A bit more on... managing stress
What I found out on calming the farm, and chilling out a bit.
Stress is such a big and broad topic, there’s hundreds if not thousands of studies completed and so this will not be the last thing I write about stress. As I figure out what things work for me to calm the hell down, I’m nearly always going to be looking for a science based reason why. Here’s a bit more on two things that grabbed my attention while looking for a thing (anything) to manage my stress.
Breath work v Meditation.
My first foray into breath work was last year at Robett Hollis’ powermoves summit. On the first day we took a 3 minute dip in freezing cold water - which is next on my list to investigate further, but on the second day of the summit, breath work was it. We drove out to a sunny spot in Tāmaki Makaurau, piled out of the bus and lay down on the grass. Luke and Rachel from Taylored Health took us through a series of breathing exercises, that left all of us in a completely relaxed and refreshed state. I don’t totally remember all the types of exercises we did, and to be honest I hadn’t thought about breath work for stress management since then. But when I came across this study published in Cell Reports Medicine about the concept of breathing to manage stress and how it differs from meditation, I was hooked.
Before meditation fans get cross with me for trying to cancel out their thing, the study which you can read really only gives a minor difference in mood levels between the two, and if you really love meditating, you should definitely continue it.
But for people like me - I have ADHD, and meditating, especially while stressed, just doesn’t work. So for me, having breath work be a thing to try when I can’t meditate, well, that’s gotta be a good thing, right?
Reading further, the summary says a particular exercise - cyclic sighing came out on top
What’s that, am I right?
It’s ok. I’ve got you.
Cycling sighing is inhaling through your nose till your lungs are at half capacity, then you pause for a bit, and then continue inhaling through your nose to full capacity and exhale slowly out the mouth.
Here’s a thing all about cyclic sighing via Psychology Today and the more I read, the more intrigued I am. Google it if you want to - you’ll get a bunch of recent stories and studies and opinions.
The practice of cyclic sighing takes a bit of getting used to, and I’m not wholly certain that you should try this in the middle of a chronic stressy meltdown, and definitely don’t try this without medical advice if you have asthma or any breathing, lung, pulmonary type challenge.
For me, personally, I’m going to try cyclic sighing when I wake up in the morning and again at night to see what, if any difference, I can report on my stress levels.
Walnuts? Why not?
This study published in MDPI gathered a bunch of stressed out students and gave half the group 50-ish grams of walnuts to consume daily.
Initial benchmark data was taken at the start of the year, with the students reporting their stress levels mid way through exams, and then two weeks post end of semester.
Results were predictable. Students with daily consumption of walnuts reported even stress levels, and students in the control group of no walnuts, reported high levels of stress. PN - where I initially saw this study summary, pointed out that the testing wasn’t blind, the students all knew what the testing was for, and so this could have impacted some reports. PN also reports the study was funded by a California walnut company, and while the funding wouldn’t invalidate a study, is there a conflict of interest, here? Not really, but PN does suggest this study to be low quality and perhaps don’t read into it too much.
So why tell you about a slightly rinky-dink study?
Further on, the study talks about omega-3 fatty acids and folate - both of these things present in walnuts and fatty fish. You can even google the plentiful number of studies about omega-3 fatty acids and folate being beneficial for mental health, or read this one here - but even though the original walnut study wasn’t too impressive, maybe the walnut company is on to something.
Are you picking up what I’m throwing down?
It might not necessarily be the walnuts you need to eat, or stinking the office out with fish for lunch. Maybe just taking an Omega-3 supplement is enough to help with stress? We were taught at PN (my nutrition school) to eat whole foods before reaching for a supplement, but walnuts and fish? I’ll pass and instead I’m going to try a supplement out. Apparently I need to give it a three month stab at least to see any benefits. So watch this space.
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