Chronic stress has a major impact on our wellbeing. Its presence is encompassing in the current state of our culture and world: physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, financially, environmentally . . . enough to confine us without the hope of ever being free from it.
Our relationship to living well has been eroded by an ocean swell of fast, cheap, and convenient - the crowning achievements of our devolution, but a sea change feels closer than ever now with the earth, the experts, and our minds and bodies sounding the alarms.
Understanding the mind.body toll of chronic stress, talking about it openly, slowing down on purpose, and proactively managing it is our only option until the day comes when we, as a collective human community, decide to make sweeping changes to how we live. Taking a stand with these simple practices may actually be the first step to achieving a new reality.
The silver lining of this storm is that nature is still here, waiting for us, whispering to us to return our attention toward her, asking us to rebuild our relationship. It starts with one stolen moment at a time, for each of us. One cool breeze and sunbeam on our faces at at time. One day at a time.
Let’s begin with understanding the science of stress . . .
The Stress Response & the Relaxation Response
These two branches of the nervous system counteract each other to keep the body safe and in harmony.
The Stress Response
Activates the sympathetic nervous system for “fight or flight”. Signals travel from the brain to the adrenal glands to produce stress hormones to respond to our environment.
Adrenaline is responsible for the heart-pounding and alertness of the fight-or-flight response
Cortisol increases blood sugar via various mechanisms, is immune-suppressing (i.e. anti-inflammatory), and increases bone, protein, and fat breakdown for fuel
Aldosterone regulates fluid balance and blood pressure for cardiovascular, cellular, and mental function
Cortisol, under healthy conditions, follows a daily rhythm of spiking in the morning to wake you up and support activity by releasing glucose into your bloodstream for energy and then gradually declines throughout the day to low levels at night so you can fall asleep.
Cortisol also spikes under times of acute stress and can become chronically elevated or depressed from chronic stress or inflammatory conditions. The adrenals are susceptible to deficiency in hormone production from the effects of chronic inflammation, long term chronic stress, gut dysbiosis, toxin exposure, nutrient deficiency, and mitochondrial oxidative stress.
Signs of chronically elevated cortisol
High blood glucose
Weight gain, metabolic syndrome
Anxiety, depression, overwhelm
Signs of cortisol deficiency and low aldosterone
Low blood pressure
Dizzy when standing
Hypoglycemic tendency, irritable in between meals
Fatigue, weakness, pain
Longer to recover from exercise
Frequent urination at night
The Relaxation Response
Activates the parasympathetic nervous system for “rest and digest” and turns down the dial on the stress response pathways to:
Decrease heart rate
Decrease blood pressure
Decrease respiratory rate and oxygen consumption
Decrease muscle tension
Reduces cortisol and adrenaline production
Send blood flow to organs and GI tract for digestion
Improve concentration and mood
The Relaxation Response is triggered by soooo many things. YAY! Laughter, movement, deep breathing, mindfulness, touch & intimacy, creative outlets, hobbies, listening to or playing music, singing or humming, . . . consciously choose to build these into your daily life, even if it means saying no to other demands on your time.
5 Ways to reWild Your Stress Resilience
120 Minutes a Week in Nature: I, personally, know no better cure than time spent in nature to release stress. Nature walks in the wilderness, resting your bare feet on the earth (earthing), visiting an urban park, gardening in your backyard, or even sitting beside an open window to watch the trees, feel the breeze, and listen to birdsong will do. It turns out 120 minutes may be the minimum dose to strive for each week to boost wellbeing (see this study for more details), but a few stolen moments throughout the day can begin to turn the tide in your favor to foster more wellbeing in your life.
Bring Nature Indoors: Our homes are the foundation of our wellbeing. The environment we create to sleep in, to cook and eat in, to recharge and relax in, and to work or create in impacts the quality of our lives. Create stress-absorbing zones inside your home by decluttering your living space from excessive, unnatural, consumer culture objects that are devoid of “nature’s life force” and adorn them instead with natural found objects, nature art, living plants, fresh flowers, design materials or decor made from natural stone, wood, cotton or wool, dried herbs, feathers, soy/beeswax candles, a fireplace, essential oils, or fabrics that mimic the comfort and warmth of fur. There is an aliveness to nature-inspired environments that is very healing and can help us avoid the build-up of chronic stress in our lives.
