Today's guest post is brought to you by my friend and fellow Type-A-control-freak, Ashley. She runs a holistic nutrition and wellness business blog over at AshleySrokosz.com that will just make you drool. Seriously.
Spoiler alert: She and I have cooked up a juicy webinar together that is FULL of our tried-and-true natural strategies for overcoming fatigue, digestive issues, terrible sleep, and anxiety. Look for the link at the bottom of this post to save your seat or just click here and do it now. We'll wait for you.
Back to Ashley: When her body completely gave out due to chronic stress and she developed crippling anxiety, she knew that she was going to need some serious tools in her toolbox to pull herself out of those trenches. (Which she has been able to do without medication.)
And you know what happens when we learn how to do something like that? We teach it to others who are in the same boat!
So without further ado, here's Ashley's 5 No-Fail Strategies for Addressing Anxiety, Stress and Adrenal Fatigue.
How many times have you asked someone how they’re doing, and they’ve answered “busy”? You’re busy, your kids are busy, hell, even your dog is busy. We’re all busy, busy, busy. And as a result, we’re all stressed, stressed, stressed.
If you’re like me, you probably have some level of anxiety, too, ranging from I-completely-forgot-about-tomorrow’s-bake-sale all the way to debilitating, can’t leave the house anxiety (like I experience sometimes). Well, this isn’t your regular blog post about stress and anxiety, where we politely ask it to go away with some morning meditation and mindfulness. Nope, today I’m teaching you how to bitch slap stress and anxiety so you can live the amazing, joyful life you’re always seeing on Instagram.
P.S. when you’re stressed or anxious, don’t go on Instagram. You’ll only get caught up in comparison and perfectionist mode.
Stress and anxiety can have so many causes, and it’s different for each one of us. Some of you might be feeling work stress, where they’re asking you to work longer hours, cram in more projects, and take on more responsibility without more pay.
Some of you might be feeling personal stress, where you and your kids are overscheduled in every activity under the sun, and you haven’t spent any quality time with yourself, your husband or your friends in weeks … or months.
And some of you might be feeling emotional or spiritual stress, where you don’t feel fulfilled with what you’re doing with your life, have non-existent self esteem, don’t have quiet time to spend even 5 minutes doing anything you remotely enjoy, and you maybe even have some work to do on fixing (or getting rid of) toxic friend or love relationships that are making you feel broken.
For most women, it comes down to this: we give all of ourselves, and somehow that’s never quite enough. There’s always this imaginary “more” that we’re supposed to be accomplishing, and we never, ever get closer to the finish line … because life doesn’t have a finish line.
And does this ever take a toll on our bodies, especially on our adrenal glands and hormones!
What are adrenal glands?
Our adrenal glands are like little top-hats on our kidneys, and they make hormones that we can’t live without, including sex hormones and a super important stress hormone called cortisol.
Think of your adrenal glands like a bank account for stress in your body, and virtually 100% of us are in overdraft.
When we’re rested, eat well, and do things that make us happy (instead of virtually everything else on our to-do lists), we put deposits into our stress bank account. When we skip sleep, meals, and anything that brings us joy in order to do all. the. things, it withdraws from our stress bank account.
In a word, we’re depleted. Depleted in nutrients, rest, joy, happiness, laughter, naps, creativity, reading, dancing, and everything else that makes us feel like the vibrant, energetic, joyful women we’re supposed to be according to social media.
Note to self: add unrealistic expectations to the list of things burning out our adrenals glands.
And when we’re depleted and put our adrenal glands into stress overdraft, here’s what happens:
Increased feelings of anxiety, and maybe even panic attacks
Decreased (or non-existent) sex drive
Physically and emotionally crashing everyday between 2 and 4 pm
Unable to sleep or rest, even though you feel exhausted
Second wind around 10 pm lasting until 1-2 am
Increased signs of inflammation in the body, which might show up as skin issues like rosacea or acne, or increased joint pain
Crappy digestion, including heartburn/acid reflux, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea
Feelings of being light-headed, especially when quickly going from laying down/sitting to standing (or even going from bending down to standing up)
In conclusion, we’re all anxious, exhausted zombies who are bloated and have no sex drive. How hot is that?
So what can you do to pull yourself out of this stress and anxiety spiral? The key is to turn depletion on its head into nourishment. If your body is depleted, you need to nourish it physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. But let me tell you a secret: if you start with physically nourishing your body, the rest will come naturally!
Let’s start with my 5 basic pillars of nourishing your body so you can bitch slap stress and anxiety:
#1 Eat real food
With so many diets out there, what does “eat real food” even mean? I’ve been a Registered Holistic Nutritionist for 10 years, and I’ve not yet subscribed to any one way of eating (other than being gluten free). Everybody and every body is totally different, and what makes one person feel like a magical unicorn might make someone else feel sick the entire day.
However, there are some specifics that I recommend for everyone, regardless of age, body type, and where you are on the stress and anxiety spectrum:
Avoid sugar like the plague (but it’s so delicious and addictive, le sigh!)
