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Dr. Joseph Mercola

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Stress Relief: Pull the Plug on Stress

Posted: 05/30/10 09:00 AM ET

If you are like most people these days, you are plugged into everything from the time you get up in the morning to the moment you unplug the light and drift off--hopefully--into blissful sleep.

But is this constant saturation of activity and overbooking taking a toll on your health and happiness?

One of the most common problems among busy people, is that they feel fatigued, anxious or depressed. Most of them share a common underlying problem: adrenal burnout.

Adrenal Burnout

Adrenal burnout is the result of living with a constantly aroused sympathetic nervous system--living in a perpetual state of "fight or flight."

In adrenal burnout, your body overproduces adrenaline, cortisol and other stress hormones. Eventually, this causes your adrenal glands--your front line stress defense--to become depleted.

This can lead to a barrage of negative health consequences--including:

• Impaired immune function and less resistance to infections
• Increased blood pressure and cholesterol
• Weight gain
• Unstable blood sugar levels
• Hormone imbalance
• Insomnia
• Unstable moods, depression, and anxiety

And the list goes on.

The solution? You must find a way to recharge.

There are many ways to unplug from your busy routine. But the most elemental requirement for recharging your battery is addressing your body's basic needs for sleep, exercise and nutrition--because without addressing those, your body won't be able to reboot, regardless of how many breaks you take from your routine.

Paying Off Your Sleep Debt

The first thing you may need to address is a good night's rest.

Sleep deprivation is such a chronic condition these days that you might not even realize you suffer from it. If you've shorted yourself on quantity or quality of sleep for any length of time, it's likely sleep deprivation feels normal to you.

As a general rule, adults need between six and nine hours of sleep a night.
A sleep deficit can have serious, far-reaching effects on your health, such as:

• A weakened immune system
• Changes in brain activity similar to those experienced by people with psychiatric disorders
• Putting your body into a pre-diabetic state, so you feel hungry even if you've already eaten

If you feel tired when you first wake up, you probably aren't getting sufficient sleep. It's best to observe how you feel immediately upon waking rather than after you're up and moving around.
Sleep is one of your most precious resources--don't undervalue its importance to your longevity and quality of life.

Recharge Your Battery With Exercise

For decades, I have been a huge advocate of exercise as a critical component of staying healthy. Exercise can do a number of wonderful things for your health from improving memory and problem solving, to lifting your mood and preventing depression, to actually slowing down the aging process.

And it can improve your sleep as well!

Adding an exercise program to your routine five to six days a week will improve your energy, and will likely increase your productivity for the rest of the day.

Grab an exercise buddy and go to the gym, or simply take a walk. Try a variety of things until you find activities that you find enjoyable.

Increase intensity of your exercise gradually--you don't have to compete with anyone but yourself.

Be sure your exercise routine contains the four principle components--aerobic (cardio), anaerobic (interval), strength training, and core exercises. Variety is key.

Retool Your Fuel

If you put inferior gas in your car, it runs poorly. The same is true for your body.
There is no one-size-fits-all diet that will work for everyone because your physiological makeup is unique. Each person's body processes carbohydrates, proteins and fats differently based on genetic background.

There are three basic nutritional types: protein type, carbohydrate type and mixed type, and determining which type you are is a simple matter of completing a questionnaire, then refining your food selections as you go, based on how they make you feel after eating.

Even the most health-challenged people can really turn their health around by changing their diets to more closely fit their nutritional type. But regardless of which type you are, there are six basic guidelines that offer benefits for all types:

1. Eat as much fresh, organic raw food as possible (at least one third of your intake), particularly vegetables.

2. Eliminate processed food, junk food, soda, sweetened drinks, sports/energy drinks, and all artificial sweeteners from your diet.

3. Eliminate gluten as most people have some degree of intolerance or allergy to it. This includes wheat, rye, barley, spelt, etc.

4. Radically reduce your sugar consumption, and stay away from products containing high concentrations of fructose, such as high fructose corn syrup.

5. Drink plenty of pure, filtered water every day.

6. Don't skip meals.

If you want to read more about your specific nutritional type, I'd refer you to my complete nutrition plan.

Who's Got Time?

You might be asking yourself, "If I can't find the time to take a bathroom break during the day, how am I going to make time to cook organically, start up a new exercise program, and go to bed earlier?"

The time you devote to your basic nutritional and exercise needs will be time well spent, because when your body has the basic building blocks it needs, you suddenly find yourself with bursts of energy you never had before.

And more energy means you'll get more done with the time you have.

So, while it may seem burdensome to have to add to your already packed schedule, these activities will actually buy you time in the long run. After all, if you're sleep deprived, you're not as productive as when you're rested. And, nothing clears the cobwebs out of your brain like an hour of sustained aerobic exercise.

If you need to cut something out in order to squeeze the basics back in, then perhaps it's time to re-prioritize.

Simple things like a few dietary changes, improved sleep habits, and a more consistent exercise routine can really produce MAJOR changes in your health and energy level, and prevent your adrenal glands from getting toasted.
Try it and see!

In today's culture of speed and complexity, it is easy to overlook the importance of the basics for health and longevity. Before all others, these essential factors must be addressed.

 

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