Invest in Outdoor Spaces: Instead of investing your money into the latest gadget, reroute those funds to regenerating the outdoor spaces of your home or community that will invite you to stay a little while longer outdoors. Plant an edible garden, plant trees, create an oasis on your deck or patio, install a water feature or solar landscape lighting - anything that benefits our pollinators, increases biodiversity, creates a carbon sink, or beautifies our surroundings also benefits US.
Regular Technology Fasts & reWilding Retreats: Unplugging from all technology for designated periods of time each day is essential self-care. Do not underestimate the power of this simple practice. At a minimum, unplug one hour before bed, but even better if you can build tech-free creative or mindful time each morning or evening, tech-free time in nature for movement or relaxation, or try a full day of reWilding! Subscribe to download the reWilding Retreat Guide.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or “Tapping”: One of the core foundations of reWilding is to ground yourself in the wisdom of the body and the heart to calm the noise of the mind. One of the quickest ways to get out of a stressful mental state and back into the wisdom of your body where mental, emotional, and physical stress can be processed and released is to use EFT. It’s free. It’s available anytime you need it. And it’s one of the best acute and chronic stress management techniques you will ever learn.
The Tapping Solution by Nick Ortner is a wonderful resource for beginners, full of instructional videos, meditation libraries, a tapping community, and online courses. Here is how Nick describes the process of tapping:
“. . .the body’s health must be approached as a whole. The body, like everything in the universe, is composed of energy. Restore balance to the body’s energy, and you will mend the negative emotions and physical symptoms that stem from the energy disruption.”
“Tapping restores the body’s energy balance, and negative emotions are conquered. The basic technique requires you to focus on the negative emotion at hand: a fear or anxiety, a bad memory, an unresolved problem, or anything that’s bothering you. While maintaining your mental focus on this issue, use your fingertips to tap 5-7 times each on eight of the body’s meridian points.”
“Tapping on these meridian points – while concentrating on accepting and resolving the negative emotion – will access your body’s energy, restoring it to a balanced state.”
8 Meridian Points for Tapping
Side of Eye
Top of Head
I highly recommend the Tapping Solution App for on-the-go Tapping! The Ortner family have created a library of hundreds of guided tapping meditations for common stressors for both adults and children, including topics relevant to the continued unfolding of our climate, political, and health crises.
We can activate the relaxation response by consciously CHOOSING a more peaceful life. Reduce stressful triggers within your control. Unplug to spend less time with technology and more time immersed in the kingdom of trees, plants, the animals, rivers, oceans, the sun, moon, and the stars to reWild your one and only precious life.
Health Support For Stress Resilience
Adopting a phytonutrient-rich, whole foods diet is a great place to start - nature has your back! But if you’re already feeling the impacts of chronic stress on your health, work with a functional nutritionist or functional medicine practitioner for a comprehensive health evaluation to address nutrient deficiencies, gut function, toxic load, sleep deprivation, chronic infections, oxidative stress, and chronic inflammation.
Stress Supplements: there are many herbal adaptogens that can help enhance stress resilience short-term while lifestyle changes and other protocols are being adopted (e.g., eleuthero, rhodioloa, magnolia, ashwaganda, holy basil, licorice root)
Helpful Functional Labs: A Complete Hormone Panel including 24-hour salivary cortisol to assess hormone levels; an Organic Acids Test to determine cellular health status & inflammatory bio
The Wild at Heart Method is uniquely designed to help you transition into a lifestyle that awakens your inner wild and supports your wellbeing. A lifestyle reset can be simple, sustainable, and fun when you (re)align yourself with nature.
Subscribe for Mind.Body.Home reWilding inspiration and download the reWilding Retreat Guide: a nature-infused, self-guided retreat to explore on your own or with family and friends designed to help you de-stress, disconnect from technology, soulfully connect with loved ones & nature, nourish your mind.body with healthy whole food, and provide the mental space for mindfulness.
I look forward to supporting you with the right program, service, or referral on your healing journey. Let's walk together for awhile...
We'll stop and smell the wildflowers. Smile a lot. And wander down the road less-traveled.
Be Well and I'll See You in the Wild,
Angela Juhl, MS, CHWC, CYT
Master of Science in Human Nutrition & Functional Medicine
Wellcoaches™ Certified Health and Wellness Coach
Wild Woman Project Circle Leader
Certified Yoga Teacher
Wild at Heart was founded on the mission: to take a stand against unsustainable cultural norms by empowering YOU to realign your lifestyle & mindset with the wisdom of nature for mind.body.heart & soul healing and rekindling a soulful relationship to the natural world...for yourself, your loved ones, our communities, and our beautiful planet.