Eat more vegetables, especially green ones
Eat more healthy fats, like organic butter or ghee, nut and seed butters, coconut and olive oil, and anything and everything made from avocados #guacisextra
Eat a moderate amount of protein (not too much), either animal or plant based
If it doesn’t come in a box, bag, or package, and it doesn’t have an ingredient list, it’s probably good for you. Broccoli doesn’t need an ingredient list ;)
What do all of these things have in common? They regulate your blood sugar.
Your blood sugar is one of the most important things when it comes to regulating your stress and anxiety, and you would literally die if your liver and pancreas didn’t work so hard 24/7 to make sure everything is balanced.
If you regularly get hangry (like everyday?), you’re basically using your adrenal glands like punching bags with all those blood sugar spikes and crashes.
Stop skipping meals, it’s like charging a pair of Manolo Blahnik’s you can’t afford to your stress credit card. Instead, take the extra 5 minutes to eat real food instead of going through the drive thru or surviving solely on Starbucks lattes. At the very least, make it a Bulletproof latte or fat-filled smoothie.
#2 Get great sleep
Remember when you used to get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep? Me neither!
Of course if you have young children, you can’t expect to get a solid night’s sleep every night … but what about when your kids start sleeping through the night but you can’t? That’s what adrenal fatigue does to us!
We’re more exhausted and need more sleep than ever, but we can’t seem to get our minds and bodies to relax enough to do it. How ironic.
No matter how hard it might seem to get great sleep, you’re not going to be able to balance your stress and anxiety without it. It’s like wanting to win the lottery but not buying a ticket. You’ve at least got to try!
Just like the reasons why we have stress and anxiety can change from person to person, so can the reasons why you’re not getting great sleep.
However, there are some specific things you can try to maximize the chances of an epic night in your bed so that you can restore your stress and anxiety to a healthy level:
Be in bed, and preferably asleep, by 10 pm (groan, put the Netflix binge down!)
Keep the temperature in your bedroom cool
Use blackout curtains to keep your room completely dark
Write down anything floating around in your brain on a notepad so you can stop worrying about it and turn your mind off
Diffuse 100% pure essential oils that promote restful sleep (my secret weapon)
Have a snack with some protein in it, like a spoonful of nut butter or some high-fat yogurt, especially if you regularly wake up around 3 am
If you can manage a nap in the afternoon during that 2-4 pm energy crash, even better! Follow the same tips above, but don’t sleep longer than an hour or you’ll probably feel groggy. Naps are my worst-kept business and life secret (because I tell everyone about my naps).
The more sleep you get, the more it’ll balance your stress and anxiety, which will help you sleep better. It’s a positive feedback loop, so start practicing the ever-so-sexily named “healthy sleep hygiene”, and pay attention to how much your body loves it.
Finally, accept that you’re never going to complete everything on your to-do list, because the more you do, the more you add to it. Doing one more load of laundry at midnight isn’t going to make tomorrow any easier. To quote my favourite children’s book: Go the f@ck to sleep!
#3 Flood your body with nutrients
When you’re under chronic stress and have anxiety, your body physiologically uses up certain nutrients faster than normal, since it has to make a higher level of stress hormones.
Your body will need more B vitamins (namely B5, B6, and B12), vitamin C, magnesium, and to reduce the inflammation that this kind of chronic stress can cause, omega-3 fats. This is just the start of the nourishment your body needs when you struggle with stress and anxiety.
There’s a hot debate in science on whether or not the foods we eat are more nutritionally deficient than the same foods grown decades ago, but either way, even if you eat perfectly, chances are that you’re still deficient in these vitamins, minerals, and anti-inflammatory fats.
Not only that, but when you eat sugar, your body needs the above vitamins and minerals to metabolize it properly. So if you’re eating any sugar (and the average American eats the equivalent of 19.5 teaspoons each day), you’re going to need to get extra of the nutrients listed above.
Before you head to your local Costco or pharmacy for the lowest priced supplements possible, know what the quality of supplements on the market today is a spectrum: From hardly digestible that’ll leave you with an upset stomach and very expensive urine, all the way to highly absorbable with almost instantly noticeable benefits. Not all supplements are created equal.
A good rule of thumb is to get capsules, not time-released hard-pressed tablets, and read the ingredient list for extra nasties like gluten.
Keep reading below to find out the highest quality supplements it took me 7 years in practice as a nutritionist to find.
#4 Guard your Gut
Since I became a nutritionist 10 years ago, research has exploded on the gut and it’s far reaching impacts on your health.
Have a crappy immune system? Repair your gut. Have anxiety? Repair your gut. Have shitty digestion (pun intended)? Repair your gut. Have skin issues like acne, eczema, and psoriasis? Repair your gut.
Even Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, understood almost 2,500 years ago how important the gut is when he famously said “All disease starts in the gut”.
If you’re suffering from stress and anxiety, chances are good that it’s either starting from issues in your gut OR your anxiety is causing those symptoms in your gut.
It’s virtually impossible to have stress and anxiety without experiencing gas, bloating, indigestion, heartburn and acid reflux, and even constipation and diarrhea.
