I feel that we all handle stress differently and it means different things to different people. The way we react to stress, the way our bodies handle it, how it affects our mental state, and so forth. For me, I used to be the type that was so far one way on the stress spectrum where you said the wrong thing and I might burst into flames, tears, and I would be in a constant state of STRESS (all capital letters with 100 explanation points at the end) when I had one too many commitments, events, work related projects, school work, and really just about anything that was happening in life. Yet now, I actually feel that I have more things going on, I am traveling more, more pressure with work since I work for myself, yet I feel that I am somewhere towards the other end of the stress scale. Yes, I stress, but I welcome stress because I think that some stress is positive in life because it motivates you in a way yet I feel way less explosive, reactive towards stressful situations, and my body handles it in a much more positive way.
My intention with this blog post is to share how I better manage my stress, maintaining a healthy and happy gut, tips and suggestions for you through things like foods, probiotics, or just simple ways that I keep a positive outlook during these periods…
In a nutshell I found that:
Sleeping the right amount
Exercising just enough, so not too much but not completely putting off moving all together Eating to fuel my body, balancing out my food, eating variety
Staying hydrated all day long
Maintaining a social life
…was key in staying as positive as I could during stressful times. It might sound easy and it is, but it can be hard when we are faced with multiple demands from friends, family, school, work, and whatever else you have going on! I used to over do it on exercising, eat too much or not the right foods for MY body, sleep was not a priority, my social life took a back seat, and I wasn’t thinking about how I was treating my body and how it made me feel nor affected my stress levels and my reaction towards it.
For me, it always starts with a healthy gut to help manage and combat stress. If my gut is working properly it always seems that the rest of my body is functioning at its best; that always means that I am getting enough sleep, I am eating well, and moving my body enough throughout the week. It also means turning towards foods that are going to fuel my body, give me energy, not weigh me down, or supplements that contain probiotics. For the last month I have been taking Silver Fern Ultimate Probiotic supplements and I have been waiting to share with you all to see how my body handled them! I mentioned them a bit when I had my event two weeks ago in NY but I wanted to share them here in this dedicated post in the different ways to combat stress, because I truly do believe that it starts with maintaining a healthy gut and one way you can do that is introducing probiotics into your daily regime.
I’ve been on the hunt for a good probiotic and I had seen Silver Fern around for quite some time and I couldn’t wait to start incorporating it into my morning routine and see the positive affects it would have on my body, especially my gut health. From someone that is prone to leaky gut, SIBO, (have had both in the past, which you can read about here & here.) and has IBS, gastroparesis, it is extremely important for me to make sure I take care of my body through certain foods and supplements in order feel my best more often than not AND NOT stress out my body which can be a major issue for me resulting in the return of my leaky gut, SIBO, migraines and terrible gut health. It is important to find a high quality probiotic that can help replenish, help promote, and rejuvenate your gut; the microbiome!
For me, having a strong healthy gut means that I stress less, I think more positively, I am more focused, I sleep more soundly, and handle stress differently; better. Why? I am not constantly bloated, inflamed, or feel that every time I eat that I am intolerant to foods that I am eating. My digestive system seems to be working properly, it is on track, and when my gut feels strong and healthy my mood is elevated because I am less prone to leaky gut, SIBO, cravings, IBS- C or D. When my gut health is off, then I am even more stressed out on top of everything that I have going on because it is all that I can think about because of the physical pain that it seems to be causing; the more bloating, the more issues you have with your digestive system, the harder it is to eat, fall asleep, exercise, and really just go about your day and focus!
Why I love Silver Fern Ultimate Probiotic:
Contains a prebiotic to help activate the probiotic bacteria in the intestines
Improves digestion, bloating, and keeping you on track!
Helps support the growth of the GOOD bacteria
Reduces inflammation and supports nutrient absorption
ALSO contains strains of probiotics that aids in digestion, help with IBS, crown’s, and help reform an ailing gut.
Many of these mentioned above is everything that I can suffer from when I am completely stressed out…so, adding a probiotic into my routine has been sufficiently beneficial to my overall health and well-being. They also have drink mixes (6 different flavors) too that make it so easy to add into your waters and carry for on the go! I’ve been mixing the packets into my water with a little lemon when I feel extra stressed, after a hot yoga class, or after a night out! I don’t feel any adverse side affects and they contain no added sugar!
