Stress & Creation Part III: Body De-Stressing Hacks That You Wouldn't Expect

I know what you’re thinking.

“I barely have time to skim through this blog, let alone do ANY of the suggested tips.”

I hear you. Eat whatever is available. Exercise is for weirdos who actually like the gym. And meditation? Please.

And although meditation, eating right and healthy movement does reduce and at times eliminate stress and toxins, if it was easy, we’d all be doing it. (Only 23% of the US population works out regularly according to the CDC, )

But believe it or not, reducing body stress doesn’t always involve a trip to the gym or your local market. It’s nothing you have to fight or force your body to do, either. The hacks we’re unpacking in Part III of this stress series are so easy, it is your body’s natural instinct to do them, but they are so often overlooked.

So let’s jump in. Or fall in? Whatever is easiest for you!

First off, let’s clarify. Causations of toxins in the body aka body stress are numerous:

  • Food
  • Medication
  • Environmental pollution
  • Drugs
  • Water supply
  • Accidents
  • Injuries
  • Traumas
  • Falls
  • Bacteria
  • Viruses
  • Blood sugar levels
  • Hormones
  • Hangovers
  • Lack of sleep
  • Over exercise

Most of these causes are pretty well known and well documented versions of stress on the body so we won’t go into them here. In Part II of this series,  Stress & Creation Part II: 3 Scientific Reasons You and Stress Need to Break Up. Now, we discussed mental stress, its effect on your body, and ways to counteract that stress.

Now, not only will we be unpacking ways you may be stressing out your body and not even know it, but by incorporating these techniques, you can eliminate other forms of stress in your body.

Body Destressing Hack #1: Get Sleep

If you haven’t been, literally go take a nap right now and read this later. See? Easy. What personal trainer would let you do that? I used to be a personal trainer and I would never! Except right now. GO!

Although 1 in 3 adults are not getting enough sleep according to the CDC, most of us do not see this as a problem. In fact, it is possibly one of the most overlooked forms of stress manifesting in our bodies. Why? Because working hard, the hustle, the grind is revered, respected, and celebrated in our culture. IG feeds are full of “inspirational” memes like: “While you sleep I’m on my grind” or “No one looked back at their life and said I’m glad I got enough sleep.” Presidents, CEOs, and powerful people historically have operated on little to no sleep. Doctors and lawyers--some of our highest paid professions--are trained in sleep deprivation from the time they are in school and it continues throughout their careers.

But logically, do any of us want a heart surgeon operating who hasn’t slept in 24 hours?

So let’s get into the science of it: what is happening in our bodies when we are deprived of sleep? According to Vlad Shenderovich of “Lack of sleep increases stress levels through a few mechanisms: Sleep deprivation triggers an evolutionary fight or flight reflex, making the endocrine system release stress hormones, specifically cortisol. Higher cortisol impacts the body’s ability to heal and recover, which, along with lacking recovery from insufficient deep sleep, makes a person more prone to sickness and wake up constantly feeling tired and foggy.”

Lack of sleep also prevents the prefrontal cortex from coming “online.” Why does that matter? First off, all brain activity matters, and if you don’t think so, please refer to the beginning of this section and GO TAKE A NAP. Secondly, the prefrontal cortex controls high level-thought, logical reasoning and keeps our emotions in check. Ever turn into a raging psycho because you are tired? That’s just the prefrontal cortex not showing up for work.

When lack of sleep becomes dire, the brain starts sending off signals like thoughts, feelings, and hallucinations as a defense mechanism. These thoughts are usually in the form of your worst fears as an attempt to get you to go to sleep. Seriously. Famous magician David Blaine tried to break the world record of sleep deprivation and described it like this “After 36 hours of sleep deprivation it's like being drunk, 72 hours and paranoia sets in, day four the mind goes into hallucinations and you're dreaming while awake.”

According to Matthew Miller in the book Why We Sleep “routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night demolishes your immune system...disrupts blood sugar levels so profoundly that you would be classified as pre-diabetic...contributes to all major psychiatric conditions, including depression, anxiety and suicidality…there does not seem to be one major organ within the body, or process within the brain, that isn’t optimally enhanced by sleep (and detrimentally impaired when we don’t get enough).”

