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8 Essential Habits for Leading a Stress-Free Lifestyle

by Dr. Mitchell Rasmussen, DC, CFMP, FRC-ms

We know that chronic stress taxes the adrenal glands and takes a physical toll on the body. Without intervention, an unchecked stress response can lead to system failures, hormone imbalance, and autoimmune disease.

There isn't a magic pill we can offer to get rid of all the stress in your life. It takes daily practice and awareness to manage the negative effects-- especially in 2020. Here are some basic daily habits for leading a stress-free lifestyle:

1. Breathing, yoga, meditation, or something similar daily.

Daily mindfulness of diaphragm breathing will teach the diaphragm to relax. Especially for those who suffer with racing thoughts and anxiety, using the diaphragm as a means to tap into your nervous system through your Vagus Nerve just makes sense.

Belly breathing is good for a whole host of reasons; but importantly, we are interested in helping the brain and nervous system to tap into the parasympathetic (rest/digest) state versus the sympathetic (fight/flight) state that is so common in 2020 in America. There is a lot demanded of us, and most often none of it is really ‘life or death’.

I think about it as a slow ‘death by a thousand paper cuts’ kind of situation for most people. There are constant deadlines and expectations and running to-thing-to-thing, that tends to keep us in more of that sympathetic nervous system over-drive.

Rx: Conscious breathing 5 minutes BEFORE getting out of bed, 5 minutes after each meal, 5 minutes at bedtime would be a great start in this practice.

2. Exercise.

Non-competitive, gentle to moderate physical exercise, 20 minutes, 3-4 times per week. This is a brisk walk at night, light cardio, easy weightlifting, etc. Nothing to get your heart rate up too high (this could send you right back into the sympathetic state), but enough so that you can breathe a bit deeper and get the blood flowing all over the body.

3. Laughter.

Laughing helps increase activity of the parasympathetic nervous system. Seek out activities you enjoy, that bring you peace and joy. Engage in these activities as often as possible; at least daily.

Laugh at the little things.

4. Sleep.

Getting to bed with the Circadian Rhythm is important. Early bedtimes (by 10 pm) allow the adrenal glands to rest. Sleep in when you can; but really, try to foster habits near bedtime that allow your body to kick into a resting state. If you are a night owl that struggles to sleep early, routine is key.

5. Upgrade your evening environment.

Try to avoid artificial blue light after the sun goes down. I recommend either purchasing a pair of blue-blocking lenses or going on and finding a pair that you like and that you will wear. I recommend wearing them for at least two hours prior to bed, especially if looking at screens or if you have fluorescent lights in your home. Try to limit big decisions at night as well. You must teach your body to wind-down and prepare for a restful sleep.

6. Nutrition.

Ideally, an adrenal support diet would avoid caffeine, chocolate, simple carbohydrates, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Good protein sources, fruits, vegetables, and good fats should be prioritized. Small meals should be eaten perhaps a bit more frequently over the next few months (hunger can kick you into the sympathetic state).

Include protein in every meal, starting with a good breakfast. Take your time to chew your food thoroughly, and please take the time to sit down and eat. I want you to avoid eating on the go as much as you can.

Avoid caffeine, chocolate, simple carbohydrates, and vegetable oils. Focus on good protein, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats.

7. Hydration.

This is simple: drink more water than you are now.

8. Rebalance the gut, tame inflammation, support detoxification capacity, balance nutrient intake.

Ok, ok, so this is a few more things to pile on. However, it is listed last because you must first address the basics. THEN we can dive into the functional medicine approach and address things like your leaky gut, inflammation, and poor detoxification status.


What Does A Functional Medicine Approach Look Like?

Functional lab testing can show your cortisol rhythm, your hormone balance, or even your nutrient status. We use this data to direct further intervention (supplements, neutraceuticals, and directed nutrition protocols). For more information about Functional Medicine at the Facility, visit this page.

Bonus tip: Since our diet can be a big source of stress, practicing mindful eating habits can be important: eating more slowly, taking smaller bites, and chewing more fully, for instance. You’ll be paying attention to all your senses while eating, and find a more pleasurable experience as you reflect on what you eat, how much you eat, and how it makes you feel.

Click below for my Mindful Eating Tips-

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The more you build awareness around the stress in your life, the easier it is to mitigate it. Start with small daily habits and expand from there. Often, having a support system can keep you motivated and engaged. Reach out to a friend, a spouse, or a practitioner who can help implement these stress-reduction practices.

A low-stress lifestyle is achievable (yes, even in 2020), but it requires practice, patience, and time.


Want to work with a functional nutritionist to personalize your diet? Struggling with hormone imbalance, IBS, weight gain, mood changes? Let's look at FOOD FIRST. Read more about Functional Nutrition at The Facility here.

CLICK HERE to schedule a FREE 15-Minute Nutrition Consult with Kate to determine your best course of action!

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Dr. Mitchell Rasmussen - Doctor of Chiro
Kate Daugherty - Nutritionist - Function
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