Everyone agrees that stress is part of everyone’s life and it’s affecting our health in many ways. While a life with no stress is unrealistic, we can all live a life less stressed. As our world becomes more complicated, the solutions to better health are remarkably simple, and within everyone’s reach. Here are three simple steps to get you started.
Today we have an epidemic of poor sleep. A consistently good night’s sleep is a function of quantity (90% of the population needs 7-9 hours per night) and quality (breathing well while you sleep) to wake up refreshed.
A consistently good night’s sleep ensures the nerves that drive every system in our bodies have a chance to recover. We spend our waking hours experiencing the world around us, but it is during the deeper levels of sleep that we reflect on, sort out and integrate those experiences, affecting our memory, moods and mental health.
Poor sleep affects hormones that regulate our weight and blood sugar. The stress hormone cortisol is elevated, raising blood sugar. There is an increase in the hormone ghrelin, which drives hunger and encourages us to eat more. In addition, the hormone which helps us metabolise fat, leptin goes down, and insulin which helps us store fat goes up. If you are on a diet and sleeping poorly it means you won’t lose fat, but will lose lean muscle mass instead.
Poor sleep drives up chronic inflammation, the common denominator in all preventable chronic diseases, while our immune system is compromised.
With a consistently good night’s sleep, it’s not only more likely that you will eat less, but it’s also far more likely that you will exercise, and when you do, your response to that exercise will be more positive one.
Put simply, a consistently good night’s sleep is your body’s built-in non-negotiable, life support system. Use it or lose it, the choice is obvious.
Keep insulin low
Humans have proved to be very adaptable when it comes to food. From the Inuits in the Arctic to the Hunza tribes of the Himalayan, humans’ ability to adapt to various kinds of foods has been one of our greatest strengths. Humans have always had to deal with hunger.
The modern epidemic of an overabundance of seemingly cheap foods, many of which our ancestors would not even recognise as food, has been a big part of in the rise of preventable chronic diseases, increasingly affecting both young and old.
The lessons from your past are simple yet profound. Eat real nutrient dense food, which incorporate healthy fats. They are ‘healthy’ because every cell in our body needs them, they are an integral part of every hormone that regulates our bodies, and they remove the preoccupation with food that encouraged us to constantly keep eating.
Explore hunger rather than fear it. Our ability to deal with hunger has been an important part of our physiology for millions of years. Rediscover the experience that all humans for millions of years had in common. From today eat only when hungry. That may mean only once or twice a day. Keeping insulin levels low is good for the health of humans and the planet.
From the beginning of time movement has been an essential part of our very existence. That has all changed in the last few decades in this epidemic of inactivity. Today we sit for most of our life as we travel, at work, and even for recreation and leisure.
Moving has literally kept us going and been part of our lives for millions of years. Every health measure, physical, mental and emotional is better for it.
Two important things happen when we move. Firstly, it increases the number of mitochondria in our cells, which convert the food we eat into energy we need to be healthy. That energy is used by everything in our body including our brain, so mitochondria problems predispose someone to depression, bipolar issues, anxiety as well as every chronic degenerative disease from autoimmune conditions like multiple sclerosis, to cancer.
Secondly moving stimulates the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BNDF), a protein that supports the survival and growth of neurons or nerves improving memory, concentration, mental health problems and improves sleep quality.
The overriding principle is to build physical, mental and emotional resilience to live a life less stressed and be well.
Dr Ron Ehrlich, author of A Life Less Stressed; the 5 pillars of health & wellness, delivers keynotes and wellness workshops. He has a weekly podcast Unstress with Dr Ron Ehrlich. Visit: www.drronehrlich.com