Christiane Northrup, MD Board-certified ob/gyn, bestselling author
Today, women run from task to task trying to do more and be more than at any other time in history. At first, we push ourselves, relying on an adrenaline rush, the boost of cortisol, and maybe some extra caffeine to address today's crisis (real or perceived). Initially, we recover quickly from the additional demands that we have placed on our bodies and our minds. But when we call upon these stress hormones to boost us to heroic heights time and again, our bodies can do nothing else but operate in fight-or-flight mode 24/7. This sets the stage for all kinds of medical problems — and a very unhappy life.
We feel stress when we believe we must do something that contradicts our core values. Think of a new mother who would rather stay home with her baby, but has to work to help support her family. It's important to monitor our decisions to make sure we aren't doing too many things, on a day-to-day basis, that go against what we hold important.
Stress also occurs when we wish that something were different from what it is! That's why books such as Loving What Is, by Byron Katie, and The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle are so helpful. They help us stay in the present where our power is. We also feel anxious and overwhelmed when we have too many things to do. My advice? Don't fall into the trap of being Superwoman. Lower your standards a bit. Delegate. And just let it go.
I know it's easier said than done, so here are Five Natural Stress Busters (I've got a lot more, but this will get you started) to help you feel better — Get enough vitamin D, supplement with magnesium, breath to calm the senses, do something that you enjoy and take Rescue Remedy.
There's a connection between natural light and vitamin D levels — and vitamin D literally enhances the health of every cell in your body. Having optimal levels of vitamin D can protect your musculoskeletal, immune, and cardiovascular systems and reduce the likelihood of certain cancers. Vitamin D has also been shown to reduce stress and naturally increase the feel-good chemical serotonin, a hormone known to reduce anxiety. Despite all these benefits, most people don't get nearly enough vitamin D! The best way is by exposing your body to the sun every day from three to 15 minutes depending on your skin tone and also the time of year. Just don't let your skin burn and use sunscreen on your face and hands.
Since this isn't always practical, make sure you get adequate amounts of vitamin D daily through supplements, cod liver oil or canned salmon. I recommend at least 1,000 IU per day. If you have any doubts about your vitamin D status, get a blood test to find out what it is.
Know that you're practicing preventive medicine when you do this — which should also put you at ease.
Magnesium is another medical wonder. It supports the cardiovascular, respiratory and nervous systems, modulates blood sugar levels and lessens the occurrence and severity of pain, cramping and headaches. Unfortunately, many people have low levels of magnesium; chronic emotional and mental stress is associated with this deficiency. This occurs because the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline release magnesium from the cells.
Carolyn Dean, M.D., explains in her book The Magnesium Miracle that we don't get enough magnesium from our foods due to common farming practices. (She also points out that the rate of depression has gone up every decade since these practices began after World War II. This is not a coincidence.) Magnesium supplements come in several forms, including magnesium oxide, magnesium chloride, and chelated magnesium. Make sure to get 500-800 mg per day. Magnesium and calcium intake should be balanced, too, in a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio. If you take 1,000 mg of calcium a day, you pair that with a minimum of 500 mg. Epsom salts are mostly made of magnesium. So soak in a tub with 1/2 cup of Epsom salts and you will be replenishing your magnesium--delightfully.