Recognizing Dysfunction: Tips on What You Can Do
Veronika Lehner

At some point or another, we will all experience dysfunction if we haven’t already. This can include gut issues, what I have mentioned before, as well as not coping with mental health/ stress very well. Stress is a huge culprit of dysfunction, and can actually cause the gut health issues to take place too. High stress actually lowers stomach acid production, which creates an excellent environment for bad bacteria to flourish. This also invites helicobacter pylori (H. Pylori) to congregate, which can lead to various symptoms including what are considered “autoimmune” diseases. So the question then is, what came first? Was the gut issue the root of the cause, or was it the high stress (high cortisol) that caused havoc? It can be one or the other that starts it, however, if you venture down the path of getting the gut fixed, you will need to be sure that you mitigate stress properly too.

We deal with a lot of stress in the current age. Our bodies truly were not made for the amount of external stressors we face today. Many of us work a lot just to make ends meet, in addition to wanting to also have a life. This leads to the reduction of sleep. Sleep is an extremely important factor for us that needs to be taken seriously. Not only does it of course help with our energy levels, but it helps our body recover, and truly is the only time our body can fully recover. This is also crucial for allowing our bodies to detoxify cortisol properly, thus preventing elevated cortisol levels on a day to day basis.

This means that whenever we sacrifice sleep, we aren’t allowing our bodies to fully recover. This promotes cortisol to remain high, and can actually lead to issues with sleep down the road. Have you ever felt so exhausted, yet when it comes time to go to bed, you feel wired? This can be from high cortisol, and if not mitigated, can lead to a vicious cycle, thus promoting dysfunction.

How do we combat high cortisol/ prevent dysfunction when it comes to stress? We can mitigate it. First things first, create a schedule for yourself that allows at least 8 hours of sleep a day. Getting proper sleep hygiene established will help tremendously. Also, do not overtrain. Many of us overtrain, which in turn only promotes higher cortisol levels. Reducing training to only three days a week would be substantial, and taking HIIT cardio or any intense cardio out of the equation will help tremendously. Focusing on daily steps will actually produce more of a result due to keeping cortisol levels lower, as well as still getting movement that doesn’t cause stress on the body.

Focusing on what you can control versus what you cannot control. We can control the amount of time we spend watching T.V., on our phones, and other electronics. Blue light is actually very damaging for long periods of time, and can interfere with sleep as well. This is why it is very important to minimize your screen time before bed. Instead, reading a book before bed can not only be more relaxing, but is also more time away from the screen. Then there are instances with situations that we cannot control such as work. However, we can control how we respond to situations that happen/ how we handle work stress. Rather than reacting to a situation, remind yourself that it is temporary. You are only at work for an ex amount of time, as soon as you leave, it’s over. Have a rude customer? They are only a small fraction of your day, let alone your entire life. Do not allow others to get under your skin. Rather, understand that they may be going through something outside of work, and taking it out on you. Again, rather than reacting, don’t pay any attention to it. Breathe, and know that this is all temporary. We can change the outcome of the majority of scenarios based upon our mindset.

If you can, I always advise when at work, take a 10 minute break if you can, and go for a walk outside. Disconnect for a moment, and just be. This oftentimes works very well, and helps destress.

Reducing caffeine is another huge step to reducing stress levels/ preventing and overcoming dysfunction. As much as it is normalized to drink caffeine, it can be very harmful when you continuously are consuming it. I highly recommend reducing caffeine to no more than 200mg/ day at most. If you can consume less than that, that’s even better. Caffeine being the stimulant it is can promote high cortisol. This is why it is also important to not consume caffeine later on in the day, given that it can interfere with sleep, creating that vicious cycle. Consuming caffeine before 1pm is ideal. This gives your body plenty of time to expel it, allowing your sleep not to be affected.

To summarize, there are many things we can do to help prevent dysfunction. Mindset and what we do to our bodies can work for or against us if we allow it to. Dysfunction can always be addressed and fixed, but preventing further dysfunction will essentially result in a much healthier life overall.

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