Reduce Stress by spending time in nature, taking time for yourself or following some of the tips provided by Mountain Trek.


How Long Does It Take To Recover From Burnout

Are you burned out? Or perhaps exhausted, fatigued, or just tired? What’s the difference and does it even matter? It can be tough to tell these conditions apart, as the symptoms overlap greatly, and even easier to brush off burnout as just feeling tired or in need of a vacation, but it’s important to stop and listen to what your body is trying to tell you, because burnout is serious and requires significantly more effort to recover from than fatigue and exhaustion.
It takes more than just a good night of sleep or a week on a beach in paradise to bounce back from burnout, especially if you’ve ignored your burnout symptoms for a long time, like most of us are doing currently. Whether you’re burned out, or heading that direction, this article will help you fully understand what burnout is, how to prevent it, and how to recover from it.

Fatigue vs. Exhaustion vs. Burnout

Many people use the term “burnout” interchangeably with “fatigue” and “exhaustion” so it can be confusing to discern what exactly is burnout. In short, burnout is caused by chronic stress, whereas the other conditions are situational, like a bad night’s sleep after a holiday party, a work project that has you pulling longer hours than usual at the office, or a long travel day depleting your energy reserves. Burnout is when the physical, mental, and psychological reaction to chronic stress changes our physiology, causing persistent fatigue and states of disconnection.
The most common place this occurs is in the workplace. According to the Mayo Clinic, “job burnout is work-related stress that creates a physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity”. This leads to reduced productivity and increased risk of illness—the Canadian Worker’s Compensation Board claims that workplace stress is now the leading cause of lost workdays. In addition to the above-mentioned symptoms, burnout can also leave one feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, resentful, and at a greater risk of experiencing anxiety and depression.
So how can you tell if you are experiencing burnout or are just really tired? A good place to start is by looking at the different types of tiredness: fatigue, exhaustion, and burnout, and their associated definitions:
  • Fatigue: feeling overtired, with low energy and a strong desire to sleep that interferes with normal daily activities.
  • Exhaustion: a state of extreme physical or mental fatigue
  • Burnout: a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress


Fatigue is the mildest of the three. Overall you feel good in your day-to-day life but after a particularly challenging day or week, you just have nothing left to give. That’s fatigue, easily cured by resting and recuperating. No life changes necessary—you just need a break and some time to focus on self-care in order to regain balance.


Exhaustion is a progression from fatigue. If fatigue symptoms aren’t addressed at the onset and are allowed to continue for days or weeks on end they turn into exhaustion. While the symptoms are similar, exhaustion is more serious as it’s likely caused by your lifestyle, not unique external events. Lifestyle habits that cause exhaustion are dangerous because if unmanaged, their persistent nature has the risk of evolving into burnout.


And then there is burnout. Feeling overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to keep up with the demands of your day-to-day life. Apathy sets in and you no longer care about things that were once important to you. Burnout changes us chemically. Hormone balance gets disrupted and you struggle to get out of bed in the morning or take care of yourself. Your performance at work starts to slip and you’re mentally checked out.
You start neglecting your personal relationships and indulge in unhealthy habits that bring you temporary comfort. Even simple things like taking a shower or making dinner feel like too much work and the only thing you have the energy for is watching TV. If these feelings sound familiar, then you know you’ve reached burnout.


There are many ways burnout can happen, but the three most common types are; overload,under-challenged, and neglect.

Overload Burnout

Overload burnout is caused by constantly working harder and harder in pursuit of success. Saying yes to tasks you don’t have time for and over-extending yourself, sacrificing “you time” in favor of more commitments. This is the most recognizable form of burnout today.

Under-challenged Burnout

Under-challenged burnout is caused by feeling under-appreciated and bored in your job or personal life. Your work tasks are mundane and repetitive, never exercising any form of brain power or creativity.

Very little is expected of you and so you feel no desire to push yourself. This can also extend to your personal life as well; maybe life feels stagnant, like you haven’t done anything new in far too long and have stopped growing as a person.

Neglect Burnout

And then last of all is neglect burnout, caused by feeling helpless or incompetent. You feel like you can’t do anything right and like no matter what you do, things will just fall apart. You have no support system, either at work or at home, and even your best accomplishments go unnoticed. According to

What Causes Burnout

Kirkland Shave, the creator and director of the award-winning Mountain Trek Health Reset program, says common reasons all three types of burnout can occur are:

  • Lack of control and the inability to influence decisions that affect your job, including workload and lack of resources.
  • Unclear job expectations and personal authority.
  • Dysfunctional workplace dynamics.
  • Lack of social support either through isolation or lack of trust-building interrelationships.
  • Work-life imbalance due to working too many hours.

The causes of burnout aren’t as extreme as you might think. They are simple, small things most of us would just consider “normal” for the workplace. But when left unaddressed these small things continuously add up and eventually compound into burnout.

If you’re still unsure if you’re experiencing burnout, consider thinking about burnout as the illness it is—and for any illness, you first need a diagnosis. Shave says some symptoms to watch out for are:

  • Every day starts to become a bad day (or like a real-life version of the Bill Murray movie, Groundhog Day, in which the days feel like they are just repeating themselves over and over with no end in sight)
  • Caring about work or even home life seems like a waste of energy
  • The workday can start to seem full of tasks that are mind-numbingly dull or overwhelming
  • One feels like they aren’t making a positive difference or that they are unappreciated
  • Fatigue that is chronic, no matter how much rest you get
  • Headaches, muscle pain
  • Insomnia or changes to eating patterns
  • Sadness, anger, or irritability
  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • Vulnerability to illness or the onset of chronic cortisol-affected inflammatory diseases (such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and autoimmune disease)
  • Sense of failure, self-doubt, aloneness, loss of motivation, increasingly cynical outlook, decreased satisfaction or sense of accomplishment
  • Withdrawal from responsibilities, isolating from team members, procrastination, taking the frustration out on others, missing workdays

Knowing what symptoms to look for is just half of the battle though; the next step is to have an honest conversation with yourself, a trusted ally, or a professional (such as a therapist or primary care doctor). Take an honest look at your life and decide if the symptoms above sound like they are describing you. Remember there is no shame or judgment in admitting you are experiencing burnout—much like with many other illnesses, the first step towards recovery is acknowledging there is a problem.

Set yourself up for success before tackling a big conversation like this: come with an open/curious mind, find a comforting/non-stress-inducing environment (e.g. someplace that’s the opposite of your office or home, whatever place is bringing you stress and causing your burnout), fuel your brain with a healthy meal, have a good night’s sleep, and consider having this conversation immersed in nature. You want to free your mind of distractions and be completely present and authentic in the conversation for the best results.

How to Recover from Burnout

1) Experience a Hard Reset

If you’ve concluded you are in fact suffering from burnout, the most important first step in recovery is to experience a hard reset. As soon as reasonable, remove yourself far from the causes of your burnout, and insert yourself into an environment that affords the opportunity to slow down, unplug, and begin the healing process.

Attending an expert-guided health retreat, like Mountain Trek, takes the guesswork out of the process and allows you to immerse in a proven methodology. With the help of retreat staff, you can step back from your life and stressors and clearly and confidently “see the forest through the trees”.

2) Uncover The Why

Once you’ve afforded yourself the opportunity to step back, the next step in recovering from burnout is gaining a deeper understanding of the “why” behind the burnout. This is best done in tandem with a professional, as it likely means diving deep into previous trauma, familial relationships, and childhood expectations.

This is especially necessary for overload burnout, where an inner force pushes someone to keep putting more and more on their plate, sacrificing balance to create more work hours. Typically, a deep-seated feeling of inadequacy is what drives this unsustainable ambition, but only deep introspection will uncover the true reason(s) for pushing to the point of burnout.

3) Decide to Proceed or Pivot

The next step in recovering from burnout is to make a decision whether to return to the same life that caused your burnout, with modifications, or change your trajectory all together. This decision to pause, pivot, or proceed with change is massive and needs to be taken seriously. Calming your nervous system before making a life-altering decision is critical. Otherwise, you will be making your decision based on anxiety, stress, or even worse, fear—all inauthentic mind-states.

This decision may not happen instantaneously or overnight. It may be a lengthier process, and that’s OK—this decision likely has a massive impact on your life. It’s worth investing in an environment that will foster a good decision, where connection with the outside world is removed and a staff of professionals is on-hand to guide you through the process.

