Combatting Stress in an Effective Way

With school starting up again, it is common to feel overwhelmed and stressed out. However, there are ways to tackle that feeling to remain calmer and in charge of our lives. While the usual suggestions have to do with eating right, sleeping well, and working ahead in classes, the shape of our environment is often overlooked. Our environments tend to be reflections of how we feel inside, so when our environments become disorganized and messy, we start to feel burdened and burnt out. Having a clean environment to work in can boost productivity and reduce anxiety about upcoming deadlines. 

The first step would be to clear surfaces, put items in their designated places, and dust/disinfect commonly touched areas. Things like doing a load of laundry, putting on clean bed sheets, or taking out the trash can be done next. Little things like diffusing essential oils (peppermint, spearmint, or lavender) or burning non-toxic candles can help freshen up the air. More specifically, according to a recent study, peppermint essential oil has been shown to improve the outcomes on tasks related to attentional processes, recognition, and working memory. This can prove to be extremely beneficial when studying for exams or preparing for presentations. Oils can also be mixed in order to boost their effects and combat the negative effects of stress. Here are a few ideas: 

·      Calming Diffuser Blends for Stress

·      5 Essential Diffuser Blends for Stress

After cleaning up our surroundings, it can be worthwhile to do a “brain-dump” and prioritize remaining tasks that need to be done. It can be soothing to visually look at what is taking up space in our brains and allows us to slowly tackle any daunting tasks. Best of luck with the semester!

The Power of Being Mindful

There’s an art to being mindful. It can be extremely challenging to take a step back and be focused on the present, however, the present is the only promised moment and worrying about the past/future only takes away from the beauty of our current moments. Being mindful allows us to soak in what’s going on around us while also allowing us to appreciate 

While it isn’t the easiest to unplug, taking a break from social media can help us focus on our own lives and become more conscious of our surroundings. Meditation is also one of the most common ways to refocus our minds on what is important and what should be let go of. It helps to release any anxiety from the past or any worries for the future. There are many meditation apps like Simple Habit, Headspace, Calm, and Sleepiest, however, there are also free guided meditations on YouTube. 

Reading books, spending time in nature, and journaling can also help with becoming more aware. While there are many books on mindfulness, any book that captures your attention will work as it’ll successfully shift your focus to whatever you’re reading. Lastly, spending time in nature and journaling are two other common ways to refocus the mind. There are journals that have prompts that are meant to invoke feelings of calmness or happiness. The most popular ones are called 52 Lists for Calm and 52 Lists for Happiness.

Seasonal Depression

Winters can be taxing on not only our bodies but also our minds. The shorter and colder days cause many of us to retreat and feel depleted the majority of the time. While many individuals feel alone in this, it is actually is a common struggle that is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder and it affects over 10 million Americans. 

Caring for something like a pet or plants can also help us feel a sense of responsibility and love. Indoor plants bring nature indoors and caring for something small allows us to shift our attention elsewhere even if it is only for a few minutes. Embracing Hygge and bringing coziness indoors helps us feel a sense of warmth and togetherness. Turning on the fireplace, lighting candles, eating or baking a delicious treat, having thought-provoking conversations with loved ones, and reading can all help take our minds off of the gloomy weather. 

Many physicians also believe that vitamin D deficiencies can further worsen the feelings of depression. It is easier to get our daily dose of vitamin D in warmer weather, but our bodies don’t get enough when we spend so much time indoors during the winter. Vitamin D is responsible for maintaining strong bones and strengthening our immune systems, but most importantly it protects our brains and boosts cognitive function. This has a direct correlation with how we feel mentally. Physicians can test for vitamin D deficiencies through simple lab work and often will recommend taking a vitamin D supplement from a company like Douglas Laboratories or Life Extension. 

Resources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22536767

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder

Post-Holiday Detox

As the celebrations wind down, our attention shifts to health and wellness. Many of us become more conscious of what we are putting in our bodies. After consuming an excess of foods with carbs and sugar, the likelihood of feeling bloated and inflamed is higher. As usual, there are natural approaches to these symptoms.

The turmeric plant is one of the best ways to cut down inflammation as the turmeric root contains properties known for numerous health benefits such as boosting cellular and immune health, promoting healthy blood circulation, improving brain health, and supporting mood. 

