Stress and Inflammation
The winter holiday season can be stressful. Prolonged higher levels of stress cause inflammation, aggravating existing illnesses and conditions and compromising the immune system.
This is why we need to double our efforts for self-care at this time. Acute stress is not generally a problem; our body and mind respond to the stressor by mobilizing energy to help us cope in the short term. However, when stress becomes chronic, it disrupts our biological rhythms, depletes our energy, lowers our mood, and disrupts digestion over weeks and months.
Stress is inevitable. During these periods of increased stress, nourishing the body with good quality foods, minerals, and herbs enhances our capacity to cope. If we rest and care for ourselves, we can weather the stress storms life brings with minimal adverse effects on our health.
Self-Care for Stress Management
Self-care activities that are easy and quick to do are an excellent tool for managing and mitigating stress. Below are three self-care techniques that anyone can use to nourish and care for themselves during stressful times.
1. Drink a delicious anti-inflammatory tea
There is a large variety of teas with powerful health benefits that can help your body combat the effects of stress. Ginger, turmeric, chamomile, feverfew, tulsi, rosehip, and fennel tea all reduce inflammation. Making tea is also a relaxing self-care ritual; take time to notice the unique aromas of the tea and how the water changes colors as the tea steeps. Be in the present moment as you make and enjoy your cup of tea. Take a mental note of how your body feels before, during, and after drinking the tea. Breathe in and out the mood-altering aromas.
2. Engage your thymus
The thymus gland plays an essential role in supporting our immune system. It weakens during times of high stress. To locate your thymus, feel for the slight soft indentation on your neck where your collar bones (clavicle) meet. Then, measure a two-finger width below that; this is where your thymus is located. Take your two fingers and gently tap for 30-60 seconds, being sure to breathe and relax while tapping. Remind yourself to support your immune system and say hello to your thymus gland. After stopping, take some time to feel this area of your body. Notice an awakening awareness, a tingling sensation, a release, or feel like letting go of a long sigh.
3. Lion’s Breath (Simhasana)
Lion’s breath is a fun way to release the emotional stress and tension that we hold in the face. This exercise is relaxing, induces parasympathetic dominance, engages vagal response, and helps release feelings of emotional intensity. People with TMJ dysfunction, jaw pain, or disordered breathing, or, who have trouble finding their voice, are angry or anxious, all benefit from this simple exercise. The best part? You can do it anywhere, and kids love it too!
Begin by taking a comfortable seated position, and then lean forward with your hands on your knees, floor, or surface in front of you. Be sure to spread your fingers out wide. Inhale deeply through your nose, open your mouth, and stick out your tongue down towards your chin to stretch your face muscles. Exhale with force, and feel free to roar as you exhale!
More accessible self-care techniques, including a 1-hour video of the Self-Care Circuit Breaker, can be found in my newly released online course, Integrative Medicine and Nutrition for PTSD and Complex Trauma. If you go here, you can watch the trailers.
Are You Ready to Advance Your Career?
If you want to advance your career in integrative medicine, explore my courses and certifications.