spread throughout the body as a single structure.  If you can imagine a knitted jumper – if you were to pull on one sleeve it can affect the whole jumper.  The analogy relates to the human body in that if there is a restriction or adhesion within the fascia in one area of the body it can potentially affect other areas.  This can contribute to pain and postural problems.  The techniques used in MFR are aimed at lengthening the fascia, improving fluid flow in the areas, increasing range of motion, and reducing adhesions.  They are slower than deep tissue and trigger point therapy, and the pressure can vary between light and firm/deep.  In some clients, MFR can cause an emotional release either during the treatment or after treatment. (1)

Stretching & Taping
Stretches may also be incorporated as part of your remedial massage treatment in order to lengthen the muscles and improve range of motion.  Stretches may be passive, or may include your participation via your resistance to further improve range of motion to specific muscles.

Rocktape application may be recommended to further enhance the treatment, provide relief or improve posture in the days following the treatment.  Rocktape is a hypoallergenic and water resistant brand of kinesiology tape that is used toprovide functional support to the body during and post exercise, decrease pain, swelling and bruising and improve posture. (2)

Post Treatment
Post treatment you may be prescribed stretches or strengthening exercises to address the issues that are causing your pain or discomfort.  Stretches will be prescribed to further lengthen tight muscles, and strengthening exercises will be prescribed to improve weak muscles.  These two issues together are a big contributing factor to pain and injury.  The exercises prescribed will accommodate your level of fitness and exercise knowledge – both gym exercises and home exercise can be recommended.

So as you can see, remedial massage is more than “just massage”!  If you’re ready to book in your treatment then call 9293 2999 or visit the “Book Online Now” button below to make your appointment.

 

 

References:
1.         Grace S, Deal M. Textbook of Remedial Massage: Elsevier Australia; 2012.

2.         Rocktape n.d. [Available from: https://rocktape.com.au/.

 

Spotlight On: Probiotics

Do you use a probiotic?  Perhaps you have heard of them but you’re not really sure what they are or what they do?   In this article we’ll have a (very) brief look at the world of probiotics, but first let’s start with talking about what’s going on in your gut.

Your gut microbiota is the term that is used to describe the tens of trillions of microorganisms living in your gut.  Approximately 1/3 of our gut microbiota is common to the majority of people, however the remaining 2/3 are specific just to YOU.  The estimated weight of our total microbiota is around 2kg.   You also have microbiota living in other parts of your body for example your skin and your mouth. (Health, n.d.)  Your gut microbiota play a role in digestion, maintaining and protecting the digestive tract, the production of some vitamins such as vitamin K and some components of vitamin B, and in immune function.  It is important in not only helping to fight infections, but also in keeping the immune system in balance. (Jandhyala et al., 2015)  It is so significant that some even classify it as an “acquired organ”.

I have touched on this in a previous article, however it is also important to reiterate that what we eat in our diet can drastically affect both the number and variety of microorganisms in our gut.  Prebiotics can be found naturally or added to food products, as well as being available in supplements. (Health, n.d.) These are indigestible fibres which make their way down to the bowel to feed the bacteria that populate that area.  One of the major issues with the western diet is that it has higher amounts of refined carbohydrates, animal meats and saturated fats, and less of the whole foods and fresh fruit and vegetables essential for gut microorganism diversity.  Foods that are highly refined and too easily digestible don’t make their way down to the bowel for those microorganisms. (Thomas, 2017) It is very important to ensure that your diet contains plenty of prebiotic foods – examples include garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, tomatoes,  apples, almonds and brans – and in fact in my opinion this is always the first thing to address if you are lacking these in your diet.

Probiotics are preparations that “contain viable, microbial agents that have been demonstrated to improve health” (Hawrelak, n.d) You will usually find them either on their own as tablets or powders, or incorporated into supplements or foods. 

What is interesting (and really cool) about probiotics is that it’s not just a case of grabbing any probiotic off the shelf and off you go.  Just like vitamins and minerals all have specific roles and therapeutic actions, so do the different strains of probiotics.  More and more probiotic strains are being researched in order to be used therapeutically for many different health issues including digestive function and health, antibiotic use, immune function, mental health, autoimmune conditions, allergies and chronic congestion, asthma, and many other conditions.  To read more detail about the importance of the difference in probiotic strains, here’s a great link: https://www.probioticadvisor.com/probiotic-essentials-1/the-importance-of-strain/  Some of the other benefits to particular probiotic strains is their ability to help the body rebuild its own native flora (which is particularly beneficial after antibiotic use), heal and repair the gut lining and suppress some pathogen growth.  A point worth mentioning is that every single probiotic strain is unique, even if it is the same species.  So the health benefits of one strain of Lactobacillus acidophilus could be different to another strain – and there are many many strains within each species.

