Taking on the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) often represents a big lifestyle change. The effort of eliminating nightshades and grains, eating more nutrient-dense foods, and avoiding traditional Paleo staples like eggs and nuts can throw our normal routine into disarray.
But often, knuckling down on our diets actually creates stress. When your habits have been upset, your routines dismantled, and your Friday night pizza tradition is off the table, the stress of creating newer, healthy routines can take its toll. Stress alone is enough to undo your hard-fought diet and lifestyle changes.
That’s why it’s crucial to reduce stress on the AIP. The truth is, the AIP represents not just dietary change, but a lifestyle change, too.
Most of us are familiar with stress-management advice—and the fact that in a stressful moment, even the best advice falls flat. So in this post, we’ll focus instead on 3 quick and immediate ways to dissolve stress.
We can divide stress into two categories: chronic stress and acute stress.
Chronic stress is the long-term, creeping stress that overstimulates your hormones and places a burden on nearly every system in your body. Our co-founder, Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, has written extensively about the balance between stress and health. In“How Chronic Stress Leads to Hormone Imbalance,” she points out the toll chronic stress takes on our body.
Those of us with autoimmune disease are undoubtedly extra susceptible to this type of stress, which can be caused by ongoing problems at work or school, a looming deadline, grief, poor sleep unhealthy relationships, insomnia (seeWhy Sleep Matters when You Have Autoimmune Disease) or, yes, a health crisis.
The suggestions we’ll make in this post can help lower cortisol, making them useful tools in your chronic stress-fighting belt. But in this post, we’ll focus more on acute stress. The surprise phone call that sends you into a tailspin. A fight with your spouse. A schedule that’s different because your kids are home for the summer.
Acute stress has a beginning and endpoint, and while it can snowball into chronic stress, it can more easily be diffused with a quick meditation, walk outside, or hug.
We know that daily meditation practices can lead to a whole host of positive health outcomes. Research focusing on meditation as a treatment for acute stress indicates it canimmediately reduce outward signs of stress, like heart rate.
Inone study of people with generalized anxiety disorder, mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques helped reduce inflammatory cytokines and stress markers, indicating it may actually improve our resilience to stress over the long term.
When you’re in the midst of a stressful situation, it can be difficult to calm your mind enough to experience a truly helpful meditation. In this circumstance, guided meditations can be extremely beneficial.
Our favorite meditation apps, Calm and Headspace, both include a variety of guided meditations that vary by length of time, topic, and style. If you’re particularly stressed, try a stop-drop-and-meditate style experience with one of these apps!
Almost sounds too simple, right?
When you’re experiencing a stressful moment, it can be hard to pull away and take a step outside. Beyond the obvious effects of fresh air and a change of scenery, there are plenty of good reasons to take a few steps outside.
A happy bonus: walking is the one tip in this list that may help you achieve your activity goals as well as reducing stress (seeShould I Exercise on the AIP?).
As tough as it may be in the moment, ducking out for a walk on your lunch hour, in the morning before work, or after that stressful call is a simple, accessible way to manage acute stress.
We’ve talked about the effects of loneliness on the AIP on our blog, as well as the importance of finding support on your healing journey (seeThree Simple Ways to Support AIP Loved Ones). It turns out that a simple hug is one of the most immediately impactful things your loved ones can do to support your health—and reduce stress!
One study found that “affectionate relationships with a supportive partner may contribute to lower reactivity to stressful life events.” It’salso associatedwith lower blood pressure and cardio reactivity, especially in women.
Another study of couples found that supportive partners and a period of “warm contact,” like cuddling, increased oxytocin, a neurotransmitter associated with improved mood and calm.
Don’t have a partner or friend on hand to hug? Our pets can also positively impact our mood. For instance,researchers know that oxytocin and dopamine both increase when humans pet their dogs, while cortisol decreases.
The bottom line: connection can reduce stress, and the effects are almost immediate.
These three simple steps will help you reduce stress when it rears its ugly head. Whether you try a quick guided meditation, go for a walk outside, or hug a loved one or pet (or all three!) you should be able to feel the calming effects of lowered cortisol and improved mood.
Since we know that chronic illness itself is a source of chronic stress, it’s worth incorporating these three simple ways to reduce stress into your regular routine. Stress is a silent drain on our health, and with all the effort you’re putting into healing with the AIP, it’s worth tending to your stress levels, too!
Choosing foods, planning meals, and grocery shopping can be a major adjustment on the AIP, and we at Strength in Food know they can also cause more than a little stress. We createdStrength in Food to help you simplify your AIP journey.
We aim to bring a little joy back to your AIP journey with a curated selection of AIP snacks, sauces, and supplements. We help you reduce the stress of planning meals, so every Strength in Food delivery comes with recipes and meal plans, plus access to even more inside our exclusive Member’s Portal (seeA Peek Inside Our Exclusive Member's Portal + A Free Download!).
Subscribe to Strength in Food to take a little of the stress out of your AIP today.
In this post, we’ll talk about the principle of nutrient density and a simple exhortation for including more of it in your AIP: eat the rainbow!