10 Symptoms of Chronic Stress and 15 Ways to Turn On Your Relaxation Response; Including Eating Brownies.
What is your relationship to stress? For many of us stress is a part of our daily lives, which raises the questions, how do we react to it and how do we relieve it?
If we can’t immediately remove the root cause of our stress, then discovering ways to relax is important because chronic stress causes many negative affects on the body. It causes our main stress hormone, cortisol to rise. Cortisol is created by our adrenal glands. Most of the cells in our body have cortisol receptors, which is why cortisol affects so many bodily functions.
Cortisol is the fight or flight stress hormone, which gives us the strength to out run a predator and keeps us from dying of famine. Cortisol dramatically increases energy production at the expense of other bodily functions that are not required for immediate survival. Trouble is, relentless stress can keep this survival mechanism constantly turned on high, damaging the body. When cortisol levels are chronically elevated the immune system is compromised, weight loss is virtually impossible and risks for chronic diseases are increased.
Cortisol also plays an important role in our nutrition, regulating energy by selecting the right type and amounts of carbohydrates, fats, or proteins the body needs to meet its physiological demands. Cortisol is a key component in the body’s effort to carry out its processes and maintain homeostasis.
When cortisol spikes from stress, it tells the body to eat something high in calories, which is great for survival if you need energy to flee a lion in the jungle, but it’s not so great if you're fretting over the demands of daily life, like juggling work, family and paying the bills.
Are your cortisol levels elevated? Symptoms of high cortisol levels are
- Stubborn weight gain, especially belly fat
- High blood sugar
- High blood pressure
- Muscle weakness
- Depression, anxiety and irritability
- Lack of sex drive
- Irregular periods in women.
- A round puffy face
- Increased thirst and frequent urination
- Skin changes and bruising.
So how can we balance the fight or flight response with the rest and repair mechanism? Fortunately there are many relaxation responses to lower high cortisol levels.
- Eat dark Chocolate! (See my sweet potato brownie recipe below)
- Pound a pound of vegetables every day.
- Eat sweet potatoes.
- Eat 3-5 smaller meals per day, so your adrenals know you’re not starving of famine.
- Say "Om" and meditate - in whatever way works for you.
- Listen to music you love.
- Get 8 hours of sleep.
- Sip green tea.
- Hang out with someone who makes you laugh.
- Get a massage.
- Do something spiritual- like a walk in nature's temple- in the woods or on the beach.
- Breath deeply in and out of your nose for a few breaths.
- Have an orgasm. It raises oxytocin (love hormone) 500 times. An instant stress reliever!
- Open a page from any book by Eckhart Tolle, Thich Nhat Hanh, Jiddu Krishnamurti, or Paramahansa Yogananda and read an excerpt.
- Eat sweet potato brownies.
These delicious and healthy chocolate treats have been given a thumbs-up from some very discerning taste testers in my family.
Sweet Potato Brownies
2 large sweet potatoes or about 4 C roasted (or steamed) sweet potatoes
10-12 medjool dates
1 Tbs. vanilla
¼ chia seeds
¾ C water
1 Tbs. flax meal
1 C raw cacao powder
1 C raw cacao nibs
2 Tbs. sweetener (coconut sugar, coconut syrup, brown rice syrup, date sugar, maple sugar or maple syrup)
- Bake the sweet potatoes until they are soft and caramel-ly.
- Combine chia and water and let stand until thick about 20 minutes.
- Remove pits from the dates and cut in half
- Add dates to food processor and mix until a ball if formed.
- Peel sweet potatoes and add to dates in food processor.
- Process dates and potatoes until smooth.
- Add vanilla and process again.
- Pour the three ingredients from food processor into a large bowl.
- Add melted cacao butter and stir to fully incorporate.
- Add sweetener of choice.
- Add ½ C of the chia mixture.
- Add flax meal
- Add cacao powder and mix gently.
- Add cacao nibs and fold in.
- Taste batter and add more vanilla, sweetener or cacao powder to preference. (this batter is so delicious that you want to eat it all raw)
- Line baking pan with parchment paper
- Pour batter in pan evenly.
- Bake in 350 degree oven for 35-45 minutes
- Test with a knife or toothpick for doneness. Do not over-bake because the cacao oil will hold everything solidly together once the brownies cool.
- After baking, cool at room temp, and then refrigerate to set before slicing.
These babies last a good week in the fridge (if you don’t eat them all before then) and about three weeks in the freezer.
Thanks for joining the rawception!