Ever since learning about autophagy from world-class scientist Dr. Elizabeth Janda in Calabria, Italy, and how to activate it in my own body, I’ve been fascinated with how to use stress to my benefit. I know you are probably just as confused about how to pronounce autophagy as you are intrigued by it, right? I was, too! For starters, it’s pronounced, “aw-TOFF-uh-gee.” The most basic definition is to think of it as your body’s own cellular detox program.
But unlike many “cleanses” and “detoxes” we’re bombarded with on TV, this one is 100% physiological and harnesses your own biology to restore your vitality, slow down the aging process, prevent disease and help you bust through a weight-loss barrier. And it does it all by relying on what I call good stress. Autophagy is completely natural and happening inside of you all the time to different degrees, even when you don’t realize it.
The deeper I got into the science of autophagy and good stress it became clear that we need to take advantage of the many ways to use acute stress (which is the good kind) for the improvement of our health and well-being. I set out to challenge myself to grow and find creative ways to minimize chronic stress while accentuating the short bouts of health, good stress.
Chronic stress, like ongoing job insecurity or relationship difficulties, can wreak havoc on your adrenal glands, resulting in the dysregulation of cortisol, contributing to a host of health issues from lowered immunity, weight gain and hormonal imbalance.
In my New York Times bestselling book, Glow15, I provide you some of my favorite ways to ignite acute stress, like the kind you get from exercise or from practicing my favorite way to stay lean and energized: Intermittent Fasting Protein Cycling, known as IFPC. This kind of positive dietary stress activates your autophagy, helping you to unlock the keys to your own cellular repair, reversing the damage and cleaning out old toxic debris so you can look, feel and live your best life!
Another way I’ve found to use stress to my advantage is learning how to be more responsive and less reactive to the situations I encounter in my day-to-day life.
When you’re able to respond to what things come your way, you’re putting the brakes on the more primal parts of your brain that come from fear and survival. Don’t get me wrong — it’s not that those parts are bad, clearly, there is an evolutionary advantage for these mechanisms, it helps us to survive. But when it comes to our fast-paced modern world, where everything seems to be only a click away, it’s easy for that survival mechanism to get triggered frequently throughout the day. Our brains think we are in real danger when that person cuts in line in front of us, when in fact it’s a conditioned response of the brain that can lead to harmful consequences for your health if it becomes a chronic pattern.
Instead, practice responding to situations as they arise in order to build resiliency in your ability to handle the challenges and stresses of everyday life. After all, the science is clear that resiliency in mind and body are key to sustained health and wellness.
Well, it’s all in how prepared you are…mentally and emotionally — it’s like strength training for your inner world.
Here are five ways you can become better at responding instead of reacting to any situation in your life:
From better sleep to more balanced hormones and a reduced risk of major chronic diseases, meditation can help you to have more mastery over your emotional states. Meditation teaches you how to be with sensations, feelings and thoughts, including the ones that are uncomfortable for you. When you become more familiar with feeling discomfort, you’re less likely to strike out of reactivity when confronted with an unexpected situation.
For example, say a colleague leaves a voicemail on your phone saying she is going to have to cancel your meeting for the afternoon. Before mentally launching into a story about how upset you are because she’s so unreliable, consider that you don’t have all the information. While it’s very important to honor your feelings of disappointment, allow yourself time to understand what is really going on for her and why she’s unable to make the commitment she made. Chances are, once you have more information you’re much more likely to have understanding for why she needed to cancel.
Have a regular self-care practice to nourish and replenish your energy stores. When you feel depleted your ability to respond to a situation plummets while your tendency to react wins. Choose activities that feel good to you that nourish who you truly are. Please see a list of fun and simple DIY self-care practices in Glow15 from calming baths that detoxify and restore, to facials that help repair damaged skin and erase blemishes.
Sounds simple enough, but it can be one of the hardest things in the world when you find yourself in a disagreement with your spouse or the person in front of you just cut you off in traffic. It can practically be impossible once the cascade of stress hormones has begun and shunts blood toward systems that are meant to protect you and away from parts of your brain that can offer higher reasoning and creative solutions. That’s why, it’s important to…
Be compassionate with yourself as you learn how to respond more to the events of your life and react less. Know that you are changing brain patterns and creating new neuronal networks as you choose to do something differently than you have in the past. It may not be easy, but your health is worth it! In Glow15, one of my guiding principles is to personalize your 15-day program to meet your needs. Allowing yourself to personalize a program just for your needs assumes you accept yourself as you are and have compassion for the parts of you that need extra TLC.
Learning how to respond more and react less can be a lifelong practice. I promise, it’s one that will continue to yield results in terms of your health and well-being. It’s a powerful way to minimize the negative impact of stress and instead save your energy for things that really matter to you. In the meantime, learn how to use stress to your advantage by activating your autophagy when you follow the principles I’ve laid out in my New York Times bestselling book, Glow 15.
In Glow15, you’ll:
Take your first step to responding to the stressors in your life with ease today. You’ll feel proud and gain a sense of control over the circumstances you can control and find peace for those you can’t. And that’s what good health is after all, right? For me, the moment I realized how much power I had to take back my health was the moment I began to thrive. Now it’s your turn!