It’s important to note, this does not necessarily mean quitting your job! While that seems to be the go-to answer these days—quit your job/life, travel the world, find yourself, etc.—working (creating, producing value) with the proper work environment/boss and being appropriately appreciated/recognized can be incredibly fulfilling and rewarding.

However, the issue today is that work and life tend to blend together and as a result, we don’t do either of them well. Learning to separate the two, remove distractions to enhance focus, and subsequently, perform each more efficiently is a key factor in preventing burnout.

4) Establish a Sustainable Work-Life Balance

Regardless of whether you decide to return to life with modifications or make a massive change, establishing a sustainable lifestyle is critical. For most burnout cases, that means establishing a better work-life balance.

Here are 5 ways to create a more sustainable work-life balance:

Separate Work and Life

Commit fully to both work and life, separately, and put energy into preventing them from bleeding together. If you’re working, work deeply and with focus. If you’re at home, give yourself the permission to “clock out”, silence work emails and calls, and be present with your family, friends, and passions.

Invest in a routine at the end of your work day that helps you “pivot” to home life. Consider a work journal that you write in immediately before leaving the office to download all of your work thoughts, concerns, ruminations, and to-dos.

Pick it back up first thing when getting into the office the next day. Then, spend as few as 5 minutes practicing a flow-state activity–something that takes 100% of your concentration, and is not work—to lower stress and increase feel-good hormones. This may be exercise, meditation, continued journaling, or breathwork. Anything that forces you to be present and savor the experience.

Schedule Focused Work Time

Well in advance, and reoccurring, schedule yourself (literally block your own calendar) for uninterrupted, focused work sessions throughout the work week. Then, resource yourself in between these sessions; fuel your brain with nutritious food; oxygenate your blood with some movement and fresh air; and give your analytical left-hemisphere brain a break by practicing state-shifting activities that engage the right hemisphere creative brain. Meditate, do art, stretch, and engage an animal.

Resource yourself at home

Showing up to work exhausted is a surefire way to keep yourself on the hedonistic burnout treadmill. You will not work as efficiently, requiring more hours, which then takes time from your life outside the office, subsequently deepening your resentment for work and likelihood of burnout.

Resource yourself at home for work-life balance by immersing in nature, physical exercise, sanctifying sleep, connecting with loved ones, maintaining a creative outlet, and investing in a spiritual context

Employ a support network

Connect with a therapist or life coach for support in learning about and rewiring patterns of perfectionism, over-achievement, imbalanced competition/comparison, boundary setting and expressing, and control issues

Discover a new Job

If all of the above is failing to help, it’s time to find a new job where the work-life culture aligns with your need for balanced health

As you navigate your burnout recovery and establish a sustainable work-life balance, continue to monitor your progress and check in with yourself— have those honest conversations with yourself or your ally daily, weekly, monthly, or annually…whatever cadence works best for you.

How Long Does It Take To Recover From Burnout?

So how long does it take to recover from burnout? A precise scientifically-founded answer is difficult to provide as there are so many factors at play: how long you’ve been feeling this way, how many areas of your life are affected by your burnout, and how quickly you are able to remove the cause(s) of your burnout, just to name a few. But the average timeline varies from a few months on the short end, and up to five years on the long side.

Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for burnout—it’s a long process that required evolving your lifestyle, so allow yourself grace and just focus on the day-to-day progress (much like recovering from any illness…take it one day at a time).

Experiencing burnout might seem common these days, but it doesn’t have to be. Your burnout recovery starts now.

What is Mountain Trek?

Rated one of the best health retreats in the world, Mountain Trek is a week-long, challenging but highly-rewarding, health reset program proven to dramatically transform your body, mind, and spirit. Whether you feel overworked, overweight, or just in need of time to unplug, slow down, and recharge, Mountain Trek is for you. To learn more about Mountain Trek, and how we can help reset your health, please email us at or reach out below:

Sleep Hygiene Checklist

a woman wakes up and stretches her arms

Our sleep hygiene checklist will ensure you get a great night’s sleep

Sleep is critical for our health. While one bad night’s rest may put you in a bad mood, where a not-hot-enough coffee equates to THE END OF THE WORLD, what we’ve really got to pay attention to is what happens to our bodies when we’re chronically sleep-deprived. In come heart disease, weight gain and diabetes, a weakened immune system, low sex drive, and mental health issues, like anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, impulsive behavior, and paranoia (this is why sleep deprivation is a highly-effective method of torture). Sleep deprivation is not something to sweep under the rug with a tall cup of frothy caffeine–it’s something to take seriously. Otherwise, your life’s at risk.

It’s now clear that it’s not just during developmental years that you need to clock the correct amount of sleep; for the sake of living longer, you need to make sure you get a good night’s rest at every age. But how do you do this? How, with all of today’s stressors, do you get that kind of sleep where you wake up feeling genuinely refreshed?

Just like anything worth pursuing, you need both hard work and a good strategy to see results. Sleep is an essential component of our health, and something we need to put just as much effort into as our diet and exercise. Spend a week at our sleep-focused health reset retreat, or follow our sleep hygiene checklist below to give yourself a framework that will help you sleep better tonight, and for the rest of your (now longer) life.

Checklist Item 1: Turn your room into a sleep sanctuary

Just like you’d struggle to read a book at a construction site, how can you expect to sleep well in a space filled with disturbances? Here are the basics for setting up your sleep sanctuary:

Never let your phone cross the threshold

Your phone is quickly becoming one of the main causes of your poor sleep. The entrancing blue light your screen emits has a similar wavelength to sunlight, a natural stimulant, they ping and ding throughout the night, and whether they wake you or not, they disturb your sleep. Curtail your spinning brain and fall off into a dream-world by not scrolling through social, news, or email feeds right before, during, or after placing head to pillow.

Read Related Article: 9 Ways To Digital Detox

Your best bet is to make a hard and fast rule: never let your phone enter your room. Charge your phone on a table outside of your room, and make sure it is set to “silent” and/or “do not disturb” mode.

Install blackout shades

Humans are hardwired to get up when the sun rises, but that’s not always necessary, like in the summer months. This is where blackout shades, or curtains lined with blackout fabric, come in handy; as the name implies, they create a blackout effect, blocking light from streaming through your windows, and thus letting you clock in all the hours of sleep you need before waking. The summer’s sunlight aside, we also need to block light from street lights and cars; thanks to our semi-transparent eyelids, we register light from all sources even when our eyes are closed. If blackout shades are not an option, or if you are traveling, you can use an eye mask, but beware: eye masks are often uncomfortable.

Keep your room between 64-66°F/18-19°C

Your core temperature naturally decreases during sleep, so matching this cooler temperature with a cooler room promotes not only falling asleep faster, but staying asleep throughout the night. Don’t go wild and turn your room into a refrigerating chamber–your body will react to being cold by raising stress hormones (it thinks it’s in danger)–but strike a sleep-promoting balance by keeping it between 64-66°F/18-19°C paired with a warm and cozy bed.

Control room noise

The really loud noises that wake you up aren’t the only sounds that disrupt your sleep. Every random car driving by, ring, ping, hum, bang, and buzz—no matter how subtle—is processed by your brain and disrupts your sleep cycle. If you live in an area where there are a lot of disruptive sounds throughout the night, try a white noise machine or earplugs. Yes, white noise machines are sounds themselves, but they produce an even and consistent sound that your brain doesn’t react to, making them great options for drowning out the jarring, inconsistent sounds that do disturb your sleep. Earplugs are another option but tend to be uncomfortable if sleeping on your side. If you’d like to try earplugs, try silicone earplugs—they mold to your ear shape for maximum comfort.

Restrict your bed to only sleep and sex

Stop eating, watching, scrolling, and even reading in bed. These actions just train our brain that when we climb into bed, we’re not there for sleep. If you must read before bed, cozy up in your favorite chair, and use a dim, but not eye-straining, light.

Remove all other distractions

Take the TV out of your room—that’s the biggest distraction culprit–but we’re also calling out anything else you might spend time on that’s not to do with sleeping or having sex.

Invest in a good mattress, pillows, sheets, and duvet

The final piece of the sleep sanctuary puzzle is to invest in quality. Every person is different, so it’s hard for us to tell you exactly which mattress, pillow, sheets, and duvet to buy, but what we can tell you is this: you spend 1/3 of your life in your bed, so you might as well be as comfortable as possible. If you’re a side-sleeper, purchase an extra pillow so you can put it between your legs to improve spinal alignment and comfort.