For the probiotics so far I am taking 1 each morning with my usual lemon, apple cider vinegar water daily. Within a week I noticed that bloating was better and I wasn’t suffering from ups and downs with digestive issues. I really think it has improved my gut health just within a month of taking them and I am happy to have included this into my daily routine!
Now on to other things!
Mental Health / Positive Thinking:
Sometimes the more I stayed in, isolated myself, the more I retreated, the more negatively it impacted my health - my mood, anxiety, stress levels, gut health, and overall happiness. However, I think that having a positive outlook on situations, life in general does boost your overall self esteem and happiness and therefore in turn can make you less stressed. Hear me out: The more you see your friends, family, or spend time with positive people that build you up, the happier you are. This doesn’t mean to forgo your school, work, or other deadlines, but all I try and commit to is seeing friends 2 times a week during the week and once on the weekends.
I schedule plans for dinners, workout classes, walks, hikes, cook with friends, meet for coffees or smoothies. I felt that the more I was socializing with my friends and spending time with people that mattered in my life, my cortisol levels lowered, my body was less inflamed and I was able to talk through any stressors that I might be experiencing instead of holding it in and causing my body to become tense! Not having a social life before or neglecting that part of my health would actually make me feel more negative about myself, my work, I was sleeping less, had more anxiety, and reached for foods that might not make me feel the best. I think if you isolate yourself so much and become envious of others; you start to focus less on the good, your own work, and your own well being, but when you are having fun, whether it is working out with a friend, eating a healthy dinner, walking, or doing whatever you like to do you are more focused on the present moments. When I was canceling on my friends or neglecting time with them, I would work out or work longer hours, but I wasn’t working efficiently. I was also over doing it with workouts. For me, when I work out TOO much, my cortisol levels rise and my body becomes inflamed and I can actually feel the physical pain from it! This would not allow me to sleep well, I would over eat, become irritable and would be completely drained and burnt out yet I couldn’t cut the pattern. When I finally started to cut back on workouts and started to focus more on my yoga classes and walks, my body was more at peace, my anxiety was completely gone, I was less bloated and I felt extremely better and happier. I think it was because I learned that I would rather spend time with my friends than workout every second of the day and feel miserable. Now I focus on moving every single day in however I see fit whether that is walking, swimming or going to yoga a few times a week.
A side note, taking Sliver Fern Ultimate Probiotic has greatly helped with this as well. After strenuous workouts it is so important to take the time to properly recover from them, especially your gut! Often times high intensity training can lead to leaky gut as well as the physical and mental stress! By keeping your gut healthy with Silver Ferns, lets say, and stress levels low by finding the right workout that works for your body, you can help your stress levels and actually have more product workouts, recover faster, crash less often, and suffer from less gastrointestinal problems!
Here are things that increase my stress and my body’s ability to handle it:
Consumption of excess sugar
High levels of caffeine consumption
Working out too much (intense workouts, HIIT etc)
Lack of sleep
Lack of fresh air, being outside (vitamin d!!!)
Isolating myself from others
Lack of proper diet that I thrive off of
Foods that combat stress!
Taking a digestive enzymes before you eat can help better digest your food and jumpstart the process if you are problems with that! I know that if I am overwhelmed, my digestion is the first to feel it and I can have a hard time either having an appetite, wanting to eat, or properly digesting my food! Which is why once again probiotics are key and an enzyme might be beneficial too!
Foods such as Omega 3 fatty acids that rebuild healthy cells and fight again inflammation. I also focus on high fiber foods such as vegetables, nuts, seeds, and do not shy away from healthy fats. During times of stress, for me personally I find it extra important to eliminate or stay away from sugar as that always feeds that bad bacteria in my gut, causes me to crave sugar more, causes more stress not only to me, but in my body as well. Instead if I am craving sweets this is what I gravitate towards:
roasted sweet potato with dairy free yogurts, chia seeds or ground flaxseeds, with nut butter or coconut butter
dark chocolate with zero sugar
almond milk heated with 1-2 tbsp raw cacao plus a pinch of each: cinnamon, ginger, turmeric
a simple smoothie filled with spinach, raw cacao, ground flaxseed, almond butter, maca powder, and blueberries for a low sugar berry option or 1 date or half a banana to keep it lower in sugar.
chia puddings made with raw cacao + low sugar granola; I tend to stick to paleo granolas as they are made with nuts, coconut oil and usually only sweetened with honey or maple syrup and they are higher in protein.
energy bites on my blog!
