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Managing Your Stress Levels The Primal Way

April 21, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 160

As a health professional, I find myself often not only giving advice on physical fitness, but also on other aspects of daily life that involve wellness in general. Today I'm going to tackle the subject of learning to handle your personal stress levels. Now in no way am I a therapist or psychologist, but I have been in the health industry for quite a few years. I have spent hundreds and hundreds of hours in study, and I have been certified by some of the most elite Holistic Lifestyle practitioners in the world (The Chek Institute.) I have been given their stamp of approval to both practice and teach concepts involving health, happiness and fitness. After all, healthy people are happy people. And finally I founded and have been running Primal Athletic Performance for the past two years, so I know a little bit about stress from my own personal experiences.

There are those people who feel stress in life and think simply, it's part of life, it's part of my job, it's part of growing older. Well those people are half right. As you take on more responsibilities in your life, you then apply more stress to your body and mind. The problem with that school of thought is that it shows a defeated attitude. An attitude that says, school is supposed to be stressful, my job is supposed to be stressful, my LIFE is supposed to be stressful. THIS IS NOT TRUE. Life is meant to be enjoyable. Life is meant to be a challenge. One should look at life with a "Bring-it-on. I can take whatever punches you throw at me attitude." If we continue to find stress in our everyday lives we will continue to degenerate our bodies and our minds.

Having this Bring-it-On attitude about life is not easy and I'll be the first to admit that. It is a learned pattern, meaning your brain can build a new neuro-pathway, or "thought pattern highway" that will allow your mind to think positively and with less stress every time you traverse this neuro-pathway. This is the same basic concept behind muscle memory and motor engram patterns (things that you do naturally because of repetition, e.g., twirling your hair, walking with your feet pointed outward, chewing on only the left side of your mouth.)

If your body learns how to do something efficiently, it will continue to do so and become more efficient at it every time. Now, this can be a harmful thing or a good thing. If you pick up a pack of cigarettes every day after work and smoke four or five of them, you are traversing a negative neuro-pathway and reinforcing a negative motor engram. But if you find yourself being able to tell yourself, "NO I don't need a cigarette,' or "Yes I can exercise when I get home," you will be well on your way to building a new neuro-pathway.

So how does this relate to stress levels? As I stated above, building these happy thoughts and neuro-pathways can be a difficult task. But there are tools that you can take advantage of that will help you along the way to become less stressed.

First we must understand how stress works and how it takes a toll on our bodies. And to understand how stress affects our bodies we need to understand what causes stress in our bodies. We must understand HPA axis (HPAG axis in males,) our parasympathetic nervous system, our sympathetic nervous system, and our limbic system.

All stress hormones are triggered and can be controlled by our limbic system. Our limbic system is our emotional system. This is an extremely easy concept to grasp. When you are happy you aren't stressed. You don't feel like your chest is tight, like you are short of breath, like you are tired or groggy or have brain fog. On the opposite end of the spectrum you experience all of these things when you are unhappy or depressed. YOUR EMOTIONS CONTROL THE HORMONAL RESPONSES IN YOUR BODY. NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. Unless you let them. To be in control of your mind is to master your body and your body's response to ANY stimuli.

To maintain control of your limbic system you must understand how your HPA axis works and its effect on your parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. HPA axis stands for hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. HPAG axis simply stands for hypothalamic-pituitary- adrenal-gonadatropic axis. You notice we are referring to the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and the adrenal glands and in the case for males the gonads or testicles, and the hormones that they regulate. These very high stress hormones include cortisol, epinephrine norepinephrine and many others. Have you ever heard of anyone falling asleep while they are all jacked from an adrenalin rush? I didn't think so.

The frequent and consistent excretion of the hormones from these glands will activate the body's sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is an actual tangible series of nerve fibers located in the thoracolumbar area. When this system is strongly activated it is literally almost impossible to calm yourself or lower your levels of stress. This is because the sympathetic nervous system tells your body to activate all of your fight or flight hormones. While this may be useful in the gym, in a sport or in a fight, this is the opposite of what your body needs to be in a relaxed state.

In contrast your body has another system which is activated by the slowing down of the stimuli to the HPA axis. This is the parasympathetic Nervous system. This system has been nicknamed the Rest and Digest system. This is the system that most Americans have a hard time activating. This is your ANTI- STRESS SYSTEM.

Now that we understand the way that our stress hormones work it is imperative that we learn how to manipulate our bodies and our hormonal levels to wipe the stress out of our lives. So let's learn how to activate that parasympathetic nervous system and therefore become happier, healthier, more conscious individuals. As well as learn to control out emotions.

Magnesium and Mustard

Magnesium is a mineral found in fish, bananas and many nuts and vegetables. Most people in the world are deficient in magnesium (especially athletes) as it is excreted through our sweat glands. One of the great things about magnesium is the calming effect it has on our body. A simple way to see the effects is to take an entire 4 to 6 pound bag of Epsom salt (primary ingredient MAGNESIUM) and pour it into a bathtub. Let yourself soak in the bathtub for at least 30 minutes and then take a cold shower. You will probably be in one of the most comfortable and detoxified states you have ever been in. Another thing you can add to the water is a mustard seed bath remedy. It will have further affects of detoxification and relaxation and I personally recommend Dr. Singha's Mustard Bath. It's a great price for a great affect. You may find it hard to sit in the bath this long because the detoxification effects are so strong, but push yourself and reap the rewards afterwards. This is an amazingly effective way to activate your parasympathetic nervous system.