Checklist Item 2: Start preparing for great sleep the moment you wake up

From the moment you wake up, everything you do affects how well you will sleep that night. And how well you sleep that night will affect how well you do the next day. It’s a cycle, and these days, it feels like more often than not, a negative one. Take the following steps during your day to right the ship and turn your cycle positive:

Soak in some sunshine immediately upon waking

A blast of sunlight first thing in the morning will stimulate your endocrine and central nervous system, reducing grogginess (and, consequently, our dependence on caffeine) and kick-starting your circadian rhythm, making it more likely that your body will cycle into sleep-mode earlier in the night when it’s best to fall asleep (~10 pm).

Exercise, and do it at the right time

Exercise increases the amount of deep sleep we get, which is when both our brain and our body repair themselves. Movement is also positive for our mental health, reducing anxiety, and slowing down our thoughts; two cognitive processes that help sleep quality.

While it’s best to be active and move throughout the entire day, if your routine allows for only one dedicated daily exercise session, exercise after work, well before bedtime. Exercising immediately after work will help you decompress and will allow enough time for your body to return to a calmer state, where you don’t have endorphins and other hormones coursing through your body, making it harder to settle down into sleep.

Eat the right food, in the right portions, at the right time

Going to bed full is a recipe for bad sleep. Your body innately tries to metabolize whatever food is in your stomach, requiring energy and the attention of your autonomous nervous system in the process. This effectively keeps the “engine” running while you’re trying to do the exact opposite—power down and put things to sleep. Make dinner your lightest meal and finish it a few hours before bedtime to give yourself enough time to digest. Skip spicy or heavy foods, which can keep you awake with heartburn or indigestion, and eat magnesium-rich foods, like fish, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens. Magnesium is a vital mineral that regulates melatonin and the neurotransmitter GABA, which reduces activity in the central nervous system, calming us down and reducing stress.

Going to bed starving is no recipe for success, however. If your body is entering a state of starvation, it will release stress hormones that will prevent you from falling asleep (again, your body thinks it’s in danger). Eat a small calcium and magnesium-rich snack, like a bit of milk and some Seedy Trail Crackers with cheese, before bed.

Avoid caffeine 8 hours prior to sleep

Coffee is the obvious perpetrator, but tea, soft drinks, and chocolate all have high levels of caffeine as well. A cup of black tea has about half the caffeine as a cup of coffee, while a cup of green tea, a can of coke, and a serving of 70% dark chocolate all have about one third as much caffeine as a cup of coffee.

Checklist Item 3: Power down your brain, and body, properly

Get off all electronics at least 1 hour prior to sleep

Watching anything good on Netflix usually means there’s drama, emotion, action, or violence involved—all of which leave us in a heightened state. And, as mentioned before, the light emitted by the screens of your TV, tablet, laptop, or smartphone is in the blue spectrum, making it very stimulating. Pry yourself off of your devices at least one hour before sleep to give your body enough time to calm down. At the very minimum, reduce screen brightness and ensure you have night mode enabled on your devices so that you reduce the amount of blue light you’re taking in.

Take a warm bath 90 minutes before bed

In line with lowering your room’s temperature to mimic the process of your body cooling heading into sleep, a hot bath, while initially counterintuitive, has the same effect. Taking a 104-109°F/40-43°C bath will cause blood to go to your extremities (why we are red when we get out), and when blood is in your extremities, vs your core, you lose heat easily and your body temperature decreases. This cooling triggers your circadian rhythm, and your pineal gland kicks in, releasing melatonin, the sleep hormone.

Add Epsom salts to your bath to promote natural detoxification and healing.

Add a few drops of lavender oil to your bath to increase relaxation and calm. Similar to magnesium, lavender regulates the neurotransmitter GABA, calming the central nervous system and reducing anxiety.

Restorative yoga

Supporting your body weight with props and bolsters and holding poses for 5 minutes or more, restorative yoga calms the parasympathetic nervous system and allows you to fully relax and rest.  It’s a great practice for your pre-bed routine. Learn four poses you should try from Mountain Trek’s yoga instructor, Katya Campbell, or follow along with this full Restorative Yoga session.

Physical stress release

Target acute areas of stress with spiky stress balls. Place these balls directly under knots and other tight and painful locations and just rest, allowing the ball to massage your myofascial tissues to reduce muscle tension and improve blood flow, similar to how a deep massage works. Or actively roll out. Watch this video to see how to properly use the spiky ball.

Checklist Item 4: Employ techniques to fall asleep

The inability to fall asleep is usually caused by a spinning mind, which, in turn, is usually caused by anxiety, stress, and depression. Anxiety is regretting the future; depression, regretting the past; stress, regretting the present. Regret is just a feeling elicited by thought. If we can teach ourselves to shift our thinking away from regret, we will be able to fall asleep faster. The techniques below are also great if you wake up during the night and find your mind spinning.

“Download” your thoughts into a journal

By the end of a long day, you’ve got a lot on your mind. Instead of climbing into bed and letting these thoughts bounce around inside your head, write them down first. The act of writing down what’s on your mind sends a signal to yourself that you won’t forget anything, allowing you to move on.


Meditation, by definition, is the practice of intently focusing your attention on one single thing. Whether that be a candle, your breath, or feelings of gratitude, when you focus your attention, work, your anxiety, depression, and your stress are unable to possess your thoughts. There are thousands of guided meditations available that are specifically designed for sleep. Insight Timer is a great, free resource for meditations. You can easily filter by sleep. And practices such as Tong-Lin are excellent for ensuring your mind is focused on something positive.


Often the most simple act holds the most power. Just drawing your attention to your breath and witnessing your inhales and exhales as closely as you can is often the best way to put yourself to sleep. Be specific in noticing where you feel your breath—is it the rising and falling of your chest, or at the tip of your nose—and follow your inhales and exhales in their entirety. Some people benefit from adding a layer and counting the seconds of their breath. This simple exercise is a great way to practice mindfulness and drift off into a great night’s sleep.

Progressive muscle relaxation

Similar in purpose, progressive muscle relaxation is a relaxation technique where you systematically tense, and then release your muscles. For instance, you might start with your toes and work your way up to your head, tensing each muscle as you go during a long, slow inhale, and releasing on the exhale. This is a good exercise for those who prefer more physical vs mental practices.

Checklist Item 5: Develop a routine

Your body craves routine. Routines reduce your cognitive load and energy requirements, which consequently reduces your stress levels, the linchpin to great sleep. It may take you a few weeks to find a routine that works, but when you do find that magic combination, stick to it. Your sleep will continue to improve as your routine becomes a habit. Once it’s a habit, it’s a lifestyle. Congratulations, you have just significantly decreased your risk of mortality.

Now that you have this sleep hygiene checklist, you can make sure that you’re doing everything possible to get a great night’s sleep. If you’re still curious about how to improve your sleep, contact us below, or come visit us for a week of unplugging, resetting, and sleeping deeply.

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the Mountain Trek sleep retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at or reach out below:

Stress Hormones

black and white photo of a woman holding her head in stress.

Stress hormones are released in response to a stressful situation. This could be a near-miss car accident, a project deadline at work, or overdue bills—any event where our unconscious deems we are in a threatening situation. Before we are even aware, our sympathetic nervous system triggers our fight, flight, or freeze response, and a flood of stress hormones enters our bloodstream. The two primary stress hormones are epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol.

The Stress Response

It all starts in our hypothalamus, a small portion of our old “survival brain”. When we encounter a perceived threat—such as a large dog barking at us during a morning walk—our hypothalamus sets off an alarm system in our body. Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, the HPA axis (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) system prompts our adrenal glands, located on top of our kidneys, to release a surge of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol.

Adrenaline (epinephrine) Stress Hormone

Immediately upon the recognition of a stressor, the amygdala signals the brain stem to release norepinephrine and epinephrine, aka adrenaline. Adrenaline increases our heart rate, elevates our blood pressure, makes us sweat, dialates our pupils, and boosts energy supplies to our muscles, fueling us to fight or flee. Adrenaline causes inflammation in an attempt to destroy antigens, pathogens, or foreign invaders.