For foods during stressful times; instead of reaching for foods that might make you feel good in the moment I tend to reach for foods that are going to ease my stress, help calm down any anxiety, and sooth my stomach:
Wild salmon, ground flaxseeds, chia seeds, brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts, hemp seeds, organic eggs
Dark chocolate, spinach, blueberries, sweet potatoes, citrus fruits, root vegetables, herbal teas (ginger, lemon, cinnamon, turmeric), raw cacao, apple cider vinegar, beets, lentils, bananas, almond butter, fennel, acorn squash, butternut squash, avocados, etc!
During these times, I try my best to up my protein and fiber to keep myself satisfied and my brain functioning properly. This also helps me combat any sugar cravings, which I rarely have, but during stressful times, it is what most people probably reach for. It will only affect your stress levels later, causing you to crash which is why it is important to eat more variety, well balanced, and foods that will make you actually feel less stressed, or bring less stress to the body!
Other things that I focus on now or when I find my calendar to be overwhelming that helps keep my mind at ease and my body less stressed is:
- Keep a gratitude journal; focus on the positive & good that you have in your life. Each morning or night write down 3 things that you are grateful for or 3 GOOD/POSITIVE things that happened that day. It will start to make you appreciate what you have going on in your life and allow to stop focusing on comparing yourself to others
- Read! This allows me to mentally escape what I have going on work wise and anything else going on. Instead of scrolling the internet, IG, or watching TV I try and find a really good book I can get lost in
- Schedule in time for friends each week. They say that your personality is the make up of the closet 5 people in your inner circle, so make sure you are spending your time wisely with the people that benefit you.
- Find a workout routine that works for you and not what everyone else is doing. I focus on yoga and walking. I used to go very early in the mornings but it would constantly make me late for work and then I would go extremely late in the evenings but it would hinder my sleep cycle. Find what works for you.
- Create a month by month calendar of everything you have going on so you can see the bigger picture. It may seem overwhelming at first, but then you can tackle each day, day by day and remember what you have going on.
- Create a to do list every night before you go to bed, so you wake up each morning knowing what you have going on for the day
- Organize your entire morning the night before: regarding the clothes you are wearing to work, the breakfast you are eating, workouts you are doing or not going to be doing (rest day?!), plans you have after work, etc. Then all you have to do is wake up and go!
- Take breaks during the day! When you are feeling extremely overwhelmed, stressed, tired; take a break and allow yourself to do that! I normally would push thru them and it would only make things worse. Now, I take rest days, I take walks outside even if its just 15 minutes, I take workout breaks if I can, or completely stop what I am doing and come back to it when I have a clear frame of mind.
- Practice self care! I love epsom salt baths, face masks, and really anything that you can do at home that is affordable to you! This will be super relaxing to your mind, gut, and make you feel at total ease and help reduce any inflammation and tension you are holding on to in your body!
- Focus on complaining less! It can be really hard and a rut that you are stuck in, but when I found myself complaining less about the work that I had to do, I became way more positive about situations that I was in and more grateful. Remember it is a GOOD thing to be busy. You are lucky!!!
Stress is obviously unavoidable and happens to all of us! I think that by creating a routine for yourself, focusing on nourishing nutrient dense foods, adding in probiotics that support your gut health, and committing to maintaining a social life can really help shift your mental attitude as to how you react to stressful situations. The more you isolate yourself and seclude yourself, the more tense and inflamed your body will become, causing your cortisol levels to rise (at least this is what happens to me!), but the more you focus on staying active both mentally and physically and treating your body and self with care the easier it will be for you to handle moments of what feels like complete chaos!