Earlier this month we talked about doing a little “internal” spring cleaning and how to go about doing detoxes that actually get positive results. When most people think about doing a detox, they usually concentrate solely on what they’re putting into their bodies; however, may I suggest taking the time to think about detoxing from a slightly different perspective?
Let’s start by identifying the purpose of a detox: to cleanse away toxins, right? Well sort of. But did you know that from a physiological standpoint, the real goal is to decrease stress hormones so the body ends up in a more balanced state? Unfortunately, few of us think about ways to detox ourselves from the effects of external stressors—things that can increase our stress hormones thereby profoundly and negatively affecting our health. In order to truly detoxify ourselves, we need to consider not only what we’re putting into our bodies, but how we respond to stressors in our environment as well.
So if you’re in the mood to do a little internal tidying, read on for part 1 of a 2 part series on some easy ways to better manage your health from the inside out.
1. Plan your day…before it begins!
Each night after dinner BUT before you crawl into bed, plan out the next day’s schedule by writing it down and leaving it on the counter to refer to. Write out your “to do list” by jotting down any appointments anyone has, items that need to be taken to work or school, prepare lunches and plan out the following evening’s meal. This list should not be made in bed as it may get your wheels turning and can interrupt relaxation time before turning out the lights. By preparing for the next day ahead of time, you can alleviate having to rush and figure things out last minute style.
2. Analyze your to do list.
Now go over your list and decide if what’s on it is a “should do” versus a “must do”. All too often we overschedule ourselves simply because we haven’t taken the time to decide if all of the activities on it are even necessary. We’ve gotten into the habit of rushing and running everywhere, to the point that we don’t even know how to relax anymore because there’s never any time for it! Decide what doesn’t need to be squeezed into the day and stick to your plan.
3. Learn the art of saying “no”.
You’ve just planned out your day and inevitably, there will be interruptions that try to corrupt all of the effort you put into making sure things are running smoothly. Instead of trying to cram something or someone else into your day, learn to put you and your family first by practicing the phrase “maybe some other time.” Can we all admit right now that we have been conned into thinking more is better? In fact, I think a lot of us (myself included) feel more important when we can tell someone else about how busy or packed our day is, when in reality, we’re actually exhausted and feel completely overwhelmed most of the time. Realize the importance of slowing down and manage your stress levels by taking charge of one of your most valuable assets: your TIME.
4. Start your day off SLOWLY.
“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” – Ben Franklin
I think ol’ Ben knew what he was talking about. Maybe he didn’t necessarily know the science behind it, but even still, he knew there were health benefits to waking up early…which should inevitably mean less chaos in your day. One of your main stress hormones, cortisol, is at its highest during the night and early morning hours. So, one of the worst things you can do is start your day off by rushing and racing around the house…before you even leave it! Here are a few simple suggestions for starting your day at a pace you can live with—that just might help you live a little longer:
- Consider taking a baseball bat to your alarm clock. I mean really, think about it; why are we starting out our day with the most annoying sound imaginable? And why on earth should we use something with the word “alarm” in it to start our day? For most of us, the noise itself increases our cortisol levels even further and immediately starts our day in stress mode. Consider getting the kind of clock that slowly lightens your room in the morning or using an iPod/relaxing music to waken you.
- Upon wakening, start your day with meditation. Beginning your day with prayer and meditation helps you start with a thankful attitude and postures your body for a relaxed start. Plan to wake up anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour ahead of time in order to tell your cortisol levels to decrease before the day gets underway.
- Add in a little deep breathing. Practicing slow/deep breathing either during your prayer time or after is another great way to decrease stress hormones and fill your body with peace before the day begins.
5. You may not like me so well after this one….but may I suggest reconsidering that mug of morning coffee?
Now before you decide to stop reading, just take a few moments to listen to what I have to say, because this affects your physiology more than most people realize. Remember what I said about cortisol levels being high in the morning? Well, if you haven’t gotten the hang of starting your day off slowly, one of the worst things you can do is rush around the house, leave on an empty stomach, and then drink a pot of coffee in the midst of it. If you don’t learn to decrease the high levels of stress hormones, you actually add to the madness by drinking caffeine and increasing them even further, especially if you do it on an empty stomach.
So don’t hear what I’m not saying. I actually think coffee does have health benefits and can be good for you—if it’s done the right way. The optimal way to fit coffee into your life so that you can reap its health benefits is to follow the slow way of life. By controlling the pace, you’ll avoid increasing your stress hormones, guiding the day in a much better “direction.” And, if you want to do yourself (and your digestion) an even bigger favor, add a little real cream to your coffee and drink it alongside an actual breakfast so you don’t continue down the path of over stimulation right off the bat in the morning.
Like what you’re reading? Check out 5 more ways to effectively combat stress…you never know, it just might change your life!