VIP: Stress-Management Strategies (Part II)

Dr. Shawn Talbott (Ph.D., CNS, LDN, FACSM, FACN, FAIS) has gone from triathlon struggler to gut-brain guru! With a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry, he's on a mission to boost everyday human performance through the power of natural solutions and the gut-brain axis.

Want to feel better than you’ve ever felt?

Here’s another excerpt from my 10th book, The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year are:
*Lose Weight
*Get in Shape
*Reduce Stress
*Get Healthier
*Win the Lottery

The Secret of Vigor can help you with 4 out of 5 of the most popular resolution goals, so I’ll be posting excerpts from the book for the next several weeks – so please stay tuned for each installment.

If you simply can’t wait, then you can certainly get a copy at or at your favorite library or bookstore.

VIP: Stress-Management Strategies
Whether you on the verge of burnout or just a little tired from a typical twenty-first-century day, the last thing you may want to hear is someone telling you to “reduce stress.” I’m right there with you. Fortunately, a multitude of effective strategies for managing stress are available to you; best of all, you do not have to drastically alter your lifestyle to implement most of them. These ideas for managing stress are backed up by research that shows they can be extremely effective. Here are a few of my favorites that I have shared with clients and readers over the years, and I invite you to consider incorporating them into your daily routine to build vigor.

Imagine creative solutions.
Japanese researchers in Kyoto have shown that guided-imagery exercises (relaxing by imagining solutions to stress) can help people maintain biochemical balance after the very first session. In a series of studies, subjects practiced replacing unpleasant mental images of stressful events with comfortable thoughts, resulting in a displacement of stress, a shift toward a balanced emotional state, and a significant restoration of biochemical balance. Psychology researchers at UCLA have also shown that stressed patients who performed a “value-affirmation task” (mentally reciting their personal values and itemizing the things that were most important to them) in reaction to stressful events were able to maintain biochemical balance even under these circumstances.

Believe in yourself.
Remember the story of The Little Engine Who Could? Well, young children show marked resilience to stress when they apply the same “I think I can” approach to school stressors as the little train did in its attempt to climb the hill in the classic tale. In a study by Swedish researchers, school kids had reduced stress responses and were better able to maintain biochemical balance when they approached stressful situations with mental imagery that affirmed, “I can solve this task.”

Get away for a long weekend.
Even short periods of “getting away” can result in a significant drop in cortisol levels. In one study, a three-day, two-night weekend resulted in a decrease in cortisol levels and overall stress markers (indicating a restoration of biochemical balance) as well as a boost in immune-system function.

Take a yoga class.
Swedish psychologists have recently shown that ten sessions of yoga over four weeks resulted in significant psychological and physiological benefits in men and women. Participants in the yoga sessions showed improvements in their levels of cortisol, stress, anger, exhaustion, and blood pressure.

Regardless of how you feel about religion or spirituality, research shows that prayer can have an impact on health. One study on religion by researchers at Arizona State University has shown that people who are more spiritual and pray more often have lower cortisol levels and lower blood pressure.

Get a pet.
For some people, stress management may come on four legs. Scientists at Virginia Commonwealth University found that high-stress health-care professionals were able to significantly lower their cortisol levels after as little as five minutes of “dog therapy.” (Although no one measured the biochemical balance in the pooches, it is quite possible that they also benefited from playing with the health-care workers.)

Tune in to tunes.
Listening to relaxing music (as compared to sitting in silence) can significantly reduce cortisol levels following a stressful event, according to studies by French scientists.

Get some sleep.
Far and away the most effective stress-management technique you can practice is very simple: Get enough sleep. Even one or two nights of good, sound, restful sleep can do more for maintaining your biochemical balance and reducing your long-term risk for many chronic diseases than a whole lifetime of stress-management classes. It is almost impossible to overstate the crucial role adequate sleep plays in controlling your stress response, helping you to lose weight, boosting your energy levels, improving your mood, and, of course, raising your level of vigor.

Because sleep is such an important component for building vigor, I’m devoting the rest of the chapter to it.

About the Author

Exercise physiologist (MS, UMass Amherst) and Nutritional Biochemist (PhD, Rutgers) who studies how lifestyle influences our biochemistry, psychology and behavior - which kind of makes me a "Psycho-Nutritionist"?!?!

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