Cortisol Stress Hormone

A surge of cortisol follows the release of adrenaline and can remain elevated for hours. Cortisol increases the availability of blood sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances our brain’s use of glucose, and increases the availability of cells that repair tissues (in case we get hurt as we fight or flee). Cortisol also curbs functions that would be nonessential or detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation, altering the immune system responses and suppressing the digestive system, reproductive system, and growth processes to prioritize survival.

Cortisol’s role in our body and brain isn’t only in response to a stressor, however. It manages how our body uses carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, and communicates with the brain regions that control mood, motivation, and fear. The hormone is integral in controlling our sleep/wake cycle, naturally rising and fall throughout our circadian day, peaking in the morning, and waning throughout the day. Cortisol helps us focus, problem solve, and manage the details of our life, regulates blood pressure, and also boosts our energy when required by controlling blood sugar. It’s a versatile hormone and when in balance, actually decreases inflammation to allow for the effective management of stress [1].

Stress Hormones & Their Response

Healthy Stress: The Acute Stress Cycle

Stress takes a variety of forms. Some stress happens as the result of a single, short-term event such as having an argument with a loved one. Other stress relentlessly builds due to recurring conditions, such as managing a long-term illness or a demanding job. When stress hormones are released due to acute, or sudden and short-lived, stressful situations, they rarely have a damaging effect on our bodies. In fact, the right amount of physical stress helps us grow muscle and bone, and being challenged mentally to learn a new task helps us become more effective and efficient.

Following a stressful situation, our body needs to enter a state of relaxation to recover. The parasympathetic nervous system takes over at this point and promotes a “rest and digest” state that returns stress hormone levels back to normal. This is called the Acute Stress Cycle.

Historically, stressors were life-threatening things like predators, famine, and extreme weather conditions. They were present in our lives, but occurred periodically, allowing for the full Acute Stress Cycle to occur and hormonal balance to be restored.

So, as long as our mental, physical and emotional stressors come and go throughout our day, and the sense of perceived threat relaxes after an event, our acute stress cycle is incorporated into our day-to-day life without adverse effects on our balanced health.

Unhealthy Stress: Chronic Stress

When recurring conditions trigger stress that is both intense and sustained over a period of time, it can be referred to as “chronic” or “toxic” stress. While all stress triggers physiological reactions, chronic stress is specifically problematic because of the significant harm it can do to the functioning of the body, brain, and nervous system.

Unfortunately, in our current culture, we now have mental and emotional stress on top of the physical, causing a stress response in situations that aren’t life-threatening—and these situations arise daily; we stress about work drama, our finances, the accomplishments of people we follow on Social (and what we’re not accomplishing in comparison), and so much more. This results in a constantly activated stress response, and constantly elevated levels of our stress hormones, especially cortisol. We rarely have enough of a break between stressors to allow our body to regain hormonal balance. This chronic stress is killing us.

As mentioned above, under normal conditions, cortisol reduces cellular inflammation. However, when continuously secreted due to chronic stress, cortisol fails to function and it actually has the opposite effect—it increases inflammation. This is similar to what happens with insulin resistance in diabetes, where excessive secretion leads to dysfunction. According to the Mayo Clinic, the CDC, and others, chronic stress, and the constant elevation of the stress hormone cortisol causing inflammation, is responsible for a vast majority of the diseases and illnesses of our time, up to 90%.

The Effects of Chronic Stress

Chronic low-level stress keeps the HPA axis activated. This nervous and hormonal system vigilance is much like a motor that is idling too high for too long. Chronic stress leads to:


Repeated stress is a major trigger for persistent inflammation in the body. The brain is normally protected from circulating molecules by a blood-brain barrier. But under repeated stress, this barrier becomes leaky, and circulating inflammatory proteins can damage brain tissue. Chronic inflammation can also lead to a range of health problems, including diabetes and heart disease. Inflammation is one of the leading causes of dementia-related brain diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Anxiety and Depression

The ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which plays a role in emotional cognition – such as evaluation of social connections and learning about fear may enhance irrational fears. Eventually, these fears essentially override the brain’s usual ability for rational decision-making. It has long been researched that chronic stress can lead to depression, which is a leading mental illness worldwide. It is also a recurrent condition – people who have experienced depression are at risk for future bouts of depression, particularly under stress. There are many reasons for this, and they can be linked to changes in the brain. The reduced hippocampus that persistent exposure to stress hormones and ongoing inflammation can cause is more commonly seen in depressed patients than in healthy people. Chronic stress ultimately also changes the neuro transmitting chemicals in the brain that modulate cognition and mood.

Reduced Serotonin levels

Serotonin one of our feel-good hormones is lower in the brain in people with depression. Serotonin is produced in our intestines by the digestion of fiber by our positive gut bacteria, and travels up the vagal nerve to the ‘old brains’. According to the American Psychological Association, stress can affect this brain-gut communication and may trigger pain, bloating, and other effects from inflammatory bowel diseases. The gut’s nerves and bacteria strongly influence the brain and vice versa.

Impaired cognitive performance and brain health

The hippocampus is a critical region for learning and memory and is particularly vulnerable. Studies in humans have shown that inflammation can adversely affect brain systems linked to motivation and mental agility. According to several studies, chronic stress impairs brain function in multiple ways. It can disrupt synapse regulation, resulting in the loss of sociability and the avoidance of interactions with others which limits our choices for de-stressing through co-regulation with others.

Stress can kill brain cells and even reduce the size of the brain. Specifically, chronic stress has a shrinking effect on the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for decision making. “Cortisol is believed to create a domino effect that hard-wires pathways between the hippocampus and amygdala in a way that might create a vicious cycle by creating a brain that becomes predisposed to be in a constant state of fight-or-flight,” Christopher Bergland writes in Psychology Today.

Increased abdominal fat and weight gain

Elevated cortisol levels create physiological changes that help to replenish the body’s energy stores that are depleted during the stress response. Unutilized for flight or fight, that extra available glucose gets stored as fat.

Hyperglycemia (blood sugar imbalance), metabolic syndrome, and Type 2 Diabetes.

Research suggests that chronic stress may also contribute to obesity, both through direct mechanisms (causing people to eat more) or indirectly (decreasing sleep and exercise), Type 2 Diabetes, and Metabolic Syndrome.

Heart disease

Persistent epinephrine surges can damage blood vessels and arteries, increasing blood pressure and raising the risk of heart attacks or strokes.

Compromised immune system

While this is valuable during stressful or threatening situations where injury might result in increased immune system activation, chronic stress can result in impaired communication between the immune system and the HPA axis. This impaired communication has been linked to the future development of numerous health conditions, including chronic fatigue, fibral myalgia, and immune disorders. Even Autoimmune disorders are created as an inflammatory response to ongoing stress. The immune system becomes overly sensitized to the body’s own healthy cells and tissue. It reacts against the joints, intestines, or other organs and tissues as if they were dangerous. As the inflammatory response continues, it damages the body instead of healing it.

Muscle atrophy, decreased bone density, and hormone imbalance

Experiencing stressors over a prolonged period of time can result in a long-term drain on the body. As the autonomic nervous system continues to trigger physical reactions, it causes a wear-and-tear on the body. It’s not so much what chronic stress does to the nervous system, but what continuous activation of the nervous system does to other bodily systems that become problematic. Constant cortisol production from our Adrenal glands lowers the production of DHEA, the precursor to our male and female sex hormones. The resulting decline in testosterone production negatively affects libido, and can even cause erectile dysfunction or impotence. Women who are more stressed and anxious may experience an increased number, intensity, and severity of hot flashes, according to the American Psychological Association.

Increased likelihood of addiction

A series of population-based and epidemiological studies done at Yale University School of Medicine proves that increased levels of cortisol is predictive of substance use and abuse. Preclinical research also shows that stress exposure enhances drug self-administration and reinstates drug-seeking in drug-experienced animals (addiction).


Naturally, cortisol wanes throughout the day and is replaced with our sleep-beckoning hormone melatonin. Elevated cortisol levels late into the day stimulates us and prevent melatonin from being released, impacting our circadian rhythm and making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. Unfortunately, researchers at Dartmouth have proven that is a negative cycle, “sleep, in particular deep sleep, has an inhibitory influence on the hypothalamic-pituitary- adrenal (HPA) axis, whereas activation of the HPA axis or administration of glucocorticoids can lead to arousal and sleeplessness. Insomnia, the most common sleep disorder, is associated with a 24-hour increase of ACTH and cortisol secretion, consistent with a disorder of central nervous system hyperarousal”. Increased stress leads to poor sleep, and poor sleep, in turn, leads to increased stress. We must learn to break the cycle.

