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How Stress Changes Our Genes (+ 5 Things We Can Do About It)

How Stress Changes Our Genes (+ 5 Things We Can Do About It)

Just like air, stress is all around us. Many people believe it has to be a big bad event to take its toll on the body and mind. However, stress affects you daily through relationships and actions like verbal abuse or worrying about finances. And such chronic stress influences the body on an epigenetic level which can lead to serious consequences to a person's health and wellbeing.

Epigenetics studies how stress changes our genes and how that manifests in the body. This branch of science tries to determine in which way stress will switch on or off certain genes. This process can contribute to the development of diseases and mental illnesses which weren't there before. For example, a study from 2013 showed that stress tricked the immune system to believe it's fighting off an infection. Study subjects experienced an increased expression of genes responsible for inflammation which, in turn, raised the risk of very serious health conditions like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

However, it's possible to prevent these epigenetic events or at least lessen their reach and improve the overall health. Optimized nutrition, moderate exercise, and changed lifestyle are all a good starting point to enhance body and mind and reduce stress. And here are things we can do about it to live fulfilled lives and transfer good genes to future generations.

1. Find time to meditate

Meditation is a wonderful way to calm the nerves down, lower your stress levels and control your anxiety. Find a place where you feel comfortable, sit down and close your eyes. It's important to be in a quiet spot or play some relaxing music so you stay focused on meditation. Concentrate on your breathing and feel the stress leaving your body with every exhale. Do this every day for at least 15 minutes and you will notice your mood improving, as well as the way you observed everyday stress.

Find time to meditate

2. Get your body moving

Exercise is the most effective way to release tension and decrease stress levels. Jogging, cycling or swimming will not only produce endorphins and other beneficial hormones but also tone your body. Studies even proved that physical exercise toughens up the mind so it doesn’t react so easily to stress.

Yoga is usually the most advised exercise to deal with stress since it combines movements, positions, and meditation. Hiking is also a great way to clear your head and relax especially if you travel to another destination. Although a simple walk in the park or the neighborhood has its benefits for the troubled mind. Dances like mambo or aerobic exercises like Zumba are fun and will engage you in social interactions with other people.

3. Spend less time online

It’s hard to stay off the Internet and some form of social media. Being constantly exposed to other people's lives through posts and pictures can lead to depression due to the inability to be as happy or present yourself in a certain way. A study showed that limiting social media decreases anxiety and improves a person's wellbeing. Therefore, spend less time online and more with your family and friends doing something fun like having a barbecue or going to the movies. 

Control the stress with proper diet

4. Control the stress with proper diet

Production of happiness hormones like serotonin and dopamine requires certain chemical processes which include vitamin B6, iron and folate. Many professionals like Evergreen Doctors holistically treat stress considering how important nutrition and metabolism are for mental state. So, it is important to pay attention to the diet since it can be a valuable resource to battle stress.

For example, fatty fish like salmon and tuna are full of omega-3 fats which help control the adrenaline production. Magnesium is excellent to balance cortisol and you can find it both in fruits and veggies like Swiss chard and nuts. Milk is a source of various nutrients like B vitamins, calcium and vitamin D which will relieve tension in the muscles. But sweets are not off the table since dark chocolate will not only lower your cortisol levels but also increase serotonin.

5. Create certain routines to follow during the day

Routines are a good way to adopt healthy behaviors which will help you manage stress, especially the chronic one. A beauty regime in the morning and evenings can have soothing effects which will calm you down. Having regular meals like breakfast, lunch and dinner will make sure your body is getting enough nutrition to function throughout the day.

Also, create small rituals for yourself like drinking the afternoon tea in the garden or catching up with news while having breakfast. Treat yourself with something relaxing at least once a month like a picnic in nature or massage at the spa. Building routines, no matter how small, will give you a feeling of groundedness and help you focus.

All in all

Due to the advancement of science, we can expect more and more findings on epigenetics and how stress changes our genes. Not all stressors are susceptible to control, but at least there are things we can do about it to be more resilient. After all, this will not only decrease stress but also make us healthier and ready for new challenges.

ninaNina is a blogger, yoga aficionado and a travel enthusiast with a distinctive taste for home decor. She's passionate about learning new things and sharing meaningful ideas. If you wanna see what she's up to you can find her on twitter!

This article was submitted exclusively to CrystalWind.ca by Nina Simons © 2019 crystalwind.ca

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