Chamomile and Kava

Chamomile tea has been used for many years as a natural muscle relaxer, and it is also an effective cure for headaches and irritable bowel syndrome. As you can imagine it is very hard to be in a relaxed state with either of those two irritants. Kava is also a natural muscle relaxer and is used by Natives of the South Pacific almost on a daily basis. One of the reasons there is very low alcohol abuse in the South Pacific countries is because they have found something more effective than alcohol to relax their minds and their bodies: Kava Root Tea. Once again, deep states of mind and body relaxation slow down the HPA Axis and allow the parasympathetic nervous system to activate, causing deep states of relaxation and digestion.

Sleep, Melatonin and the Pituitary Gland, and Grains

Getting a full eight hours of sleep is essential to daily life. Many people will say that they have to have at least 5 or maybe sometimes 4. The honest truth is these are people who don't know what they need. They don't realize that our bodies don't recover completely in 4 hours, and even then it still takes another 2 to 4 hours for our minds to recover. The body always heals before the mind, in sleep and in the waking hours. Perhaps now would be a good time to quote the cliché "wounds to the pride take longer to heal than wounds to the flesh" The word Pride can be replaced with the word mind in this scenario. It's easier to fix flesh than it is to fix the mind, therefore when we sleep we heal our bodies first. If you are not getting the proper amount of sleep, than you may be walking around all day with a perfectly rested body but a terribly fatigued mind. All fatigue causes stress, so please stop staying up till two A.M. flipping between reruns of Seinfeld and Paid Programming of P90X and Girls Gone Wild. Get the proper amount of sleep at night and I promise you will have a much more enjoyable, productive, and relaxing day.

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland while you sleep. It promotes restful sleep and recovery. It is an essential hormone with many anti-stress capabilities and properties. 99% of Americans do not produce the proper amount of this recovery hormone for two reasons: lack of sleep and a high gluten diet. Gluten is a protein that has zero helpful functions in the human body. It is harmful in many ways, but today I will only tell you how it affects your sleep cycle. Gluten has the ability to cross the blood brain barrier and shut down the pineal gland to the point where it does not produce enough melatonin to give us have healthy, relaxing, deep sleep. If we do not get deep sleep our pituitary gland is then also under-worked. Therefore we don't produce the proper amount of growth hormone that it takes to help our bodies recover.

Gluten is an enemy to the body. There is no other way to look at it. Get rid of Gluten and you will have better sleep, more energy, and more limbic control and vitality than you have probably ever had. Gluten can be found in almost all grains. So the process is very simple. Eliminate grains from your diet. Get your carbohydrates from foods that don't require processing. Get you carbs from potatoes, carrots, fruits, vegetables, beans. This will make a huge impact on your stress levels by itself, because your body will not be wasting its valuable enzymes to break down all of the highly processed crap in most people's daily diet. Instead it will use those enzymes to fight other intruders to your body, such as disease and carcinogens.


This one's a no-brainer. People who get the proper amount of cardiovascular and anaerobic exercise are healthier, happier, live longer, have less disease and less stress than people who do not use their bodies. This doesn't mean go to the gym everyday and torture yourself. If you don't know how to exercise properly which most people do not, hire a QUALIFIED trainer to guide you through an exercise program. If you can't afford a trainer, than by all means take your lonely dog who never gets to see real sunlight out for a walk and burn some calories. Stop parking as close as you can to your destination in the parking lot. Get out of the car instead of waiting for that front spot and walk to your destination. Smart, happy, healthy people don't worry about insignificant stuff like how close they can get to the HEB so they don't have to walk far to get their processed foodstuffs with as little caloric expenditure as possible.

Breathing Properly

In one of my recent articles I stated that I had read an article that said that the average American breathes 22 times per minute. This means that the average American takes very shallow breaths. What does your brain assume when you take frequent shallow breaths? It assumes that you are under stress. Think about it, when someone hyperventilates they are given a bag to stuff their face in and instructed to take deep breaths to slow there breathing and heart rate. What they are actually doing is slowing down there sympathetic nervous system and activating their parasympathetic nervous system. If we walked around all day and took slower deeper breaths into our diaphragms rather than only into our lungs we would be calmer, happier, less stressed people. Not only that, but our ability to use oxygen for energy helps us in so many aspects of life: physical, mental, and sexual. All of these things are important. If you don't believe me about the mental aspect, try and do algebra while holding your breath, or try to solve a Sudoku with no oxygen. I'd love to hear about your results.

I know so many people with such high stress lifestyles that it truly breaks them over time. I wrote this article in an effort to cure as many people as I can of this "disease" which plagues our homes, our families, and our country. Stress is the number one killer in America. Constricted arteries, overworked organs, heart attacks, strokes, obesity and cancer are all cause by the stress we put on our bodies, either externally through our lifestyles and choices, or internally through our choices of food and medicine. Please, make an effort to rid yourselves of the stress factors in your life, as you only have one life to live, and one life to give to those around you.

If you need any more information on reducing stress levels, all of the Primal Athletic Performance trainers are willing to help and will answer any questions you may have.

David Gentile

Owner/Head Trainer

Primal Athletic Performance

Source: EzineArticles
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Article Tags:

Parasympathetic Nervous


Limbic System


Stress Levels

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