Turmeric also provides antioxidants that help to neutralize free radicals. Neutralizing free radicals fights the consequences of oxidative stress. This is vital because we are exposed to oxidative stress every day due to things like pollution, toxins, a poor diet, inadequate sleep, and not enough exercise. Oxidative stress combined with chronic inflammation can be very detrimental to the body, so it is important to combat those consequences with natural foods. It also boosts brain health as it has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. This is extremely rare for most supplements and medications, so turmeric has been proven to prevent the buildup of plaques, protect against neurodegenerative diseases, and enhance memory while protecting the brain. The brain health benefits go hand in hand with supporting mood because it has been shown to improve symptoms of depression, support the production of the “happy” neurotransmitters, and prevent mental fatigue. 

Turmeric can be consumed through supplementation or through various additions in our diets, such as soups or curries, smoothies, or herbal tea. The most common way to consume it in the homeland of turmeric is through chicken curries or lentil soup. Here are some basic recipes for that:

·      Red Lentil Dal

·      Turmeric Chicken and Rice

Neuroscience – The Effect of Sugar on the Brain

It is recommended to keep sugar intake below 25 grams every day. However, when looking at nutrition labels, it can be extremely easy to go over the allotted 25 grams a day. Not only can an excess of sugar consumption lead to chronic diseases like diabetes but it has been proven to be detrimental to the brain as well. 

Excess consumption of sugar damages the brain. The hippocampus shrinks and becomes significantly smaller which is harmful because the hippocampus is an important part of the brain that regulates emotion, learning, memory, and motivation. Sugar also shrinks the brain as a whole which further deteriorates memory. A shocking finding is that individuals who replace sugary drinks with “diet” drinks like Diet Coke are almost three times more likely to suffer from a stroke or develop dementia. 

What can be used in place of sugary drinks? Although it can be a difficult adjustment at first, replacing sugary drinks with water, infused water (lemons, herbs, or fruits), sparkling water, kombucha, herbal tea, or smoothies can be very beneficial to the body. It is important to note that artificial sugars can destroy the microbiome as well and change the balance of bacteria found in the gut. This means that artificial sweeteners are essentially toxic to the gut and can leave an individual with more health problems. All in all, anything that has an effect on the gut has an effect on the brain due to the gut-brain axis, so it is important to recognize the connection and steer clear from anything that damages one or the other. 

Resources:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170420162254.htm

https://www.news-medical.net/health/Hippocampus-Functions.aspx

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/artificial-sweeteners-and-gut-bacteria

https://science.slashdot.org/story/18/10/05/0149220/artificial-sweeteners-are-toxic-to-digestive-gut-bacteria-study-finds

Laughing During Finals Season? That’s so Punny!

Laughter has many proven health benefits but sometimes that’s the last thing on our minds when our to-do lists are never-ending and there are many deadlines to meet. Taking a few minutes to be mindful and be happy can never hurt.

According to the Mayo Clinic, laughing has proven to relieve stress by stimulating organs, soothe tension, relieve pain, improve mood, and boost the immune system. Positive thoughts can boost our sense of satisfaction and can also lessen the chance of feeling depressed or anxious. It might not seem natural to schedule laughter into our days, but it can remind us to be more present and live life to the fullest. Sometimes we can get into a rut and forget about all the things that bring us joy, however, forgetting this can be harmful to our minds and bodies in the long run. 

How should laughter be scheduled into our everyday lives? Find a comedian that makes you laugh your heart out, befriend someone funny, spend more time with a friend that has the same sense of humor as you, watch a silly sitcom, read a funny book, read comics, follow a meme account on social media, or simply just read some light-hearted puns online! Talking to Siri, reminiscing about a time that made you laugh a ton, or trying a laughing meditation can also help lighten up the mood. 

Resources:

https://www.rd.com/funny-stuff/ways-to-laugh-more-every-day/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456

Supplementing with Sarsaparilla

Sarsaparilla is not a common supplement, but it has some noteworthy health benefits. It has a distinct taste and can be found as an ingredient in old-fashioned root beer. It grows in tropical and subtropical regions and has different variations. Some are known to grow in Jamaica, while others grow in Mexico, and others are native to Africa.  

As for health benefits, sarsaparilla has been proven to encourage cell growth while simultaneously preventing or reducing the occurrence of cell mutations. It also has the ability to reduce the amount of harmful inflammation in the body and can help the body recover from high blood sugar levels. This can prevent many chronic diseases as the leading cause of chronic diseases is detrimental amounts of inflammation. One huge benefit is that it supports joints and can reduce the amount of achiness while even mimicking the benefits of conventional arthritis drugs. The last notable benefit has to do with boosting the number of antioxidants in the body. It can encourage healthy skin growth even after UV light exposure, boost gut-health, encourage detoxification in the liver, and increase energy levels.

