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  • Writer's pictureLyndsay Boysen

Let's Talk about Stress Baby!

The start of August and the looming "Back to School" marketing and advertisements have resulted in a response like no other. My social media feeds have been flooded with memes, reels and posts that showcase the anxiety, anger, panic and, yes, stress that emerge on August 1. Although much of what is on social media is comedic in nature, the problem is very real. Teachers are sensing that September dread. Of course, depending on what part of the country you are teaching in, you may already be back in full swing, but don't worry, this info is still incredibly relevant! I recently wrote a blog post on the importance of prioritizing meaningful professional development for teachers, so I thought I would share some thoughts and solutions about managing our stress during this August rush.

What is Stress?

Stress can easily be described as a mindset or physical reaction to events or experiences around us. Stress is a natural part of our body's defense system. Many of you have probably heard of the "Fight or Flight" response. Essentially, our bodies flood with all kinds of hormones (cortisol, epinephrine, and others) as a way to protect ourselves. This is a biological reaction that was designed to help us fight against dangerous, potentially life threatening situations. Fortunately, we don't have to worry too much about a crazy chase in the wilderness, but unfortunately, our daily lives (both professionally and personally) have become so challenging that our bodies continue to respond in the same manner.


Why is this detrimental to our health, longevity and vitality?

How stress impacts the body and mind is unique to each individual. Generalized stress symptoms can appear as increased heart rate and blood pressure, anxiety, trouble breathing or panic attacks, exhaustion or sleep problems, and body aches (my tense shoulder blades are NO JOKE). However, what we don't always consider is that the hormones that are released under constant stress can become significantly imbalanced in relation to their normal levels. This is particularly the case for cortisol. A cortisol imbalance can look different for every person, but the most common rationale for cortisol imbalance is consistent stress and this can play a huge role in chronic disease.


What is the role of cortisol?

Despite the release of this hormone during a fight or flight response, this hormone has a significant number of other roles in our body. Cortisol affects our memory, reduces our autoimmune risk, increases and regulates our glucose levels, affects our salt and water balance and improves our energy and alertness. This should be cause enough to prioritize stress reduction, but on a larger level, cortisol imbalance can impact mitochondrial function and overall adrenal health.


What happens when cortisol becomes unbalanced?

High Cortisol

Low Cortisol

anxiety

​exhaustion/fatigue

weight gain, particularly in the middle

inflammation

high blood pressure

infection

hair loss

low blood pressure

fast heart rate

dizzyness


5 Ways to Reduce Your Stress & Balance Your Cortisol Levels

  1. Is there any thing you would like to add or change over the next couple of weeks that might support your health or well-being?

  2. Give your hormones a break by integrating some yoga, meditation, a walk in nature or some short breathing exercise. I personally love the 4-7-8 and box breathing methods.

  3. Get your circadian rhythm in check. Cortisol production and balance is reliant on proper sleep hygiene. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day, prioritizing a dark, cool room at night and immediate exposure to natural sunlight in the morning.

  4. When at all possible, leave your work at work. I have failed at this a lot in my career, but once I mastered it, it was incredibly liberating and resulted in significant stress reduction. Home is a place to embrace joy with family, friends, pets and all the oxytocin inducing hobbies!

  5. Support your stress hormones by eating a whole, nutrient dense diet, crowd out refined carbohydrates that constantly elevate blood sugar, slowly reduce (don't worry, not eliminate) caffeine consumption, prioritize filtered water and get adequate sleep!





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