ARMONK, N.Y. – With the holidays - notoriously known as the most stressful time of the year - in the rearview mirror, Elizabeth Greig, a functional medicine nurse practitioner with Rye Brook's Blum Center For Health, spoke Wednesday night at the North Castle Public Library, offering advice on how to relax.
“Right now is recovery time,” she said. “It is the perfect time to step back and take a breath.”
Greig, who specializes in offering mind, body and spirit programs, gave a one-hour lecture on how to manage stress - and in effect, restore adrenal balance, which she said is crucial to a healthy metabolism.
Stress taxes the metabolism by raising cortisol - the hormone released by the adrenal glands, Greig explained. This wears out the adrenal glands, and when those glands become fatigued, so do people, she said.
Classic signs of this include sluggishness when first waking up, and the common 4 o’clock slump in the afternoon, according to Greig. Victims of these often look to caffeine, sugar and carbs - all of which are only temporary fixes, she said.
“Those answers are simply whipping a dead horse. In the long run, such habits will eventually drag your metabolism down, instead of help it out.”
Greig pointed out self-generated causes for such symptoms - such as lack of sleep, an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, and emotional issues; in addition to external sources such as too much television, coping with challenges like traffic, and having a non-stop daily schedule.
The solution? Focus on internal responses, she said. A concentrated effort to sleep more, eat better, exercise and schedule appointments on your calendar “with yourself,” can go a long way, Greig noted.
“We can’t stop the world, but we can work on our internal response,” she said. “You need to find ways to slow everything down.”
Greig emphasized that a healthy metabolism is not only related to what and how you eat, but also when you eat.
“Digestion follows the sun,” she explained. “Our metabolism is the strongest when the sun is - at noon. But we construct when we eat around our jobs. And that leads to eating our biggest meal at night, which again leads to digestive problems and weight gain.”
Greig said she realizes there is only so much that people can do to fix this, given the society we live in. “Even if you try to put a little more in your lunch and a little less in your dinner, it will make a difference,” she said.
As for the most instant, effective and doable solution? Breathe more, she said. “Breathing relieves stress because when the lungs expand, they literally stimulate a relaxation response.”
Such a response helps metabolism systems open up and function at a high level, Greig said. When stressed, she added, the same systems contract, leading to undigested food and weight gain.
Greig said that if there was one thing she hoped those in attendance walked away with, it would be to "just breathe."