Because of the variety in strains and therapeutic uses, it can be a bit daunting when you want to go and buy a probiotic from the chemist.  There are some well known brands that do label their products according to the strains in the probiotic and what their researched therapeutic properties are.  This is a great option for something along the lines of general immune and digestive wellbeing. 

If you feel that you or your family are experiencing some of the more complex issues including some digestive complaints, allergies, eczema, recurring sickness or infections then it is definitely worth the time to come in for a consultation so that I can take a full case history and prescribe a probiotic that is suited to your own personal needs, with specific strains that are indicated for your symptoms.  To book a Naturopathic appointment click the booking button below or call 9293 2999.  To find out more about Naturopathy click here.


References:
Hawrelak, J. (n.d). Probiotic Advisor.   https://www.probioticadvisor.com/

Health, G. M. f. (n.d.). Gut microbiota info. Retrieved from Gut Microbiota for Health website: http://www.gutmicrobiotaforhealth.com/en/about-gut-microbiota-info/
Jandhyala, S. M., Talukdar, R., Subramanyam, C., Vuyyuru, H., Sasikala, M., & Reddy, D. N. (2015). Role of the normal gut microbiota. World journal of gastroenterology: WJG, 21(29), 8787.
Thomas, L. (2017). How Does the Diet Impact Microbiota? Retrieved from News Medical Life Sciences website:

 

Winter Wellbeing - Children & Immunity

Children & Immunity

Anyone with children knows that as soon as Autumn starts to roll around, all the kids at daycare or school start turning into snotburgers and inevitably your child ends up sick too.

So why do kids seem to get sick more often than adults?  The short answer is simply that children have not had as much time for their immune system to mature, and as adults we have been exposed to more germs & viruses (pathogens) than most kids have.   Therefore kids are more easily affected by the pathogens that they’re exposed to as their immune system works to fight (and remember) them. (1)

Another key point to remember is the role gut health plays in immune function.   Living in the gut are tens of trillions of microorganisms, including over 1000 different species – and that’s just in one human! (2) These microorganisms (known as your microbiota) play an important part in maintaining your immune system balance and act as a first line defense against invading pathogens.   There are many factors that can affect the balance of your microbiota, ranging from diet, medications, to even the birth process. (3)

So what can be done by you to improve your child’s ability to fend off bugs and germs this winter?

1. Diet is Key!
As we’ve mentioned above, your gut health and microbiota plays a key role in how well your immune system functions.   And the food you eat can determine how well populated and diverse your microbiota is.   The “food” that your beneficial bacteria eat are known as prebiotics.  Prebiotics can promote the growth of many of your beneficial bacteria – and so it is important to include prebiotic containing foods in your child’s (and your!) diet.  Luckily, this can be achieved just by including fresh fruits and vegetables as part of your daily diet.  Examples of foods that are high in prebiotics include asparagus, garlic, beetroot, sweet corn, kidney beans, chickpeas, watermelon, nectarines and white peaches. (4)  Another benefit of consuming fresh fruits and vegetables is that many of them contain other key nutrients essential for immune function including zinc, vitamin C and antioxidants.  Finally, foods high in omega 3 fatty acids such as salmon and tuna are also beneficial for the immune system not only helping to reduce inflammation in the body, but by potentially enhancing the activity of some white blood cells. (5)

2.  Sleep (HA!)
If you’re a parent, then it’s quite likely that the mere mention of children and sleep sends you to the corner curled up in a ball rocking to and fro in a twitching frenzy.   However, as I discussed in my last blog post, sleep is an important requirement for overall health and wellbeing, and it is also very important for immunity.  Lack of sleep can suppress immune function and affect how our bodies fight infections. (6) This is true for both adults and children and so it is important to try (as best you can) to ensure that you child gets the amount of sleep for their age.  According to the Raising Children Network, children aged 3-5 years need around 11-13 hours sleep per night, children aged 6-9 need around 10-11 hours per night, and from 10 years they will generally need 9 hours sleep per night. (7) Some ideas for the evenings to help wind kids down include;

·      Turn off electronic devices 30 mins – 1 hr before bed time and have some sort of quiet activity to help ease them into bed time;
·      A warm bath with some Epsom salts and/or bath oils such as the Children’s Blend by Tinderbox to calm their mind and relax their body;
·      Flower essences such as Bach Rescue Sleep in the bath or under the tongue;
·      Diffusing essential oils in the house or in the bedroom, with calming scents such as Lavender and Chamomile (I personally love the Plant Therapy KidSafe blends);
·      Chamomile tea or extract (I love Kiwiherb Kids Calm) is also a nice choice to help unwind at the end of the day.