Your nervous system only has 2 states, and it can’t be in both at the same time: 1) rest and digest mode; or 2) fight or flight. Guess which one your body is probably stuck in most of the time if you have stress or anxiety?
Ding ding ding: Always fight or flight.
Know that pit in your stomach you get when you're anxious? Yes, that is the physical feeling of your body turning off digestion.
As someone who suffers from major anxiety and was diagnosed with acid reflux at 14 and Irritable Bowel Syndrome at 16, I know are thing or two about this gut healing stuff.
To guard your gut, the 2 absolute essentials that are non-negotiable are:
High quality Probiotics: unless you’re eating your own home raw, fermented foods everyday (yogurt, sauerkraut, pickled veggies, kombucha, sourdough bread), you need to feed your gut with good bacteria.
High quality Digestive enzymes: if you’re over the age of 30, and especially if you suffer from stress and anxiety, you’re not digesting your foods properly. This sets up a cycle of great irritation and inflammation in the digestive system, which makes symptoms worse, which leads to less complete digestion … and on and on. Digestive enzymes taken with meals will cut down on bothersome digestive symptoms, lead to a calmer stomach, and even can clear up your skin. This is a must-take everyday supplement if you’ve had your gallbladder removed (no more running to the bathroom 15 minutes after you eat bacon ;)
After you get a hang of the basics, you can add in other gut healing supplements like L-glutamine, collagen, or gelatin, along with select herbs.
Just like with vitamin and mineral supplements, not all probiotics and digestive enzymes are created equal. Keep on reading to get the real goods on what I specifically recommend. (Gotta keep the anticipation going, right?)
#5 Self-love Secrets
Chances are you’re suffering from stress and anxiety because you’re a do-it-all, workaholic, likes-to-be-in-control woman who doesn’t like to let anyone down or say no. How do I know all about you? Because I AM you!
I know exactly how I ended up with stress and anxiety, the above describes my personality from a very young age. Even if you’re not as Type-A as I am, chances are that you’ve got too much on your plate and hate to disappoint anyone.
I’m here to tell you that when you stop trying to please everyone else, you’ll start reducing your stress and anxiety.
But I get it, it’s not easy to break a lifetime of habits.
Here’s my fave picks for filling up my cup and letting my stress hormones sink back to normal, even it’s just a few minutes:
I love to read, and so do many of my friends … we just never get a chance to do it. Buy that new book you’ve been hearing about, or the latest design magazine that you love but never have a chance to read. AND THEN READ IT. Even if it’s one chapter or article at a time, carve that time out and pinky promise yourself you won’t find the book half read 6 months from now.
Take a bath, preferably with some Epsom Salts (for magnesium) and calming essential oils. Certain essential oils can lower your cortisol levels within 5 minutes of smelling it, so we’re not just making everything smell nice with this one. Which oils? Keep on reading ...
Say no. This one is so simple, but so damn hard! Look at your calendar right now, and find one thing that you’re dreading to do. You know, the one that makes you say to yourself “ugh, why did I say yes to that?!”. Then cancel it. Yes, it might hurt, but it’s just temporary, like ripping off a band-aid. Practice this once a week, and soon you’ll be finding pockets of time in your schedule to do something you actually want to do instead of the things you feel you have to do.
Believe it or not, these are just a few of my secrets, because balancing stress and anxiety is not just a one-thing fits all. There are so many moving parts that it can affect, because the body is all connected (despite what your doctor says)!
To get to the root cause of your issues, you need a whole-body approach.
That’s exactly why Andrea and I teamed up to share with you “Essential Oils for Adrenals: How to Overcome Fatigue, Improve Your Sleep + Feel Like a Brand New You in 30 Days (without scary side effects)”.
In this first-of-its-kind masterclass, we’re sharing:
The 3 ways to use essential oils to promote healing + how they actually work (because #science)
Which essential oils can instantly help you manage your stress (and how to use them)
Our proven protocols for supporting digestive healing, liver detox, weight loss, mood balancing, healthy cortisol rhythms and more restful sleep
What those pesky sugar cravings actually mean + how to beat them
The one supplement we both take that is guaranteed to give you more energy and reduced pain in 30 days or less
The #1 "Healthy Thing" you're doing everyday that's actually making your fatigue and sleep quality worse
Plus way more!
So invite your friends and get yourself registered for the party!
If you know Andrea or me, you know that we’re full of stories, especially when we’re together. We didn’t skimp on anything in this training, and as usual, we get really personal about the ugly sides our health and wellness journeys.
Ultimately, we’re both on a mission to help busy women balance their stress and anxiety through their adrenals, as we’ve both suffered for years and are finally feeling like we're on the other side of it.
Don’t make the same mistakes that we did, let us fast track you back to the energetic, joyful woman you know is hidden under all that stress!
Ashley is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and essential oil advocate as well as the voice and online course creator behind AshleySrokosz.com. Through her own struggles with anxiety and several chronic digestive conditions, Ashley has learned a thing or two about how to support healing in the body without scary prescriptions or unnecessary side effects.
Follow her on Instagram and drool over all of her pretty graphics and photos HERE.
Registered Holistic Nutritionist