Is Stress Deterring You From Health?
From what I say on a day-today basis, stress is the number one health killer. About 2 years ago I was suffering from very high stress and anxiety. My stress hormone ( cortisol) was sky high on my medical tests. This caused me an array of health issues. It is so important we live our lives with minimal stress for optimal health.
Stress is now a common fixture in our hectic, busy lives. Small amounts of stress that are easily resolved can be beneficial in motivating and helping us achieve our goals. Although chronic or long-term stress affects each of us differently, it ultimately affects the whole body in a negative way and may contribute to many health complaints.
Is your health being affected by stress? Do you often feel anxious, worried, depressed, irritable, exhausted, overloaded or forgetful? Do you suffer from stiff or sore muscles or joints, tension headaches, high blood pressure, frequent colds or the flu? Or do you have irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, an increase or loss of appetite, or worsening of an existing illness or condition? If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, your body may be overburdened by stress.
Thousands of years ago, we may have been faced with the threat of a sabre tooth tiger and our immediate response to this was one of two reactions: to attack or run away. This is now known as the fight or flight response. Once this stress response is triggered, chemical messengers called adrenaline, cortisol and noradrenaline are produced by the adrenal glands and brain. These messengers increase blood flow to the essential organs such as the heart, lungs, brain and muscles to help us fight or run away. Digestive function slows down as this is less important in survival mode. Cortisol also increases the amount of sugar released into the blood to provide energy for our muscles to attack or run. In the past, stress was short- lived and once the stress was over, these chemical messengers shortly returned to normal.
Where’s the Off Switch?
Over time our bodies have not changed this biological response to stress. Although the sabre tooth tigers are long gone, the physical threat to our lives and limbs has been replaced with the modern day stress of long work hours, financial worries, traffic jams and family issues. So what happens if this stress response does not turn off because of our non-stop busy lifestyles?
Ongoing stress that does not resolve may result in chronic stress, which can be the underlying cause of many health conditions. Chronic stress can impact body systems such as the cardiovascular system by contributing to high blood pressure. It can also take its toll on your nervous system leading to exhaustion, headaches and insomnia. Your digestive and immune systems can also be weakened by stress, making you more susceptible to irritable bowel syndrome, frequent colds and the flu.
Stress causes the body hormonal imbalances that will also lead to weight gain through high cortisol and blood sugar imbalance.
Top Stress Busting Tips:
- Sleep more- allow 8 hours for your cells to repair for healthy hormones and overall health. If you are rested, you will adapt better high stress situations.
- Rest and relax with restorative exercises. When stressed I advise people to enjoy exercise that allows the body to heal such as yoga, tai chi, meditation, brisk walking or lie with your legs up on the wall for a few minutes after a long day- these exercises are so beneficial for the body and hormones in times of stress- perhaps more beneficial than a cycle class.
- Still enjoy a good workout if you are feeling up to it- exercise will release endorphins which will help you to feel good.
- Think positive- healthy mind = healthy body. What you put out, you get back. wake up ad think of 5 things you are grateful for- I do this every morning.
- Eat Nutritious foods- for a healthy mind and body, eat a diet abundant in fresh, brightly coloured fruits and vegetables. Consume protein with meals and snacks, and enjoy foods high in essential fatty acids such as oily fish, nuts and seeds. Enjoy a few cups of chamomile tea a day. Minimise your intake of caffeine, energy drinks, sugar, alcohol and processed foods as these will contribute to fatigue in the long-term.
- Enjoy a well-deserved massage or some other blissful treatment – perhaps soak in a bath with relaxing aromatherapy oils such as lavender, ylang ylang, chamomile or geranium. Simply enjoy a herbal tea and a book in piece and quite for a few minutes a day.
- Say NO to social arrangements when you feel overwhelmed- rather use the time for yourself to rest. Do something for you! Your friends will be there for you!
- Supplements to consider when stressed ( with the guidance from a doctor/nutritionist). Magnesium, glutamine and B vitamins are used in abundance during times of stress, when the body’s requirement for these key nutrients is increased. Magnesium assists in muscle relaxation and calms the nervous system.
Although the stress of modern life is inescapable, it is important to remember that we can easily manage our response to stress with the help of dietary and lifestyle changes and some key natural medicines. Supporting a healthy stress response will allow you to feel more energised, resilient and ready to tackle life, so you can maintain the state of health and wellness that you deserve.