The Fieldlab Method: Stress
April 01, 2020
April 01, 2020
Living a functional lifestyle means placing function at the center and eliminating/mitigating the causes of dysfunction. This is done only through careful creation of a functional ecosystem that sets you and your cells up for success.
One factor creating dysfunction at all levels is stress, which has largely become the new normal. Stress is natural and involves complex systems working together in response to the threat of harm. Fortunately, most of what creates stress in our modern lives is not life-or-death, but our bodies still react as though it is. As we move through our days, stressors like work, finances, time etc. are continually present and our high-paced lives offer little relief—this has created chronic stress and it is becoming more frequent every day.
Stress is complex and could be physical, mental, or both. Physical stress is characterized by over-exertion at one time or a high-frequency of activity without recovery. Mental stress is complex and the result of strain derived from an emotional or challenging circumstance. Either way, our body’s natural response to stress initiates physiological responses at the deepest level, but the growing imbalance between stress and recovery is deteriorating the functional health of so many.
Mitigating or eliminating stress in your life does not have to be difficult. With some very simple adjustments, you could make a huge impact - here are some of our favorite ways to eliminate and mitigate stress using the Fieldlab method:
Observation plays a critical role in the effort to eliminate or mitigate stress from our functional ecosystem.
Before we can find ways to mitigate or eliminate stress, we must observe the areas of our life that are causing stress and dysfunction. These could include environmental stressors like work, relationships, commitments, harmful toxins, poor diet and so on or psychological stressors like negative self-talk, lack of confidence, etc. Identifying the stressor is step one.
Next comes self-experimentation. You must adopt practices and make changes that seek to relieve stress and promote function—these would be the variables in your experiment and it is best to test only a small number at a time. Focus on high impact, high reward to start and then fine tune for continued optimization. Keep what works, adjust as needed, and eliminate while staying open-minded. Soon, your functional ecosystem will be optimized to defend against stress.
Eat Real Food:
Diet and stress are directly related and can have a circular effect on one another. When you eat a poor diet, you are nutritionally depleted, not feeling your best and suffering from a functional health perspective. Whether you realize it or not, this is creating stress both physically and psychologically. As stress levels rise, you are more likely to continue eating poorly, which creates further stress and the cycle continues. Breaking the cycle and focusing on healthy food is a great way to optimize your ecosystem for success. Eating whole foods provides your body with the nutrients needed to function correctly, which reduces physical and psychological stress and promotes a pattern of optimal function.
Get a (circadian) rhythm:
Understanding when cortisol is most active is critical to combatting its potentially negative effects—specifically in the morning and at night.
Cortisol levels are heightened in the morning, around the time you are waking up—this is your body’s way of getting you ready to tackle the full day. Levels gradually decline throughout the day and should be lowest around the time you are ready to sleep. The natural rise and fall of cortisol levels is largely dictated by your circadian rhythm, which contributes to other areas of your function. If you are interrupting your rhythm due to increased cortisol at night (maybe you work or eat late), you will likely experience declining sleep quality, which will create more stress and dysfunction. If you are someone who struggles to wake up in the morning, this could be your body not producing enough cortisol as it may be out of rhythm. In addition, if you spike cortisol early in the day when it is already high, you may have a more difficult time activating the parasympathetic nervous response (the calming response) throughout the rest of the day.
Routine is critical to building a functional lifestyle—adopting one that follows the natural rhythms of our body will help mitigate stress and promote function. Follow a schedule and continually experiment to determine when and how you feel your best.
Ground Yourself (literally):
Nourish yourself with the earth’s abundant source of free radicals!
This one comes up a lot, but that is because it is so powerful. Check out our extensive explanation of grounding and its benefits here.
Grounding has been shown to immediately suppress sympathetic nervous stimulation and trigger the parasympathetic nervous system to take over. This translates to immediate feelings of calmness and the reduction of stress. In addition, grounding reduces inflammation and promotes recovery, both of which are important factors in managing stress for health. The best part— it is super easy and fun. Simply get outside, make contact with the earth and let the rest follow.
One way to mitigate stress is to get moving, no matter what that looks like for you. Exercise is a natural way to release endorphins, a chemical designed specifically to counteract stress in the body, while simultaneously lowering cortisol levels. In addition, when done consistently, exercise helps combat many of the conditions created by chronic stress. These include metabolic disorders, increased blood glucose and overall mood dysfunction. As these positive physiological changes occur, stress begins to lessen while function increases. Incorporating a consistent movement practice into your functional lifestyle is critical for so many reasons, but can have a major impact on stress and the health concerns that stem from it.
Meditation can take many forms, but no matter how you practice, the goal is disengagement, enhanced focus and reconnection. Science supports the benefits of meditation, with studies demonstrating decreased cortisol levels, improvements in mood and the ability to handle future stress. Meditation does not have to be complicated or time-consuming—simply spending 5 minutes a day could make a huge difference and there are a plethora of resources available and apps that make it easy. Pro tip: Do your research and find one that works best for you. Then, commit to a consistent practice. And don’t forget, meditation can be both reactive and proactive—you can use it to respond to stress, but you can also use it when you know a stressor is coming. Let it work for you!
Whatever self-care looks like for you, make it a priority and part of your active day. We cannot sustain a life of chronic stress and hope to have optimal health or function if we do not effectively care for our own wellbeing. Through experimentation and careful observation, find what helps you relieve stress and place it at the center of your functional ecosystem—this is the only way to live a life conducive to health and wellness.
In the course of careful observation, you will likely notice stressors that are creating or inhibiting function. These factors could take many forms, but must be removed in order to create a functional lifestyle. Our environment is full of physical stressors in the form of toxins, chemicals, and non-native electromagnetic frequencies, which disrupt normal cellular function and trigger the sympathetic response. We also create commitments, relationships and circumstance that cause harmful stress and must be treated like a physical toxin. Although challenging, removing these stressors from our environment will have long-term benefits to our function and overall health.
Understanding your own stressors, when they arise and the tools to combat them is critical to an efficient functional ecosystem. You must manage your environment and set yourself up for success—continued practice is a must. Create habits, routines and practices that relieve stress and minimize the necessity for continued decision making. Take a break before you need it and utilize the tools in your arsenal like self-care, meditation, and movement whenever possible. Live with function at the center so you can continually optimize your overall wellness and eliminate the stressors that promote dysfunction.
Stress is a natural, necessary component of our physiology, but must be managed before it creates dysfunction. This requires practice and constant observation to determine what stressors are negatively impacting our function and careful self-experiments to eliminate these factors. Living a functional lifestyle is the most proactive and effective approach to combating stress and creating health and wellness so we can do all things well, all the time.