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Taking steps towards being your best self doesn’t have to be complicated…

Have you been feeling irritated lately? Stressed out? Maybe a little more overwhelmed, or more anxious than usual? One way to help yourself feel better is so darn simple and accessible you may never even have considered it.

The Quiet Power of Your Mind / Body Connection

Sometimes larger issues really are at the root of our feelings of anxiety or stress. Other times, listening to our bad feelings and then responding to them by making major life changes is absolutely necessary. When either of those situations are the case, it’s important to dive deeper in to our experiences to see if we need to take action to change the way we think, feel, or behave thorough effective therapy or solution focused coaching.

AND it is also true that sometimes the way we feel has little to do with “bigger issues” but is rather a result of our current physiological state. For example, it’s common knowledge that if you drink too much coffee you will experience symptoms of anxiety like muscle tension, jitteriness, and irritability. Or if you are sick or injured, you will experience symptoms similar to those of depression, like exhaustion, wanting to isolate yourself, and feeling unhappy.

There are no “deeper issues” to address in either case: You are simply experiencing a mood state that is linked to what is happening in your body at the moment. When your physical circumstances change, so will your mood.

Did you know that the way you feel emotionally can also be significantly impacted by something as simple as being slightly dehydrated? Yep, being even mildly dehydrated can make you feel stressed out, anxious, overwhelmed and tired even when nothing else is “wrong.”

Dehydration = Feeling Bad Emotionally

 

The Science Behind Mood & Dehydration

When I first heard about the connection between mood and dehydration I was skeptical. I wade through swamps of psuedo-science nonsense every day in my quest for ideas that will be truly helpful to people, and at first this sounded like more of the same. But when I looked further the research is pretty darn conclusive.

In 2011 scientists at the University of Connecticut compared groups of people, using measures of stress, mood, memory, and mental capacity. (Here is a link to the mood / dehydration study for my fellow psych nerds.) Researchers found that even mild dehydration is associated with:

  • Irritability
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Stress
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Perceiving tasks as more difficult
  • Memory problems
  • Tiring easily

In short?

Here’s the most surprising part: “Mild dehydration” is defined as being around 1.5% under the normal volume of water in your body– typically the same level of dehydration that starts to trigger sensations of thirst. This is true for people who are both moving around a lot, or sitting still the way that so many of us do throughout our work day. If you’re actually exercising, your water loss could be much more dramatic– marathon runners can loose up to 8% of their water volume during a competition.

It is easy to get dehydrated, and not even realize it. And even the most happy, psychologically healthy person — with no adverse circumstances in their lives — are negatively impacted both mentally and emotionally by JUST the fact of being dehydrated.

Now, no one is saying that drinking more water is going to solve all of your life’s problems. But isn’t it interesting to consider that, especially if you are going through something that is patently stressful or difficult in your life, you are likely to feel worse emotionally, and less able to cope with whatever is going on if you are dehydrated?

When you’re going through something hard it is extremely important to take care of yourself as well as you can. You might not be immediately able to change your circumstances or make major changes within yourself. But you sure can take simple steps towards self care, like drinking more water, to ensure that your foundation is as strong as possible.

One of the fastest, cheapest, and easiest ways to take care of yourself, support your strong foundation, and increase the odds of feeling well is to drink more water. It can help you feel more easy going, in command of your emotions, more patient, and more optimistic than you will if you’re dry.

Here are some tricks to stay hydrated:

1) Use a larger water bottle. In my opinion “8-10 glasses of water” is hard to keep track of. You should be drinking at least the equivalent of a two-liter bottle full of water a day. The easiest way to monitor that is by actually putting your daily water in a two liter bottle, and then committing to drinking the whole thing throughout the day (obviously, pouring it into more manageable vessels along the way if you don’t want to look like the wierdo chugging from the mountain dew two-liter on your daily run).

2) Pay attention to your pee. If you notice that your pee is anything more vivid than a very pale yellow, it means that you are approaching dehydration levels. Get thee to a water fountain, stat!

3) Be prepared to drink much more water than you think you should.
The “two liter a day” rule is a minimum. If you’re hot, exercising, sick, stressed, or tired, drink more.

The next time you’re feeling stressed or irritated, drink a few glasses of water and notice how you feel. I hope you share your experiences with me in the comments below!

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