Read our Sleep Hygiene Checklist for your best night’s sleep.

With such a dramatic effect on our health, how we deal with and react to stress, and learning how to prevent or lessen the impact of our stress response is critical to our health and longevity.

Getting to the bottom of Stress-induced Disease

Humans, like all animals, are genetically wired to cope with environmental stressors for survival. How harmful a physical, mental, or emotional stressor is, ultimately depends on its intensity, duration, integration, and, as the most recent research is concluding, how our autonomic nervous system was developed as a child. If we had traumatic events, neglect, developmental attachment issues, or toxic shame in our childhood, our brain, and nervous system will have developed a low-grade survival vigilance. That underdeveloped or under-resourced response will keep cortisol amplified daily decades later. This can put many of us under more stress than may seem necessary.

Emerging Stress Patterns

Before the Covid pandemic, the Stress in America survey reported that money and work were the top two sources of stress for adults in the United States for the eighth year in a row. Other common contributors included family responsibilities, personal health concerns, health problems affecting the family and the economy. The study found that women consistently struggle with more stress than men. Millennials and Gen Xers deal with more stress than Baby Boomers. And those who face discrimination based on characteristics such as race, religion, poverty, disability status, or LGBTQ identification, struggle with more stress than their counterparts who do not regularly encounter such societal biases.

Vagal Theory

A recent study conducted by Stephen Porges, the guru on poly-vagal theory (our autonomic survival nervous system), found that during Covid, the most highly stressed individuals (who weren’t infected) were those who had either an underdeveloped or underregulated/underresourced survival and safety nervous system. Vagal Tone describes our nervous system’s ability to co-regulate with others through prosocial interactions, and self-regulate through practices that induce the parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system. Decreases in vagal tone is associated with illnesses and complications that affect our nervous, circulatory, respiratory, and digestive systems as all of our internal organs are connected to the ‘many wandering’ strands of the polyvagal nerve that connects to our reticular, limbic, and neo-cortex brains.

How To Manage Chronic Stress

Since there will always be stressful events in our lives, with all of these varied symptoms of chronic stress on our Balanced Health, what can we do?

Elicit the ventral vagal parasympathetic relaxation response

Harvard Health reports, Dr. Herbert Benson, director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, has devoted much of his career to learning how people can counter the stress response by using a combination of approaches that elicit the ventral vagal parasympathetic relaxation response. These include deep abdominal breathing, focus on a soothing word (such as “peace” or “calm”), visualization of tranquil scenes, repetitive prayer, yoga, and tai chi.

Practice mindfulness and journal

You can learn to identify what stresses you and how to take care of yourself physically and emotionally in the face of stressful situations through mindful reflection and journalling. When practicing mindfulness meditation, heart rate and breathing slow down, blood pressure normalizes, adrenal glands produce less cortisol and immune function improves. The mind also clears, and creativity increases. Additionally, mindfulness will prevent stress levels from reaching an extreme, or getting out of control. This will allow the Acute Stress Cycle to complete more frequently, resting and digesting fully following a stressful event.

Resource Your Body, Mind, and Spirit to Restore Stress Hormone Levels Quicker

Stress is naturally draining. Resourcing yourself following a stressful experience will restore the balance of your stress hormones and prevent the negative effects of chronic stress. Try eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise and plenty of sleep. Practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing, getting a massage, taking time for creative hobbies, reading an inspirational book, or listening to emotionally relaxing music. Walking in nature also lowers cortisol and bathes our brain in positive mood stimulating neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin). Fostering healthy intimate friendships, engaging a sense of humor, and seeking professional Relational Somatic Therapy to expand our “window of tolerance” for external stressors that may trigger our autonomic /survival response patterns from childhood help us self-regulate. Resourcing habits between acute stress ‘demands’ and co-regulation with safe others coupled with self-regulation techniques all help break the cycle of chronic stress, nervous system vigilance, constant cortisol elevation, and disease-causing inflammation.

Purposefully Expose Yourself to Acute Stress

Intentionally putting ourselves in stress-inducing, but not harmful or damaging, situations can desensitize our stress response and improve our longevity. Activities such as intermittent fasting or cold-immersion are stressful by definition but performed correctly, they are not harmful and in fact, have a long list of health benefits. Intermitting fasting has been proven to cause cellular autophagy, a process of cellular healing, and Caloric restriction (CR), the reduction of calorie intake to a level that does not compromise overall health, has been considered as being one of the most promising dietary interventions to extend lifespan in humans.

Cold water immersion has a vast array of benefits, from raising metabolic rate by 350%, lowering Cortisol by 46%, raising noradrenaline by 530%, and raising dopamine by 250%. Pain and inflammation also decrease (as experienced in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia due to increased production of opioid endorphins in the body). Research has shown that cold showers or cold immersion create a “positive systemic stress activation”, through which the high density of cold receptors on the skin sends an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses to the brain. This positive transient activation ignites the sympathetic nervous system and HPA axis (Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal-Thyroid nervous and hormonal systems). This activation has immense stimulating effects on our immune system by promoting lymphatic drainage! Brief daily cold stress increases the production of T-Lymphocyte, also known as T-cells, a type of leukocyte (white blood cell), and Natural Killer cell, also known as NK cell, production and activation. Both are critical in our immune system. Research is proving the benefits of cold water immersion in innate tumor immunity and nonlymphoid cancer survival rates.

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health program, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at or reach out below:

18 Ways To Improve Your Mental Health When Working From Home

While working from home certainly has its perks; no commute, no dress code, a more flexible schedule—it also blurs the line between work and personal life, disrupting the sensitive balance that exists between the two. Incidences of depression due to working from home are on the rise. So is anxiety. We haven’t yet been taught how to maintain our mental health as our work and personal lives inexorably intertwine. As more companies continue to move their workforce remote, it’s time we learn this newly important skill.

Below are 18 ways you can improve your mental health while working from home, listed in chronological order so you can follow along as your day progresses.

Gift Yourself Your Old Commute Time

Stick to your old routine where you had to commute to work. Only now, instead of spending that 30-45 minutes in your car or in transit, use your “commute time” just for you. The next few tips will give you ideas about what to do with this new-found self-care time.

Break Your Fast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for our physical and mental health. Skipping breakfast mimics famine which increases our stress levels. Inversely, eating breakfast will reduce cortisol (stress hormone) production. Additionally, eating breakfast sets up our energy levels for the day and has been proven to boost anabolic hormone levels by 15%. Make a smoothie or simple sprouted grain avocado tahini toast and eat within 30 minutes of getting up to break your intermittent fast from the night before. Not hungry when you wake up? Make sure to eat your last calorie at least 12 hours before you plan to wake up. This allows our body’s autophagy process for cellular recycling and reducing inflammation to occur, and ensures we will be hungry when we wake up.

Take a Morning (Sun) Bath

In the correct situation, the cortisol hormone we mentioned above can be your friend as it’s what perks you up like a natural cup of coffee. Eat your breakfast near a window to allow the early morning light to set your circadian clock for a productive morning. Encourage other family members to join you.

Own Your Morning

It’s too easy to immediately turn to watching the news or checking emails upon waking. However, this starts our minds spinning. Instead, consider reading something inspiring or pleasurable immediately upon waking, or go for a 20-minute walk outdoors, noticing as much of the natural world from as many of your senses as possible (the sky, the snow or rain, the breeze, space between branches, the sound of a bird). This practice of presence will bathe your brain in neurotransmitter feel-good hormones. Paying attention to the details and richness of the world we live in adds more beauty and gratefulness to our day.

Get A Pre-Work Fat Flush

If you can wake up 90 minutes before work, consider walking briskly (between 6.5 and 8.5 perceived rate of exertion out of 10) for 40 minutes to get a cardio fat flush, or alternate walk days with online HIIT workouts, or an online yoga class. Getting a full workout in before has been proven to significantly reduce anxiety and the effects of depression, starting your day on the right foot, literally.

Channel Your Inner Wim Hof

Take a hot shower and end with a cold rinse to increase your circulation and support your elimination system in its ongoing detoxification process.

Dress For Success

Dress for work not sleep to boost your commitment and confidence.

