Imagine 10,000 years ago when your primary stressor was securing your next meal. Fast forward to the present, and we’re overwhelmed by incessant notifications, relentless deadlines, and the constant pressure to be perpetually “on.” Unsurprisingly, 77% of people in the U.S. regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress.
But what if we could borrow wisdom from our ancestors to help us manage stress more effectively? By replicating the environmental conditions of our past, we might discover the tranquility we’re all desperately seeking. This article delves into the science of stress, how our ancestors’ environments may have contributed to their stress management, and how we can incorporate some of their practices into our lives today.
The Science of Stress and Its Impact on Our Bodies
Stress is our body’s instinctive response to perceived threats. It can be both beneficial and detrimental. While it can enhance our focus and quick reactions in dangerous situations, chronic stress can lead to health issues like headaches, insomnia, and even heart disease.
Interestingly, our environment significantly influences our stress levels. So, let’s journey back in time and uncover the factors that helped our ancestors maintain their composure.
Adopting Ancestral Practices: Environmental Factors for Stress Reduction
Our ancestors had several strategies for stress reduction. They benefited from stronger community connections, access to nature, exposure to temperature fluctuations, healthier diets, regular physical activity, controlled breathing, and fewer distractions. Let’s explore these factors and how we can incorporate them into our contemporary lives.
Practice 1: Strong Community Connections
Humans are inherently social beings. Our ancestors depended on robust community bonds for survival and support. Research indicates that strong social connections can help alleviate stress and even prolong our lifespan. So, it’s time to disconnect from our screens and increase our in-person interactions. Consider joining a local club, volunteering, or hosting a traditional potluck dinner with your neighbors.
Practice 2: Access to Nature
Our ancestors spent their days immersed in the beauty of nature, reaping its calming benefits. Studies suggest that spending time in nature can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Let’s follow their lead and get our daily dose of green. Take a walk in your local park, cultivate a lush garden, or plan a weekend camping trip with friends or family.
Practice 3: Exposure to Temperature Fluctuations
Surprisingly, alternating between hot and cold might help us relax. Our ancestors encountered a wide range of temperatures daily, which may have enhanced their resilience to stress. Try a cold shower in the morning or unwind in a hot sauna for some stress-relieving benefits. However, consult your doctor if you have any health concerns before exposing yourself to extreme temperatures.
Practice 4: Healthier Diet
Our ancestors didn’t snack on chips and soda while hunting and gathering. They consumed a diet of whole foods, healthy fats, and protein. Processed foods have been associated with increased stress and poor health, so let’s abandon junk food and embrace more nutritious options. Plan your meals, cook at home, and nourish your body with the fuel it deserves.
Practice 5: Regular Physical Activity
Our ancestors were more physically active daily, which likely contributed to their stress management. Regular physical activity can reduce stress levels and improve overall health. Incorporate more movement into your day by taking regular breaks to stretch, going for walks, or participating in physical activities that you enjoy.
Practice 6: Controlled Breathing
Our ancestors likely had more regular breathing patterns due to fewer distractions. Controlled breathing exercises can help reduce stress and promote relaxation. Try incorporating mindfulness or meditation practices into your daily routine to improve your breathing patterns and reduce stress.
Practice 7: Reducing Distractions
In the era of our ancestors, distractions like social media, phone notifications, and emails didn’t exist. These modern distractions can contribute significantly to our stress levels. Consider setting specific times to check your emails and social media, turning off unnecessary notifications, and dedicating periods of your day to being completely tech-free.
The secret to stress reduction might be found in the simple lifestyles of our ancestors. By fostering strong community connections, spending time in nature, experiencing temperature fluctuations, eating healthier food, being physically active, practicing controlled breathing, and reducing distractions, we can mitigate stress and foster a more peaceful, joyful life.
This is the essence of Paleo Stress Management! Note that you do not have to adopt all suggested practices here. One or a few of those may already make a huge difference. Check out my course on paleo stress management: Chill Out Method for a self-paced and guided masterclass for stress relief through this concept.
Why not give it a try? Channel your inner caveman and let the tranquility commence!