We’re all under a lot of stress right now. Some of us are reporting to an essential job, where our health is on the line every day. Others are cooped up at home trying to simultaneously work and homeschool our children. Still more of us are furloughed and worried about how we’re going to make ends meet. And the loneliest among us are quarantining alone. Whatever your situation, it’s a lot to handle. This kind of ongoing stress has been linked to many negative health outcomes, including gastrointestinal troubles.
Stress and the Gut
Chronic stress can damage the structure of your gut by increasing inflammation and weakening its protective barrier function. It’s particularly hard on the protective mucous lining of the gut and the beneficial bacteria that live there. That’s one of many reasons it’s important to manage your stress in these exceptional times.
Nothing can eliminate stress completely, but there are a few simple things you can do to lower your levels and your family’s, too.
1. Fill up on Fruits and Veggies
It’s no coincidence that chips are flying off the grocery store shelves, and everyone is suddenly learning to bake. Food can be a comfort in times of stress. And while no one is going to begrudge you a pan of homemade brownies, it’s important to make sure you’re getting your fill of healthful foods too. According to a study from New Zealand, eating more fruits and vegetables can actually improve your mood, both on the day you eat them and the next day. (And, as a bonus, the polyphenols in fruits and vegetables are good for your gut health because they feed your friendly gut bacteria.)
2. Get Moving
Exercise is a well-known stressbuster. It slows the release of stress hormones like cortisol, and fewer anxiety-producing chemicals flowing through your veins can make you feel tons better., Everyone needs to move, but it can be especially urgent for small kids, who quickly get out of sorts if they can’t run around.
Getting outside for a daily walk, run, or bike ride is a good place to start, because being outside is another way to relieve stress. A Japanese study found a long walk in a leafy park could reduce blood pressure and stress hormones more than walking on city streets.
But there are plenty of ways to exercise inside, too. Indoor exercise may be the best option for those who live in apartment complexes and find it difficult to maintain social distancing just getting from the front door to the entryway. Try an exercise video, an indoor obstacle course, or a family dance party. Mix it up from day to day to keep it fun.
3. Prioritize Shut-Eye
Exercise also helps you sleep better, and that’s another huge benefit because being well-rested is key to keeping stress under control.,, Everything feels overwhelming when you don’t have the emotional resources to handle it, and sleep refills your emotional cup. This goes double for kids, as anyone who’s ever tried to wrangle a nap-deprived toddler can attest.
If you don’t have to be up as early for work and school as you used to, resist the urge to stay up late. (We know that for adults with littles, it’s tempting to appease your inner night owl, as that’s your only “me time.” But you’ll pay for it the next day.) Try to keep to your regular schedule. Or go to bed at the same time and let yourself sleep in a bit (if you don’t have young children who wake early, that is). Teens, who tend to be a sleep-deprived lot, will especially appreciate the extra slumber.
4. Come Back to Center
These are frightening times. Proven stress-reduction practices can be a godsend for anyone who’s feeling overwhelmed by it all.
Yoga helps many people feel calm and positive. This isn’t surprising, given that it lowers blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol.
Meditation is also calming and helps keep negative thoughts in check.
Aromatherapy has been shown to lower stress and improve sleep in various groups, including teens and nurses.,,
Writing can also help. One study found journaling at night about plans for the next day helped people let go of worries and sleep better.
Being Grateful helps you access joy. Research shows keeping a gratitude journal makes folks feel happier and even healthier, with fewer doctor’s visits.
5. Plan Your Day
If you’re working from home, parenting, and trying to help your kids with their schoolwork, it can easily start to feel like you’ve got way too much on your plate. A schedule can be enormously helpful.
If there are two working parents and small kids at home, be explicit about how you’re going to spell each other. Try alternating two-to-four hour shifts of work and parent duty, so you each get some uninterrupted time to work, and the kids get your attention, too.
The situation is obviously tougher if you’re a single parent, but again, the schedule is your friend. Children who have difficulty self-entertaining feel more at ease doing something on their own for an hour when they know there will be a scheduled block of time with their parent coming up right afterwards.
Are you a stay-at-home parent, with no paid work to do? Parenting is some of the toughest work on the planet. You can benefit from a scheduled break too.
6. Stay Connected
Every day try to connect with one friend or family member who you can’t see in person by calling or setting up a video chat. This is important for everyone, but especially if you or someone you love is living alone right now. Humans are social creatures — even the introverts — and feeling connected nourishes our souls.
It’s also important to connect with the people in your household. If your kids are older and self-sufficient, it can be easy for everyone to retreat to their separate corners and screens. But some family time — whether that’s a game, a puzzle, or a family walk — is good for everyone.
Pets provide connection, too. Petting or playing with an animal has been shown to lower blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol levels. It also releases oxytocin, a hormone linked to bonding (there’s a reason it’s nicknamed “the cuddle chemical.”) Not surprisingly, pet adoption rates have skyrocketed recently.
Getting caught up in the endless negativity of the news is a recipe for stress. It’s understandable to want to stay informed but put limits on your media consumption. Decide ahead of time when you’re going to check social media or the news and for how long. You can even set a timer to make sure you don’t get sucked into the media rabbit hole. When it goes off, step away from the television, computer, or phone.
If your younger kids are overhearing the news, or the older ones are reading it on their own, talk about what they’ve learned. Asking them how they feel about the news may be the opening they need to share their worries with you.
Take your Previlli™
Stress can take a toll on your gut health. That’s why now more than ever, it’s important to treat your gut with love.
Previlli™ is a comprehensive gut health formula that protects your gut architecture, your gut function, and your beneficial gut bacteria.* When your gut’s in good shape, you get the obvious benefits like better digestion and comfortable waste elimination.* But you also enjoy hidden benefits, such as hormonal balance, increased energy, and immune fortitude.*
- Many people are under increased stress right now. This pressure can lead to various health issues, including damage to the protective mucous lining of the gut and beneficial gut bacteria.
- Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables can improve your mood and your gut health at the same time.
- Exercise and time spent outdoors both reduce stress hormones. Everyone needs exercise, but small children need it even more than adults to stay emotionally regulated.
- Getting enough sleep keeps worries from seeming too overwhelming. Children especially can become overwrought when they are tired. If you have more flexibility in your schedule these days, try to get some extra sleep.
- Yoga, meditation, aromatherapy, and journaling are all proven stress reducers.
- Making a schedule can help people who are juggling work, homeschooling, and parenting cover all their bases, while giving children a sense of order and comfort.
- Maintaining regular contact with people outside your household can help you feel connected. It’s also a good time to bond with the people (and animals) inside your home.
- Avoid getting sucked into an endless cycle of news consumption. Decide how much time you’ll devote to news each day, set a timer, and stick to it!
- Take your Previlli™ to protect your gut architecture, gut function, and good gut bacteria.