Setup Your Workspace for Success

Situate your computer in front of a window for natural light (if possible, use an adjustable standing desk and alternate between sitting and standing to promote circulation). Consider some greenery, house plants, fresh flowers, and photos of nature all of which help balance constant screen time. Quiet background music (classical, meditative instrumentals, or binaural beats) can help promote calm and concentration and override sounds coming from family members in the house.

Optimize Your Concentration

Too often our productivity is sabotaged at home by distractions. This can lead to a sense of failure for the day. Instead, check your daily calendar for the priority list you set at the end of yesterday’s workday—ask yourself if the items are still relevant. Then organize your day into 90-minute concentrated segments where you work on just one thing. Give yourself 10 minutes between these concentrated work sessions to resource yourself while giving your eyes a break from the screen. After experimenting in 90/10 time segments you may wish to try the Pomodoro Method of 25/5 and notice which time period works best with your concentration levels. You will accomplish more while still giving yourself necessary breaks, resulting in a satisfying day of work.

Reboot 10 Minutes At A Time

Our happiness is intrinsically tied to our productivity. Creating feels good. It gives us confidence and purpose. In order to be as productive as possible, we must take breaks to recharge and refocus, but a longer lunch is not the solution. We’re better off working hard for 90 minutes then taking 10-minute breaks. Consider these 10 min reboot sessions:

Posture stretches to avoid rounded computer shoulders, text neck, and lower back pain.

8-minute guided mindfulness meditation

Keep Your Blood Sugar Level

Blood sugar spikes and plummets contribute immensely to our mood. Leveling out your blood sugar by eating the right food in the right portions at the right time will avoid any “hanger” or the need for an afternoon jolt of caffeine, which for more than a third of the population causes cortisol levels (that pesky stress hormone) to increase. Spread your calories across your day, eating 6 times; break-the-fast morning smoothie or toast, breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, and dinner. For your mid-morning snack, have a piece of fruit and 2 tablespoons of nuts or seeds, and for a mid-afternoon snack, a few veggie slices with 2 tablespoons of golden almond butter protein dip. Remember to stay hydrated throughout your day, as well!

Batch Cook Lunch Ahead Of Time

Take the stress out of eating lunch at home by premaking a couple of soups on the weekend. This ensures you don’t stress over lunch prep or cleanup. Here are some of our favorite easy “warm-up” soup recipes:

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Greek Chicken & Feta Soup

Black Bean Soup

Wrap It Up

Don’t just up and leave when the whistle blows. Save the last 30 minutes of your workday to review the day with a dedicated work journal, and then plan and calendar your priorities for tomorrow. Finally, clean and clear your workspace so you can start tomorrow fresh. We can never finish all of our work, but by segmenting your day into periods of resourced and fueled concentration we can be confident in our efficacy. Bonus: end your workday at the same time every day to introduce consistency.

Reward Yourself For A Hard Day’s Work

At the end of a hard, stressful workday, we are craving release. Too often, however, we seek release in the form of wine or salty, fatty, carby snacks. Instead, lower your stress hormones at the end of the day and bathe your hard-working brain with serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine with a more productive option. Try a 5-minute meditation, petting your pet, or 20 minutes of yoga, Tai Chi, creativity, or forest bathing. These are all healthy ‘happy hour’ alternatives that will still satiate our need to feel good.

Go For A Post-Dinner Walk

After eating a healthy dinner, get up from the table and go for a 20-minute walk with yourself, family or pet around the neighborhood to use those calories, rather than store them. This will help set you up for a good night’s sleep and prevent you from waking up groggy.

Power Down 1 Hour before Bed

Power down all electronics at least 1 hour before bed to physically reduce exposure to stimulating blue-light and emotionally reduce exposure to stimulating content like social media, news, and work email. Consider soft lighting, a warm bath (add Epsom salts for an added detox), 10 minutes of gentle and slow yoga stretches, a 5-minute breathing meditation, trading a shoulder massage with your mate, or reading a novel all to invoke the “rest and digest” parasympathetic nervous system to prepare for deep sleep.

Reflect and review

Review your day in a journal. Bring your awareness into noticing how any of these tips are affecting your mental clarity, positive emotions and moods, energy levels, productivity, sense of owning your day and life, and feelings of gratitude. Finally, write down and thoughts bouncing around in your head. Simply putting them down on paper allows us to rest assured that we won’t forget them.


Easier said than done, but this last tip is just as important as the rest. Sleep is when we heal, physically and mentally, and recharge our batteries for the next day. Ensure you’re fully charged by following our comprehensive Guide To Great Sleep.

Your mental health and resiliency are vital to a long and happy life. Do your best not to try and implement all of the above at one time. Instead, start by choosing two that interest you and try to implement them just twice this coming week. Once you’ve had success with that seemingly easy task, increase the frequency to three times a week, and then eventually add a third and fourth action. Trying to do it all right off the bat is one of our most common pitfalls when trying to accomplish goals. Read our article How To Build A Healthy Habit in 6 Steps.

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at or reach out below:

How Stress Contributes To Diabetes

older woman with diabetes checking blood sugar levels

While it’s widely known that a poor diet and low levels of exercise increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, we are now learning that chronic stress also contributes to the disease that affects 1 in 10 Americans. Today’s fast-paced lifestyles, which feature modern medical syndromes like burnout, are even more prone to stress, and it’s causing a domino effect not only on our emotional and mental health but our physical health as well.

Understanding Diabetes

Terms like “diabetes”, “type 2 diabetes”, and “adult-onset diabetes” are now common in our vocabulary, but the fundamentals of the disease are confusing, and therefore often overlooked.

If we know nothing else, we need to understand that our bodies run off a sugar molecule called glucose—the gasoline to our combustion engine. The food we eat is broken down into glucose, which is then carried off by our blood to the places that need energy, such as our brain, muscles, and organs. We refer to the amount of glucose in our bloodstream at any given time as our blood-sugar level (remember, glucose is sugar).

Once at its destination, glucose isn’t able to enter our cells without the help of a hormone called insulin. Insulin binds to glucose and allows it to actually cross the cell wall. Insulin is like the nozzle of the fuel pump. Without the nozzle, gas can’t actually enter your fuel tank. Instead, it just sits in the hose. Without insulin, sugar cannot enter our cells. Instead, it just sits in our bloodstream.

The problem with our bodies, unlike a fuel pump, is that if extra gas sits in our hose for too long, aka extra sugar in our bloodstream, all sorts of issues occur, such as slowed healing, hearing loss, nerve damage, sleep apnea, heart and blood vessel disease, kidney damage, eye damage, and Alzheimer’s.

This permanent state of elevated blood sugar is diabetes. There are two types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes is caused by a genetic condition developed primarily during childhood or adolescence where your pancreas naturally produces little or no insulin, and it cannot be avoided; Type 2 diabetes, however, occurs when our blood sugar levels are so frequently elevated due to our lifestyle that either our pancreas begins to slow down the production of insulin, or our cells begin to resist insulin. In either case, the result is permanently elevated blood sugar levels.

It’s easy to believe this resistance is due to overuse, but think about Olympic athletes for a second. They typically consume between 3,000 and 5,000 calories per day, constantly adding sugar to their blood. The difference is, they use up this sugar through their rigorous, all-day training, preventing their blood sugar levels from ever getting too high. It’s extremely rare that an Olympic athlete, someone who cycles through an enormous amount of sugar, gets type 2 diabetes. So something else is going on.

While the very science of why our cells begin to refuse insulin in type 2 diabetes is still being fully developed, the leading assumption is that an increased level of fat in our blood and chronic inflammation are the two primary culprits.

Fortunately, we have the ability to prevent insulin resistance. The key lies in stopping ourselves from too frequently entering a state of elevated blood sugar—a state known as hyperglycemia. What’s widely obvious, today, is that reducing the amount of sugar we take in and increasing the amount of sugar we burn is a great way to accomplish this. In other words, eating healthier (the correct portions at the correct times) and moving more. What’s less known, however, but quickly coming into the spotlight as a contributing factor to our elevated blood sugar levels, is that stress contributes to insulin resistance.

Can Stress Cause Diabetes?

The short answer is that chronic stress does contribute to type 2 diabetes. Whether or not stress outright causes diabetes is still to be discovered, but we started understanding how stress plays a role in the development of the disease back in 2010, with a review from the European Depression in Diabetes Research Consortium. They discovered, “Depression, general emotional stress and anxiety, sleeping problems, anger, and hostility are associated with an increased risk for the development of Type 2 Diabetes.”