3.  Exercise
With the risk of sounding like a broken record, we come again to the importance of exercise.   As a rough guideline, children under the age of 5 should be getting a total of 3 hours of physical activity spread throughout the day, and children aged 5-17 should be getting 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity every day. (8) People who are physically active have been shown to be less likely to develop a cold, and those who did recovered much faster than those who were less fit.   One theory is that exercise may increase the number of white blood cells which act to reduce a person’s susceptibility to certain diseases. (9) The other advantage of being physically active outside during the cooler months is that being in the sun can help the body make vitamin D, another another nutrient which is essential for immune function. (10)

There are of course many other actions you can take to help your kids get through the winter with minimal sick days – there are some beautiful herbal remedies available for kids that work well to improve symptoms of colds such as congestion and runny noses, and kids supplements that can be used in conjunction with dietary and lifestyle measures to help with improving nutrient intake over the cooler months.

If you would like to find out more about any of the oil blends, essences or extracts mentioned above, or feel you need a little extra help with improving your children’s health then please call 92932999 or email alexia@holistia.com.au to find out more or book your appointment.

 


References:
1.         Simon AK, Hollander GA, McMichael A, editors. Evolution of the immune system in humans from infancy to old age. Proc R Soc B; 2015: The Royal Society.

2.         Health GMf. Gut microbiota infon.d. 29 March 2017. Available from: http://www.gutmicrobiotaforhealth.com/en/about-gut-microbiota-info/.
3.         Wu H-J, Wu E. The role of gut microbiota in immune homeostasis and autoimmunity. Gut microbes. 2012;3(1):4-14.
4.         University M. Dietary Fibre and natural prebiotics for gut health: FAQs2017 29 March 2017. Available from: http://www.med.monash.edu.au/cecs/gastro/prebiotic/faq/ - 6.
5.         Gray N. Omega-3 backed to boost immune response, not just battle inflammation: Study2013 29 March 2017d. Available from: http://www.nutraingredients.com/Research/Omega-3-backed-to-boost-immune-response-not-just-battle-inflammation-Study.
6.         Mann D. Can Better Sleep Mean Catching Fewer Colds?2010 29 March 2017. Available from: http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/immune-system-lack-of-sleep - 1.
7.         About sleep2016 29 March 2017. Available from: http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/sleep_the_hows_and_whys.html/context/730.
8.         Australia's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines. In: Health Do, editor. 2014.
9.         Lavelle P. Study proves exercise boosts immune system2010 15 March 2017. Available from: http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2010/11/02/3054621.htm.
10.       ScienceDaily. Vitamin D crucial to activating immune defenses2010 29 March 2017. Available from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100307215534.htm.
Photo credit: Janko Ferlic, www.unsplash.com

Winter Wellbeing - Stress & Immunity

Do you find that every time the colder months start to hit, you end up coughing, sneezing and needing to take time off work?  Or even worse, having to soldier on even though you really should be resting in bed?

Are you are parent with kids who have perpetually runny noses and spend the entirety of winter coughing, or having to take days off school?

Summer did try and sneak in for a few extra days over March, but there is no escaping the fact that winter is on its way.  Spending the colder months sick and tired and feverish is not fun for you, or anyone around you.  Unless maybe you have some Netflix series to binge on, or a dog who gets to curl up on your blanket and keep you company when you’re home sick…  

Now is the time to start thinking about whether there are any changes you can make to your diet or lifestyle to minimize the risk of getting sick this winter.

You may be surprised that my first tip is not a diet tip or herbal concoction, but in fact this very important lifestyle factor.   According to the Australian Psychological Society’s 2015 Stress and Wellbeing Survey, 35% of Australians reported having a significant level of distress in their lives, with anxiety symptoms in 2015 being the highest they have been in the five years of the survey. (1)  Stress has a huge impact on the body, and many people associate it with decreased energy levels or low mood.  But did you know that stress has an impact on your immune function too?

When we are in a situation of high stress, cortisol is released as part of the body’s “fight or flight” mechanism.  This allows us to be in a heightened state of arousal, allowing us to quickly deal with the stressor.  In a normal situation, the stressor is dealt with and the cortisol levels (and subsequently heart rate and blood pressure) reduce. However many of us are dealing with long lasting periods of stress, and so the stress-response system is activated over a long period of time.  When cortisol and other stress hormones are constantly high, the body’s immune response is lowered, the production and activity of natural killer (NK) cells is reduced, and inflammation is decreased. This leads to increased rate of infections and reduced ability to recover quickly from viruses. (2)

So what actions can you take today to decrease your stress levels right away?