Sarsaparilla can be found in sodas, mixed in with other supplements, or even as a tea. As always, use caution and consult a physician before adding anything to your diet to ensure there are not any negative interactions with medications. 

Resources:

https://www.gaiaherbs.com/blogs/herbs/sarsaparilla

The Benefits of Collagen

Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins found in our blood, bones, muscles, skin, and tendons. It makes up around 30% of the protein found in our bodies, but the amount of collagen is reduced by half once an individual is around 60 years old. Collagen has received a lot of recognition lately for supporting healthy, glowing skin, and slowing down the effects of aging. It also has received acknowledgment for healing the gut and proving to be extremely beneficial to individuals with autoimmune diseases. 

However, before adding it to your diet, it is important to be able to differentiate between the types of collagen and pick which one is best for you. There are three types – Type I, Type II, and Type III. Type I is responsible for promoting skin elasticity and may help to speed up the healing process for wounds. Type II is responsible for supporting joints and helping with achy joints. It can be especially beneficial for individuals dealing with arthritis. Type III promotes healthy nails, skin, hair, and strengthens the bones in our body. With that being said, Types I and III are best for individuals looking to get healthier skin, hair, and nails or promote muscle/bone health. Type II is best for individuals struggling with joint pain in their knees, back, jaw, or wrists. 

The easiest ways to get a boost of collagen is through supplementation, bone broth, or the addition of collagen powder to smoothies or lattes. Here are some ideas:

·      Collagen Matcha Latte

·      Chocolate Collagen Smoothie

·      Vital Proteins Cinnamon Vanilla Latte

·      Homemade Collagen Bone Broth Recipe

Tips for Finishing the Semester

As this semester is starting to wrap up, it is common to feel a little overwhelmed and exhausted. With that being said, many factors can help with managing this stress and calming the mind. It is important to remember that feeling stress is very normal, but you should still be able to maintain balance and never compromise your well-being too much. Knowing when to reach out to friends, family, or qualified professionals is extremely important, but if that isn’t possible right now, consider some of these suggestions that you can do on your own: 

Resting

  • No amount of coffee can ever make up for quality sleep, as sleeping is one of the primary ways the body and brain get a chance to recharge. Not only does sleep improve the retention of what you learn, but it has also been shown to aid your overall memorization abilities. 

Nourishing the Body and Brain

  • Nourishing the body and brain can often be overlooked during hectic times. However, it is during these times that the body and brain need an extra boost. Snacking on things like nuts, fruits, and veggies, while drinking lots of water, can provide sustainable energy levels. 

Meditating and Deep-Breathing

  • Meditating with apps like Simple Habit, Calm, or Headspace are great for helping with this!

Exercising

  • Something as simple as taking a quick walk or dancing to your favorite tunes can count as exercise, get the blood flowing, and release stress-relieving endorphins. 

Journaling 

  • Journaling can help calm the mind and allow it to be more present/mindful. It can help to put things into perspective and prioritize pending tasks. 

Resources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/ulterior-motives/201611/how-sleep-enhances-studying

Defying Stress with Nature

As the end of the semester approaches, things are starting to pick up and get a little hectic. This post will go over some quick and easy tips on how to defy stress with nature. 

Things like taking a walk or going for a run outside can boost the release of endorphins and allow the mind to ease up a little. Taking a bath with Epsom salt, making a cup of adaptogenic tea and watch a movie, or getting a massage with essential oils can also help relieve a significant amount of stress. 

Supplements with things like L-Theanine, 5-HTP, ashwagandha, Reishi mushrooms, and magnesium can also calm the mind naturally and promote a feeling of relaxation. Irwin Naturals Stress-Defy Extra with Ashwagandha combines all these amino acids, herbs, and vitamins to 

L-Theanine naturally occurs in our body and the primary function is to stimulate alpha brain waves to produce a general feeling of calmness and alert focus. 5-HTP is responsible for boosting the production of serotonin as it has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. Ashwagandha can provide support against the negative ramifications of stress. Reishi mushrooms are also known as the queen of mushrooms and it has received a lot of attention for the mind and body balancing properties it has. Finally, magnesium plays an integral role in calming the body all while reducing aches and pains.  

Resources:

https://us.foursigmatic.com/blog/reishi