Now, more than a decade later, we continue to understand how chronic stress disrupts our pancreas and liver from managing blood sugar levels properly, leading to periods of hyperglycemia, which ultimately leads to diabetes.

Stress and Blood Sugar Levels

When under physical, mental, or emotional stress, blood sugar levels naturally rise to supply energy to our muscles. Physiologically, this occurs to support our primitive fight-or-flight response, which once allowed us to survive stressful situations, such as an attack from a saber-tooth tiger. In an instant, our liver dumps stored glucose, aka sugar, into our bloodstream. Simultaneously, our pancreas produces insulin which allows that sugar to be used by our muscles. Running away from the tiger or fighting uses up the sugar in our bloodstream, and, after a short while, levels return to normal.

Today, however, our situation has evolved, and we rarely utilize the increased sugar in our bloodstream immediately following a stressful event. Think back to the last time you got cut off in traffic or got into an argument with a colleague. Or even the last time you felt a spell of anxiety. Did you go “walk it off”? Most likely not. More realistically, following a stressful event, we stay stagnant in our seats or on our couch. Even worse, we may decide to eat something salty, fatty, or sugary to settle our emotions.

Stress Eating Leads to Increased Blood Sugar Levels

Coping with chronic stressors—whether mental, emotional, or physical—often leads to feelings of unhappiness and dissatisfaction. Our natural instinct is to then make choices that evoke our “feel-good hormones” to avoid the weight of these feelings. Unfortunately, we are genetically wired to crave certain foods to elicit the brain’s soothing hormones serotonin, and dopamine, so we often head for the pantry or the freezer when feeling bad.

Consuming any of the three main cravings—salt, fat, and carbs—will make us feel better momentarily, but it won’t support the lowering of blood sugar. Stress eating and alcohol drinking are common coping mechanisms, and, unfortunately, they both spike our blood sugar levels.

Additionally, research has shown that under chronic stress we sleep less. Less sleep stimulates our hormone ghrelin, which increases appetite, causing us to subconsciously eat even more.

Stress Affects Insulin Resistance

Stress contributes to elevated blood sugar levels by both dumping stored glucose into our bloodstream due to our natural flight or fight response, and by us turning to food as a stress-coping mechanism. While these chronically elevated blood sugar levels have been proven to contribute to insulin resistance, this is not the only way stress plays a role in affecting insulin resistance.

Thanks to a research team led by Carnegie Mellon University’s Sheldon Cohen, we now know that chronic psychological stress also prevents our body from being able to regulate inflammation levels. Their findings state, “When under stress, cells of the immune system are unable to respond to hormonal control, and, consequently, produce levels of inflammation that promote disease.

Stress-induced inflammation is also a major contributing factor to our cells becoming insulin resistant.

A healthy lifestyle will prevent diabetes

It’s more important than ever to achieve balance in our health. A healthy diet and plenty of movement are a good foundation, but now, more than ever, stress management is vital to hormone balance, healthy blood sugar levels, sleep depth, maintaining an active anabolic metabolism, and lowering inflammation. Focus on balancing all aspects of physical, mental, and emotional health to lessen the proclivity of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, as well as minimize the effects if diagnosed with the disease.

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at or reach out below:

What’s so hot about hot springs? 5 Reasons to go for a soak

Hot springs are full-steam ahead on being the #1 luxury that vacationers prioritize when picking their holiday destination. Why? Not only are they great for post-ski socializing, they work wonders for your body, physically and mentally. Japan and Europe have known about the healing powers of hot springs for thousands of years, but Canada is also home to some of the best sources of balneotherapy–the therapeutic use of water for relieving pain, stress, skin woes and more.

Our lodge in British Columbia is fortunate enough to be located in Ainsworth, home of a large healing hot spring pool that was first visited by the Ktunaxa First Nations peoples, who recuperated in the hot water after a long day of hunting, fishing, and gathering roots and berries. Mountain Trek guests have unlimited access to this marvel of nature during their stay, and here’s why it’s important to take advantage of soaking in the hot mineral waters.

What is a hot spring?

A hot spring is an all-natural body of water that is warmed geothermally. One way to classify a hot spring is that it must be well above the temperature of the surrounding earth, and usually hot springs hover around the 100 degrees Fahrenheit mark. The temperature of a given hot spring depends on the heat supplied at depth (sometimes from a magma chamber), the rate at which the water flows, and if there is a mixture of cooler groundwater into the flow of hot water.

Where are they found?

Hot springs truly are the world’s original spa – interestingly, the term ‘spa’ originates from the town of Spa, Belgium, made famous for its hot springs. Typically, hot springs are found where there is volcanic activity or magma chambers, or where there are fault lines in the Earth.

Therapeutic Benefits

Hot springs have an especially high mineral content, because heated water can hold more dissolved solids. This means they contain everything from calcium, magnesium, silica, lithium, and even radium. In other words, they’re a multivitamin for the skin. The heat in hot springs envelopes and helps soothe aching muscles, and the minerals present in the water get soaked up by the skin, stimulating certain bodily processes.

Here’s how the combination of these minerals and the hot water help us:

Musculoskeletal problems: Documented in Chinese and Japanese history, hot springs have been used to aid with swollen joints, arthritis, muscle fatigue, ligament damage, and more.

Eczema: Chronically dry, flaky skin, otherwise known as eczema, is a skin condition that affects up to 15% of Americans and Canadians. Regularly soaking in hot springs has been found to reduce eczema itching and redness.

Nasal Congestion: The heat of the water, combined with sulphur, makes for a winning way to combat nasal congestion caused by the common cold, allergies, or even chest congestion.

Circulation: Sodium bicarbonate and calcium found in mineral hot springs help with good circulation in the body. This can have numerous positive impacts, including lowering blood pressure. The weightlessness that comes with floating in the water also helps improve circulation.

Relaxation: Never to be underestimated, is the power of de-stressing and relaxation. A stressed state can lead to all kinds of health complications, such as high blood pressure, depression, and an increase in the output of the stress hormone, cortisol. When cortisol is released in stress-induced doses, our hormones are thrown off balance, which affects our mood, immune system and metabolism. Long story short, if you’d like a faster metabolism and the ability to shed those pesky pounds, you’ve got to make sure your hormones are balanced.

In regards to the different minerals in hot springs and how they help our health, here’s the lowdown:

  • Magnesium: aids with clear complexion, and healthy-looking skin
  • Potassium: eliminates toxins and promotes healthy skin
  • Sodium: decreases inflammation in swollen joints, and can help the lymphatic system
  • Sulphur: helps with respiratory problems and skin inflammations

Don’t hesitate another moment–hurry over to a healing hot spring; the rewards you’ll reap are thoroughly worth it. Or, come visit us and use ours!

What’s so hot about Hot Springs? Reasons to go for a soak

woman sitting in a Hot Spring Canada

It’s been coming up more and more in our day-to-day reading, for tourism, spa facilities, or general health and wellness; steam from Hot Springs’ benefits is fogging up general discussion. It seems as though our original spa encounter is making an encore to the centre stage for a healthy, enjoyable activity.

Our British Columbia location, besides having that spectacular view out over Kootenay Lake and to the Purcell Mountain Range, has the added bonus of the all-natural soak: hot springs are featured literally just a stone’s throw from our lodge, and guests have unlimited access to this marvel of nature during their stay at the Mountain Trek Alpine Lodge. For this reason, and the surge in hot springs popularity, we wanted to know: just what is so hot about hot springs, anyway?

What is a hot spring?

A hot spring is an all-natural body of water that is warmed geothermally. One way to classify a hot spring is that it must be well above the temperature of the surrounding earth, and usually hot springs hover around the 100 degrees Fahrenheit mark. The temperature of a given hot spring is dependent on a few different factors; the heat supplied at depth (sometimes from a magma chamber), the rate at which the water flows, and if there is a mixture of cooler groundwater into the flow of hot water.

Where are they found?

Hot springs truly are the world’s original spa – interestingly, the term ‘spa’ originates from the town of Spa, Belgium, made famous for its hot springs. Typically, hot springs are found where there is volcanic activity or magma chambers, or where there are fault lines in the Earth. This being the case, there are hot springs all over the world; USA, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Japan, and Canada, including even right here in our own backyard at our British Columbia location.

