Let’s talk about stress. A word that no one with an autoimmune condition really wants to hear. Of course, unless we are talking about ways to reduce your stress in order to improve your experience and symptoms. This is exactly what we are going to talk about here, mixed in with some ways that stress and your genes actually impact your hormones and what you can do about that.
Here’s the thing about stress…it can stem from ANY physical, environmental, emotional, or psychological challenges. So, really it’s not a matter of IF we will experience stress in life, it’s more of a matter of WHEN and HOW. Identifying these factors then lets us work to reduce stress.
Physical stress can be caused by strenuous activities or illnesses (hello, autoimmune disease). Mental stress can be caused by challenging work or school situations. Emotional stress can be caused by relationship issues or difficult life events. On the other hand, environmental stress can be caused by living situations, exposure to toxins, mold, water quality, infections from pathogens, and more.
10 Ways to Reduce Stress (and Your Genes)
- Exercise regularly: Physical activity can help reduce stress by releasing endorphins and allowing the body to work off the tension. Have you ever felt that by moving your body by doing any type of physical activity the stress just starts to melt away? I know I have! And the good news here, it doesn’t have to be extreme. Do what you love. Is that yoga, walking, dancing, lifting weights, or something else? Looking to simplify your fitness routine? Check out this article HERE by Kelsey Roberts.
- Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness activities can help bring attention to the present moment, allowing the mind to take a break from worrying about the future. Great ways to do this include guided meditations, breathwork, EFT, or yoga.
- Get enough sleep: Lack of sleep can lead to an increase in stress hormones, so it’s important to make sure you get enough rest. Just how important is sleep? Check out more about sleep & epigenetics HERE.
- Talk to someone: Talking to a friend or family member can help reduce stress. Talking to a professional such as a therapist or counselor can also be beneficial.
- Taking pauses: Taking regular breaks throughout the day can help reduce stress levels. I know I am not alone in learning from experience that burnout and constantly being in productivity mode can lead to chronic stress.
- Practice deep breathing: Deep breathing can help reduce stress by calming the body and the mind. This ties back into the mindfulness piece for sure. Don’t overthink it. A couple of minutes of deep belly breaths a day can do wonders for stress levels.
- Clean eating: Eating a balanced diet can help keep stress levels in check. Generally speaking, reducing foods that cause inflammation like gluten, dairy, soy, and refined sugar will make a big impact. This amps up your ability to combat and reduce stress as well. We are ALL so unique! So checking your specific genetics can help you to dive into what type of nutrition is right for you. More on that HERE.
- Enjoy nature: Spending time outdoors can help reduce stress and anxiety.
- Hydration: It sounds simple, but proper hydration can make a big difference in your cellular health, thus impacting your stress levels.
- Clear the clutter: A cluttered space can be a source of stress. Organizing your environment can help reduce stress levels. I don’t know about you, but when my space is clean, I feel a lot more relaxed and at ease.
The Gene Connection
As you might guess, especially if you read some of the previous articles about the connection to our genes, we can learn key facts about ourselves through our genes. And, since we are chatting about stress and your genes, we must bring up Cortisol. Cortisol is the “stress hormone,” but it is still extremely important for optimal human performance. Many of the genetic SNPs that impact Cortisol are highly vulnerable to lifestyle factors that can epigenetically modify their expression. Our genes give us key insights into a couple of different stress-related areas:
- Cortisol Production: Cortisol helps to wake us up in the morning, it kicks in and helps us during acute stress, and low to moderate levels are needed for decision-making. So what do our genes have to do with it? Well, our SNPs help determine whether we have increased production of this hormone or are prone to lower production.
- Cortisol Receptor Response: Your specific sensitivity is responsible for producing a reaction to cortisol and managing stress optimally. What your genes tell us is if you are prone to a higher response, lower response, or typical response.
From here, we can use this to determine specific and tailored-to-you wellness strategies to manage your own unique and individual responses to stress.
Which method/s mentioned above are you going to try first?
*The information contained within this article is not meant to treat or diagnose and should not be seen as medical advice. The information is educational. Please consult with a doctor or medical professional for any medical needs and/or questions.*