Editor’s note: Dr. Nanci Miklowski is a Cleveland naturopathic doctor providing holistic health consultations. She often recommends natural remedies like homeopathy and herbal medicine to promote natural health and wellness. She participated in GCPL’s Day of Wellness in the spring of 2019. 

Our bodies have evolved to effectively deal with short-term stress, like running from a bear. In response, cortisol, the primary stress hormone secreted from the adrenal glands, causes a cascade of physiological effects that helps our body to flee from danger. Our heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar will all increase to help support our bodies resolve the immediate threat. Afterward, cortisol levels and our body systems go back to baseline.

Unfortunately, in today’s society, we really don’t ever fully escape the “bear”. Many of us are suffering from health conditions as a direct result of sustained increased levels of cortisol due to chronic stress. In order to remain healthy and avoid the negative side effects of stress, it is imperative to practice self-care daily.

What is self-care? Any activity that improves your mental, physical, or emotional well-being. Taking just a few minutes every day for self-care helps our bodies relax and therefore reduce cortisol. Here are some quick and easy examples:

  • Starting the day with 16 ounces of water. Properly hydrating our cells allows for optimal function and reduces physiological stress. It also makes us more alert, allowing us to respond more appropriately to life’s stresses.
  • Taking hourly breaks. Set a reminder to take a few minutes of break at the end of every hour of work. Stretch, take deep breaths, or go for a short walk.
  • Earthing. To do this, simply stand barefoot in the grass. There is scientific evidence that this action reduces free radical damage and it can improve sleep, chronic pain, and stress.
  • Yoga, or any form of exercise. Even if it’s just 5-10 minutes a day, get moving!
  • Go to bed 30 minutes earlier. Adequate sleep is absolutely crucial for proper health. And too little sleep can further exacerbate cortisol levels.

Dr. Nanci is currently reading Outside the Box Cancer Therapies: Alternative Therapies that Treat and Prevent Cancer, written by naturopathic medical doctors Mark Stengler and Paul Anderson. This book provides evidence-based information about natural therapies to help patients, caregivers, and doctors navigate cancer diagnosis and treatment.