Therapeutic Benefits

Due to the folklore and health benefits of hot springs, it is no wonder they are a popular tourist destination, and increasingly more so these days, as well as being used regularly as a form of therapy or for rehabilitation.

Hot springs have an especially high mineral content, because heated water can hold more dissolved solids. This means a given hot spring can contain everything from calcium, magnesium, silica, lithium, and even radium. Like a multivitamin for the skin! Sulphur, in particular, explains that pleasant aroma springs can sometimes have – dissolved sulphur in the water is converted to hydrogen sulphide by way of bacteria, explaining this harmless but undesirable ‘rotten egg’ smell that some hot springs are blessed with.

The heat in hot springs envelopes and helps soothe aching muscles, and the minerals present in the water get soaked up by the skin, and stimulate certain bodily processes. So how exactly do the combination of these minerals and this hot water, help us?

Musculoskeletal problems: Documented in Chinese and Japanese history, hot springs have been used to aid with swollen joints, arthritis, muscle fatigue, ligament damage, and more.

Eczema: Chronically dry, flaky skin, otherwise known as eczema, is a skin condition that affects up to 15% of Americans and Canadians. Regularly soaking in hot springs has been found to reduce eczema itching, redness, and cover.

Nasal Congestion: The heat of the water combined with sulphur makes for a winning combination to combat nasal congestion, whether this is due to the common cold, allergies, or even chest congestion.

Circulation: Specifically, sodium bicarbonate and calcium found in mineral hot springs help with good circulation in the body. This can have numerous positive impacts, including lower blood pressure. The weightlessness that comes with floating in the water also helps for good circulation.

Relaxation: Never to be underestimated, is the power of de-stressing and relaxation. A stressed state can lead to all kinds of health complications, such as high blood pressure, depression, and an increase in the output of the stress hormone, cortisol. When Cortisol is released in stress-induced doses, this can mess with our hormonal balance, which in turn, unfortunately, affects just about everything, including our mood, our immune system, and our metabolism. As in, the key to a faster metabolism and being able to shed those pounds, is having balanced hormones, not stressed, unbalanced hormones. So whatever your method of choice, whether you relax with hot springs, a good book, or both, make sure you do invest in yourself through stress reduction and relaxation.

Conversely, let’s look at it from the perspective of the different minerals present in hot springs, and how they help our health:

  • Magnesium: aids with a clear complexion, and healthy-looking skin
  • Potassium: eliminates toxins and promotes healthy skin
  • Sodium: decreases inflammation in swollen joints, and can help the lymphatic system
  • Sulphur: helps with respiratory problems and skin inflammations

And depending on the hot spring you are visiting, there are likely many more minerals present in the water. As a word of caution, hot springs can sometimes be too hot for those with very high blood pressure, certain heart conditions, and less robust immune systems, such as pregnant women, seniors, and kids. These people should take special precaution if they choose to delight in one of nature’s most sacred playgrounds.

Something we have been enjoying for thousands of years, hot springs have made it to the top of our activity, relaxation and health list for a reason! I don’t know about you, but I think it’s time to go for a soak…

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at or reach out below:

Bedtime Yoga | Best Restorative Poses to Promote Sleep

Bedtime Yoga

One of the reasons we have difficulty sleeping at night is because we are over stimulated. Our brains are wired to process all incoming information from our five senses to predict the appropriate state for our body’s systems. “Should I be ready? Or should I rest?” These two autonomic nervous system states are called the sympathetic (fight or flight) and the parasympathetic (rest and digest).

Staring at screens and/or hearing loud noises automatically puts us into a state of readiness. This is why it’s so important to shut off our digital devices at least 30 minutes before bed and to follow the other “insomnia busters” we’ve detailed in previous posts. Another way to calm your mind and prepare your body for sleep is to use such tools as relaxation breathing or restorative yoga to promote our parasympathetic system, the state we need to obtain in order to sleep deeply.

Here are the four poses Katya recommends to do in order to prepare your body and mind for a perfect night’s sleep.

Legs up the wall

Legs up the wall pose

Begin by sitting on the floor or the bed with one hip against the wall. Swing both of your legs up the wall as you lay down on your back; your body should form a 90-degree angle with the wall. For increased benefits, slide a firm pillow or yoga bolster beneath your hips. Relax and belly breathe for several minutes.

Supported forward twist

Supported Forward Twist

Sit on the floor and have a firm pillow or bolster nearby. Bend both knees and swing your feet to the left side of your body. Place the bolster to the outside of your right hip extending away from you. Lengthen your spine and twist to the right. Lay your torso along the bolster, resting on one cheek. Breath into the sides of your body for 10 deep breaths. Repeat rotating the opposite way.

Supported child’s pose

Supported Child's Pose

Get onto all fours. Sit back on your heels, separating your knees so that they’re about shoulder-width apart. Place a firm pillow or bolster between your legs extending away from you. Fold forward from the hips, lengthening the belly along the bolster. Rest deeply as you breathe into the back of your body for one minute.

Reclined butterfly pose


Sit on the ground or the bed with several firm pillows or a bolster propped up behind you. Bring the soles of your feet together, allowing the knees to fall outwards. Support the knees if you like with pillows. Lay back on the pillows so that you are at a 45-degree angle. Place a folded towel beneath your neck for support. Place an eye bag over your eyes if you’d like and belly breath for several minutes.

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at or reach out below:

Easy Ways to Digital Detox

close up of a group of people holding their phones around a table

“Digital detox” is a buzz phrase we’re hearing more of lately but what exactly is it and why should we do it? After all, isn’t technology meant to improve our lives, helping us keep more connected and freeing up time so we can concentrate on other things?

It is true that technology has vastly improved certain aspects of our day-to-day. But our relationship to digital devices is changing at a rapid pace and it’s important to notice the specific impacts on your life. And to do this, we need to take a step back and discuss toxins, detoxifying, and the role of digital media and devices in all of this.

What is Toxic Load?

A toxin isn’t just a form of poison that enters your body. Toxic-load can also be mental or emotional. It is the result of stagnation through repetition. When there is a build-up of patterns that block energy, we become inflamed and constricted – we lose the natural flow state of expansion and contraction. This could be the increasing interruptions from the constant repetitive information signals to our brain from our digital devices. It could be the build-up of bio-waste and chemical compounds in our body due to the repetitive sitting we do, which limits circulation and elimination. Even our social world can become stagnant if we are not going deeper than social media for our heartfelt interactions.

Why is Detoxifying Important?

Detoxifying is the process of supporting a flow state in our whole being. When we take a break from ongoing patterns and habits, we recalibrate and become “lighter of being.” Our mind, body, and emotional states are interconnected. By taking a break from incessant incoming notifications, not only does our mind get a break from vigilance, but our stress hormone cortisol gets a chance to lower; which in turn supports sleep, appetite, and energy levels. When we move our body (ideally 10,000 steps a day), our circulation, lymph drainage and elimination organs (liver, kidneys, intestines, lungs, and sweat glands) release waste and unhealthy chemicals. And on an emotional level, having an intimate conversation with someone we trust allows the weight of our concerns to be released.

What’s the Best Way to Digital Detox?

Digital detox goes beyond just spending less time in front of a screen. There are other aspects that can be incorporated to ensure a full detox experience. Here are three easy ways to do it:

  1. Electronic Devices: Shut all electronics down one hour before bed. This will allow your Cortisol to drop and will support better sleep. Take that hour to do some restorative yoga, have an Epsom salt bath, or give and receive a massage, all of which aid in toxin release and deep regenerative sleep.
  2. Move More: It’s not enough to be away from your devices for a while and then just sit there waiting for the chance to check them again. Get up! Dance, walk, skate, swim. Keep the blood pumping, Breath deep. All of this will help your elimination system, decrease inflammation and increase a flow state.
  3. Eat Veggies: It may seem odd to mention food when discussing digital detox but the fact is by eating more vegetables, which contain more fiber and antioxidants, you’re helping your elimination system and supporting a lean and clean body. In other words, the more veggies you eat, the more you’ll want to move around, meet friends in person, get outside, and generally enjoy a fuller life.

Of course, the best way to digital detox is to take a break from your day-to-day life and immerse yourself in nature. Click here to learn more about how Mountain Trek supports digital detox through its program.

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at or reach out below: