After following a Paleolithic diet, I think managing stress is probably the most important thing you can do for both your short- and long-term health. Did I say the exact same thing about sleep? Okay, sleep and stress are tied for second place. They are also interlinked, so usually working on one will also help the other; and conversely, problems with one will affect the other.
What do I mean by managing stress? Really, I mean managing your cortisol levels. In a perfectly healthy individual, cortisol is high in the morning and decreases throughout the day. But, when our bodies react to stressors, not only are our cortisol levels higher than normal, but also the pattern of expression changes to a spike in the late afternoon or evening. And cortisol affect everything in our bodies: insulin release, insulin sensitivity, hunger hormones, mood, gut health, immune system function, even libido.
How do you know if your cortisol is high? Do you carry much of your extra weight around your middle? Do you have to pee in the middle of the night? Do you have trouble sleeping? Does your energy tank in the afternoon but then pick up again after supper? Are you having trouble losing weight even though you should be based on what you are eating? Are your workouts getting progressively harder rather than easier? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then cortisol may be to blame.
Our bodies and brains react to stressors like work, kids, relationships, deadlines, inadequate exercise, poor diet, inadequate time outside, lack of sleep, and too much caffeine. So how do you go about regulating cortisol levels? First, the easy stuff: Do what you can to get more, better-quality sleep. Give up or severely restrict your caffeine intake (at least for a little while). Reduce your carbohydrate intake (again, at least for a little while). Make sure you are eating a strict Paleolithic diet and getting plenty of omega-3 fatty acids. Get outside, but still take a vitamin D3 supplement. Get more low-strain, moderate exercise (like yoga, swimming or walking). Make time for fun, whatever it is that you find fun. Make time to relax, especially in the evenings.
The rest is more individual. You need to find the best way for you to manage the people/places/events in your life that cause you stress. What small things can you add or remove from your life to help? Can you take a minute to just breathe? Can you take a bit longer to meditate? Can you carve out some time for yourself? Can you ask somebody for help? Can you take some time for something fun? Can you just take a moment to appreciate what is good and wonderful in your life right now? Yes, life is stressful, but you do not need to be stressed. Your health and the health of your family are more important. So, change what is in your power to change, and divest yourself emotionally from those things you can’t control.