If you’re dealing with autoimmunity or a chronic inflammatory condition, you’ve probably noticed that your symptoms tend to wax and wane and sometimes it’s difficult to figure out what makes you feel better or worse. You might have tried to pin down the cause of your inflammatory rollercoaster by investigating foods, supplements, and medications, but had minimal results identifying the culprit of your good and bad days.
That’s because regardless of your dietary program, supplements, or medications the #1 factor that causes the uncomfortable and often unpredictable ups and downs of autoimmunity is stress. Both short-term, intense and chronic stress change your hormone health and immune function, resulting in autoimmune flares that can wreck the way you feel from day to day or week to week. To address this, a strong focus on stress elimination and resilience building should be a focus of any health program for people healing from autoimmunity.
3 Essential Stress Relievers For Autoimmunity
1. Get the right amount of quality sleep every night.
Sleep is essential for immune health, hormone health, nervous system function, cellular restoration, and memory consolidation. A lot of people with autoimmunity suffer from lack of sleep due to difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, or early waking. You might be getting by with 6-7 hours of sleep, but not feeling rested when you wake.
For most people dealing with autoimmunity, especially if you’re in the beginning of your root cause journey, 8-9 hours of quality sleep (no waking, tossing, or turning) is needed. To find out how much sleep you need, set a timer for the time you’re going to wake up in the morning and then try going to sleep 8 hours before. Note how you feel. Then experiment with 8.5 and 9 hours of sleep while waking at the same time each morning to find out how much sleep makes you feel best.
2. Meditation, Mindfulness, Stillness
First, let’s get something straight – the more you “don’t have time” for meditation, the more it’s the #1 thing you need to make time for. Sitting in stillness for just 2-5 minutes per day can have a dramatic effect on your health by making you feel more focused and calm. This decreases your stress hormones, builds resiliency so you can recover from stressful events faster, and trains your nervous system to operate in the healthy “rest and digest” mode.
Other practices such as taking 9 deep breaths before each meal to focus our nervous system on our digestive organs and going for walks in nature to experience the anti-inflammatory and stress decreasing effects of forest cytokines are also potent practices for stress reduction.
Play is highly overlooked and undervalued in most health plans. If you’re overwhelmed by day-to-day tasks, responsibilities, and poor health you might have forgotten the healthy hobbies and activities you used to enjoy. I highly recommend prescribing play and taking it very seriously.
Play time can be anything you like – from yoga class to art and writing to time in nature. Block the time out and put it in your calendar at least once per week. Keep the appointment with yourself every week. This time for yourself is even more important than the time you schedule with others. Put your own oxygen mask on first and you will experience lower stress and increased endorphins to accelerate your healing journey.