Ouch. Not convinced yet? Again, you probably need a nap. But check this out:

  • A lack of sleep will age you by a decade in terms of a critical aspects of wellness, virility, muscle strength, etc.
  • Epidemiological studies show that the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life. Short sleep predicts all cause mortality.
  • Neurologically, wakefulness is low level brain damage.
  • Late night workers have higher rates of obesity, diabetes and cancer.
  • Links between lack of sleep and cancer is very strong.
  • Poor sleep increases the release of the hunger hormone ghrelin and decreases leptin release. Leptin tells your brain you are full/satiated. Ghrelin tells your brain you want to eat more and/or not satisfied with food. Consequently, sleep deprived people will eat an extra 200-300 calories each day.
  • By 7 days of 6 hours of sleep, your cognitive abilities dramatically decrease.
  • If you are dieting, but you’re not getting sufficient sleep, 70% of all the weight that you lose will be from lean muscle mass and not fat.

Have I gotten into your sleep-deprived brain yet? Sleep is absolutely imperative for just about everything, but specifically decreasing/eliminating stress in the body. Moreover, it is completely natural and instinctual. Your body needs it, wants it, and you don’t have to work for it.

If you are having trouble sleeping properly, incorporate these tips.

1. Regularity. Parents know the importance of keeping their child on a schedule: bed times, nap times, wake up times. It’s fascinating how so many of our self-care tips are simply caring for ourselves the way a mother would. Just like mom used to: create a sleep routine for yourself. Go to bed the same time and wake up same time everyday. This trains the body and brain that it is time to go to bed/wake up. 

2. Avoid Light. Stay away from screens for the last hour of being awake and switch off 1/2 the lights in the house. Why? 1 hour of screen time during the natural sleep cycle (which begins around 9pm), delays the release of melatonin by about 3 hours and peaks by 50% less which means you don’t get the same amount of REM/restorative sleep.

3. Keep it Cool. Your brain actually needs to drop its temperature to initiate sleep. Studies have shown that a slight decrease in temp gets the body into deep non REM restorative state of sleep for the body. Try this biohack to cool your body: take a hot bath prior to bed to increase vasodilation (vocabulary word: the dilation of blood vessels, which also decreases blood pressure.) This will decrease your core temperature and you will sleep better.

4. Be Patient. Your body needs to get into the habit of better sleep, particularly if you’ve made a habit of poor sleep, little sleep, or sleeping with the TV on (stop that, by the way!). Your  body needs to be trained in your new techniques. But she will respond. Give her some time.

Body Destressing Hack #2: Get Touched 

Now I know what a lot of us are saying as we are reading this, particularly those of us who are single: I do not need to be touched. I just need to focus and get stuff done.

How is that working out for you?

The benefits and advantages of touch are NOT specific to sex or being romantically partnered. Touch is our body’s very first and base-instinct language. Infants are soothed when snuggled, caressed, touched, or held tightly. Before we understood language, our bodies knew that touch was not just a natural de-stressor, it was a necessity for overall health in the human body.

Particularly for physical stress.

So how does touch reduce and eliminate body stress? So glad you asked.

1. Immediate “Good Vibe” Hormones Are Released. Touch pays off almost instantly on a biochemical level. Serotonin and dopamine are released, chemicals that give off feelings of pleasure, reward, and happiness. These awesome hormones are associated with decreasing heart disease and blood pressure. Oxytocin is also released, another good-time hormone. The giver of feelings of love and bonding, this connects to your vagus nerve, which connects to the parasympathetic nervous system. When that system is running at its best, the body will heal, rebuild, and perform at better optimum health.

2. Psychological Effects: Going Without Touch Makes Humans Crazy. We know that humans who are born without sight or without hearing are able to grow, develop, and live healthy and normal lives with healthy brains. However, humans born without touch, another situation entirely.  As Neuroscientist David Linden states in his TEDTalk, “a disaster unfolds.” He sites the study of Romanian orphan babies in the 1970s and 1980s during the Ceausescu regime. Grossly understaffed orphanages were unable to hold, hug, rock, and caress infants. This resulted in debilitating lifelong issues:  self-soothing rocking motions, attachment disorders, cognitive delays, stunted growth, gastrointestinal problems just to name a few. All derived from touch deprivation. When touch was introduced to these babies by volunteers, the situation would immediately turn around, but only if there was intervention before the age of two. Any tactile or touch intervention after this, the problems would persist for life.

