One quality that most successful entrepreneurs have in common is drive. We’re driven to create, and driven to succeed. This can mean high demand on our bodies over time. And if we want our bodies to keep up with our busy schedules and long hours, we have to figure out how to balance out our drive with things that nurture or nourish us, or we end up drained and stressed.
Before we can understand what we need to do to stay balanced, we have to understand the fundamental problem with too much stress.
Our bodies manage stress by responding to it with hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. We produce these hormones in our adrenal glands, little organs that sit on top of our kidneys. Unfortunately these glands don’t have the ability to differentiate between that which is a real threat and that which our minds are telling us is a threat. Our brain just tells our stress hormones to ‘go’ when we’re under attack either literally or metaphorically.
In short, we are designed to produce stress hormones in bursts when we’re in danger; say, if a Cheetah is about to eat our baby at the watering hole. Fight or flight. However, in this day and age, many of us produce stress hormones on a practically continuous basis due to our lifestyles of irregular sleep patterns, caffeine consumption, tight deadlines, procrastination and other day to day stresses like traffic jams, irregular mealtimes or high pressure day jobs. We are not meant to produce stress hormones constantly, and when we do, it is a burden on our adrenal system.
Over time, this can lead to long-term problems including fatigue, anxiety, and overwhelm. We might get sick more often, or start building up a little more belly fat – even when we eat healthfully and work out.
The good news is that it’s possible to both protect and repair our adrenals. Here are seven ways to do that so you can stay focused, energetic, and successful in your quest to creating the business and life you want and deserve!
1. Sleep. If you don’t sleep enough your body thinks you are on alert; as in danger is lurking. Do your best to get 8 hours of sleep. If you’re not getting that much, look at why you’re not sleeping. Are you having hormonal issues that need to be addressed? Are you working until the wee hours of the night? Is your bed on the wall where the neighbors talk until 3? What can you change?
2. Rest. We need both sleep and rest. That means scheduling out some time every day to do nothing. As in nothing. Sit, watch the birds. Read a magazine. Go for a walk. Take a bath. The best way to get it done is to schedule it. Actually add it to your calendar. Try scheduling 15 min every day for a week to do nothing. starting tomorrow. 15 minutes. You can do that.
3. Prevent stress, don’t just “manage” it. Stress prevention is much better than stress management. I work on a regular basis with patients to identify what the stresses are in their lives that they have some control over. And remember, stress isn’t just the big things like a move, a divorce, etc. It can be an accumulation of smaller things: dietary, environmental, financial, physical, and more.
4. Steady your blood sugar. We’re a carb-centered culture. When you eat carbohydrates, especially refined carbs and sugars, your blood sugar goes up and then drops. Your body produces stress hormone in response to this fluctuation. Eat protein with every meal if you can. Oh, and eat breakfast. If the thought of eating first thing makes you green, eat as soon as you’re able.
5. Watch your coffee intake. Lots of studies are starting to show benefits of coffee, so I’m not saying cut it out completely (though there are certainly people who would do better without it.) Coffee is a drug. A yummy drug, but a drug nonetheless. It increases energy and focus. But too much coffee causes your adrenal glands to pump out cortisol. Just one cup can raise your cortisol levels for 12-16 hours. Remember that you want to produce stress hormones only when you really need them, not day in and day out.
6. Exercise. Moderate exercise is key for adrenal health. You may feel great from a long aggressive run but this actually causes increased stress hormone production. A simple 30-45 minutes of moderate exercise most days will be nourishing and replenishing.
7. Be honest. Is the way you’re doing your life working for you? I mean really working for you? If the answer is no, take the time to figure out what isn’t working and make a game plan to change it. There is no better way to decrease stress in your life than to make a decision that you’re not going to let day to day stress get in the way of your health, well being, and success.
Leave a comment and let us know what changes you plan to make so you can stay at the top of your game.