Stress is something that is becoming more and more prevalent, as the personal and professional demands of contemporary society increase almost by the day. We all know that stress can make us irritable and tired, but this is only one part of the problem.
Research over the last ten years has shown how stress can directly affect us physically too, including our digestive health, and this has particular importance for those suffering from gut disorders like Candida overgrowth.
Prolonged periods of stress can change the communities of microbes in our intestines, known as the gut flora. These microorganisms play a vital role in maintaining a healthy immune system and protecting us from disease. In 2011, researchers at Ohio State University found that stress reduced the diversity of microorganisms in these communities. They also discovered that stress increased the numbers of pathogenic (harmful) bacteria.
This is bad news all round. These changes in our gut flora can lead to weakened immunity, poor digestion, and imbalances that affect the entire body. This research strongly suggests that conditions like SIBO or Candida can be caused by stress. But the positive side of this is that it points us in the direction of another tool to improve our physical health. Stress management can have all kinds of beneficial effects on your health.
Lists Are A Useful Stress-Reduction Tool
We are all familiar with the traditional suggestions for stress relief such as breathing exercises, meditation, and physical activity. But there is a useful technique that absolutely everybody can do within their own homes and for free: making lists.
Though it may not seem as proactive as exercise or breathing activities, there are a number of reasons why the process of list making can be extremely beneficial in helping to ease stress.
Set A Game Plan
The experience of stress can often make a person feel as though they have too much to do in too little time. The very nature of list making forces you to sit down, think hard, and record everything that needs to be done to achieve a degree of calm and relief. By creating a linear and visible list of all the tasks that need to be completed, you have in effect set yourself a game plan. It includes all of the tasks that may have appeared impossible when muddled together in your head.
Approaching these situations one at a time will make you feel as though you are really making progress. The feeling of achievement when you are able to tick one off the list will do you the world of good.
Achieve A Clear Mind
Thinking of the mind as a box with limited room. The act of writing down your tasks on paper can have the positive effect of clearing some space in your head. This allows you to focus on actually achieving them rather than just prognosticating. Taking your mental checklist and turning it into a paper copy will free up valuable energy that can then be used to actually begin your objectives.
If you’re lying awake at night with your to-do list flying around your head, try writing it down. This should help you to relax and go to sleep, in the knowledge that you won’t forget anything important and you can deal with it tomorrow.
Set Tangible, Realistic Goals
When the stress you are experiencing makes it feel as though absolutely nothing is going to be achievable, make sure to write a list of goals and tasks that are going to be realistically doable.
The prospect of a long line of heavy-duty, life-changing goals like getting out of debt, moving house, or dealing with legal matters can be completely overwhelming. An effective way to build up the physical and mental strength to tackle these bigger issues is to list and conquer a number of smaller goals that will provide you with the self-esteem and belief to then face the large problems head on.
Try to break down your tasks into sets of smaller goals that do not seem as daunting to approach. The more mini goals you have ticked off on your list, the more visually appealing the list will look and the more confidence you will gain from having achieved a larger number of realistic tasks.
Use Technology To Help
In this modern technological age, it does seem as though the days of the traditional pen-and-paper To-Do List are well and truly numbered. However, this could be argued to be a good thing.
There have been a huge number of apps and computer programs developed that allow you to create much more intricate and detailed lists than before. In many cases, having a list app on your phone allows you to have it on your person at all times. It can send you reminders, categorize tasks into low and high priority, and set deadlines. You can constantly update your achievements throughout day. Good examples are Wanderlust, Todoist and Any.do.
Reducing stress is just one part of a much larger set of lifestyle changes that can help to improve your gut health. In the Ultimate Candida Diet program that I wrote with Dr. Eric Wood, I describe how stress is one of the major causes of Candida, and how various changes to your diet and lifestyle can provide relief. As a first step, you can start by writing out a detailed list of every task that you need to do. Getting it on paper, and out of your mind, is a great start!