Now we might be saying: well of course. Babies are fragile. Childhood is developmental. Touch is necessary during that time. But does touch really matter for adults?


According to Dr. Linden, of the five senses, touch is the most overlooked, and perhaps the most important for promoting psychological health. Touch builds relationships within romantic partners, siblings, parents and children. It binds together communities and workplace dynamics. Doctors who appropriately touch their patients are rated as more caring, and have patients with better medical outcomes. Possibly the most fascinating study was performed by UCLA, that found NBA teams that engaged in more acts of celebratory touch (high fives, butt pats, chest bumps, etc.) not only were statistically more likely to win, they communicated and played better as a team.

It’s a no-brainer. At all ages, we operate better when we are touched. (PS: Go ahead and check out Dr. Linden’s TEDTalk, it’s FASCINATING!)

Here are some methods to get the healing, de-stressing qualities of touch:

  1. Hugs and affection from friends, family, tribe: A long hug from someone you care about can go a long way for stress reduction, lowering blood pressure, and releasing happy hormones. Go get a hug!
  2. Cuddle parties and other touch-friendly events: A cuddle party? What? Yes! A cuddle party is a playful social event designed for adults to explore communication, boundaries and affection. You can come to a Cuddle Party to meet new people, to enjoy amazing conversations, to touch, to be touched, to have fun, to practice asking for what you want, to practice saying “no” to what you don’t want — all in a setting structured to be a safe place for exploration and enjoyment. (Click here to learn more.
  3. Massages: Not just for when you go on vacation, indulge in a little 60-minute massage. Groupon is your friend! 
  4. Acupressure and Acupuncture:  Scary? Maybe. But don’t knock it until you try it. Acupressure and acupuncture will not only relieve body stress, it is known to reduce muscle tension, improve circulation, and stimulate endorphins, which are natural pain relievers.
  5. Partnered dance classes: salsa, ballroom, swing, oh my! And gasp! Actually sneaking some exercise in there as well! So much fun, your body won’t know she’s getting a workout!
  6. If partnered: having your romantic partner touch you with the understanding it will not lead to sex.
  7. Sex and masturbation: No explanation needed. It’s awesome.

Humans will always necessitate touch to connect, bond, heal, communicate, and yes, eliminate stress. Being single is absolutely no reason to go without the healing power of consented, intimate, and positive touch.

As I stated before, building a stress-free life isn’t going to happen overnight. It takes practice, repetition, diligence, and dedication. Start small. Start lazy. Getting good sleep and getting touched are two super easy ways to start. Good stuff begets good stuff. Give yourself some credit. There is a multitude of health benefits simply by starting here. Your body will feel the difference, and in no time, you may be ready to tackle the harder stuff.

Gym anyone?

You’re right. Too soon. Let’s go take a nap.


For over 20 years Stacy Berman has been teaching people how to get in shape, eat healthy and create balance. Her extensive training in Tae Kwon Doe, Capoeira, kickboxing and bootcamp drills have led her to a deep understanding of the body and its movements. As a student of the world, she has learned to combine an intense physical practice with movement meditation for an elevated state of health.

Soon after her creating Stacy's Boot Camp, the first boot camp in NYC, Stacy realized food was the foundation for creating a sound mind in a sound body. She threw herself into nutrition with a passion,  became a certified nutrition specialist and worked with thousands of busy New Yorkers to figure out what worked and what didn’t. With feet on the ground practice Stacy created The System by Stacy Berman to help herself, her clients, and the world at large achieve a higher, more meaningful level of health and fitness.

Since creating The System, Stacy has gone on to receive a PhD in Natural Medicine and is presently writing a book Love Yourself Naked: The Science of Self Perception, Spirituality and Weight Loss that combines over twenty years in the health and fitness industries with scientific research to reveal how our thoughts affect the way we feel. Stacy is truly a forerunner in the mind - body holistic health movement with tens of thousands of hours of real life experience.