In her new book, Dr. Doni Wilson shares how to manage and harness stress by figuring out your stress type.
Stress and anxiety are part of our daily lives. We experience them in different ways, from working long hours and sleepless nights, to busy family schedules, even suffering quietly with headaches, tension, and gut issues. In her latest book, Master Your Stress, Reset Your Health (BenBella, 2022), Dr. Doni Wilson, ND, shares that there are ways to handle and live with stress and harness it to empower us by finding and treating our unique stress type. We caught up with her to learn more.
What was your inspiration to write this book?
There were several reasons. I dealt with stress starting at a young age when my family moved around and I was changing schools all of the time. My dad ran a chain of pharmacies, and my mother was a special education teacher. Lucky for me they both recognized this stress and we worked to address it with healthy eating and lifestyle. This inspired me to study nutrition and natural medicine. I was also interested in women’s health and became a certified midwife. I researched how stress affects women in labor and found that they need a certain amount of stress for labor to progress—they need cortisol and adrenaline to push their baby out. I looked into applying the same principal of women in labor to all people dealing with stress and their cortisol and adrenaline levels. I also personally struggled with migraines and began measuring my cortisol and adrenaline levels to treat myself.
What are the five stress types and why is it helpful to know your type?
I studied 127 adults and their adrenal distress patterns caused by stress and identified the five most common stress types as: The Stress Magnet, The Night Owl, Sluggish and Stressed, Blah and Blue, and Tired and Wired. Each of these has common cortisol and adrenaline levels and, once I measure those, I can treat symptoms from a naturopathic perspective with natural herbs. For example, ashwagandha lowers cortisol levels. High adrenaline levels can be treated with magnesium. Most practitioners rarely measure cortisol, but it’s an important hormone that is naturally higher in the morning, then lower as the day progresses. It’s also important to measure adrenaline levels to pinpoint treatment.
Mastering stress is about having optimal cortisol and adrenaline levels. We need cortisol for digestion, our immune system, and neurotransmitters, which are messengers in the nervous system. Adrenaline is a neurotransmitter that responds to stressful, exciting, or threatening situations and makes the heart beat faster, increases blood flow to the brain and muscles, and stimulates the body to make sugar to use for fuel.
Once you know your stress type, what are the next steps?
Along with natural herbs, the foundation to become more resilient and manage stress is CARE: C = clean eating, A = adequate sleep, R = recovery, and E = exercise. Changing your diet, sleep, stress levels, and exercise requires some mindfulness and doing a daily check-in with yourself. Take a break when you need it. Take some deep breaths. Don’t try to overdo it. Go gentle and small steps will pay off.