1.  YOU-time
Who are you serving right now?  For many of us, the first person to fall by the wayside is ourselves when we are stressed.  What would it take to schedule in time for you?  It can be difficult, especially if the stress is due to being super busy – but even if you schedule 5 minutes of quiet time in the morning to yourself per day just as a start.  Then build it up.  You could get up 20 minutes earlier than you normally do and do a yoga workout from YouTube (pro tip from yours truly!).  Or find a room in your house and shut the door and let your family know not to bother you for those 5, 10, 20 minutes.  Find small ways to serve YOU first.  You cannot serve others if your cup has nothing in it.

2. Exercise
It’s well known that exercise reduces stress.  It reduces the levels of stress hormones in the body, and stimulates the production of endorphins which help to increase mood. (3) Along with the benefits that reducing stress has on immune function, exercise itself has also has a beneficial action on the immune system. (4)  Start small if you need to – 3 x 30 minutes session in a week.  Or, incorporate your new-found morning yoga practices as part of your exercise routine.  Mix it up with some relaxation and power yoga.   Go for a brisk walk (leave your phone at home!) and disconnect from your stressors – you could practice mindfulness techniques at the same time.  Do some body weight exercises in your lounge room.  Or, if you are relatively fit then make the time to go for a run or do a weights session at the gym.

3. Sleep
Sleep is essential for health and wellbeing.  When we sleep, the body repairs itself and our brain recharges.  Stress and sleep can sometimes get caught up in the vicious circle – when we don’t sleep enough we feel stressed, when we feel stressed we can’t sleep.  If you are having issues with sleep then good sleep hygiene is imperative.  Try turning off your electronic devices (TV, phone, ipad) 30 minutes before bed time to disengage and wind down.  Keep a sleep diary, to track how many hours you are sleeping – and whether that sleep is interrupted or not.   You may well find that if you start implementing step 1 & 2, then your sleep improves.

4.  Diet
When in times of stress, it can be quite tempting to buy take-away and indulge in comforting foods however many of these foods can exacerbate stress levels and have other negative effects on the body. (5)  Overhauling your entire diet can be stressful in itself however there are small changes you can make to take steps in changing what you eat and how you eat.
·  Increase magnesium-rich foods.  Many people are deficient in magnesium, and low levels are linked to stress, depression & anxiety. (6) Foods that are rich in magnesium include nuts (almond, brazil, walnuts), sesame seeds, turkey, bananas and dark chocolate.
·  Increase B-vitamin rich foods.  B-vitamins are also shown to reduce levels of stress. (7)  Foods rich in B-vitamins include yeast spreads, liver, broccoli, spinach & egg yolks.
·  Increase antioxidant-rich foods.  Chronic stress and increased levels of cortisol can increase the oxidative stress in the body.  Antioxidants work to counteract the effect (to a degree – reducing stress is still the primary goal!).  Antioxidant rich foods include blueberries, green tea, dark chocolate, fresh herbs and (small amounts of!) red wine.

If you feel like you could benefit with a little one-on-one help with reducing your stress levels and minimizing your risk of being bed-bound with yet another cold over winter, or implementing any of the above suggestions, then please don't hesitate to get in touch to find out how I can help you!

 

 

 


References:
1. APS. APS Stress and Wellbeing in Australia Survey 20152017 15 March 2017. Available from: http://www.psychology.org.au/psychologyweek/survey/results-stress-and-wellbeing/
2. Randall M. The Physiology of Stress: Cortisol and the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis. Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science [Internet]. 2011 15 March 2017. Available from: http://dujs.dartmouth.edu/2011/02/the-physiology-of-stress-cortisol-and-the-hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal-axis/ - .WMkNcrGr1E5.
3. Watch HMsH. Exercising to relax2011 15 March 2017. Available from: http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax.
4. Lavelle P. Study proves exercise boosts immune system2010 15 March 2017. Available from: http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2010/11/02/3054621.htm.
5. Caldwell E. Weighty issue: Stress and high-fat meals combine to slow metabolism in womez2014 15 March 2017. Available from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140714100128.htm.
6. Deans E. Magnesium and the Brain: The Original Chill Pill2011 21 February, 2016. Available from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201106/magnesium-and-the-brain-the-original-chill-pill.
7. Stough C, Scholey A, Lloyd J, Spong J, Myers S, Downey LA. The effect of 90 day administration of a high dose vitamin B‐complex on work stress. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental. 2011;26(7):470-6.