I remember being stressed for most of my working life. There are not many people I know who don’t have several stressful moments in their lives. Stress is omnipresent, it seems to rule our lives more and more every year and not many can escape. It burdens employers with increased healthcare costs, absenteeism and lost productivity. It is also a misunderstood condition as many illnesses are due to stress but not recognized as such by western medicine. Adrenal fatigue is one common example, only recently the medical world seems to have noticed that it is a condition mostly due to stress. Stress is also often used as an excuse. I was always told that ulcer is caused by excessive stress. It may have contributed, but in my case, H.Pylori was the main culprit.
What is stress and why is it bad?
Normally stress is the body’s response to a dangerous situation. That’s when we have a fight or flight response, all our defense systems are on high alert, ready to fight or put all the energy together to run away from the perceived danger. We all know the feeling far too well, it is as if somebody punched us in the stomach. This is usually a healthy reaction and is meant to help us to survive in emergency situations.
The problem is that people with stressful lives are living semi-permanently in this kind of hyper-alert state.
That is the moment when dis-ease starts, as it is too demanding on the body to be in a state of constant alert. A certain amount of stress is unavoidable and is part of today’s life, so it is important to learn how to deal with it. Stress mostly has a direct effect on our digestive system and leads to nutrient deficiencies and hormone imbalances. The more stress, the more specific nutrients are needed to support the metabolism and overall bodily functions that are overstimulated leaving the body depleted. Another consequences is poor digestion, this will cause inefficient absorption of the nutrients our bodies need. It is often a vicious circle and can lead to more serious illnesses which may be caused or aggravated by constant stress. The following conditions may be connected to high stress.
- Various skin problems such as acne, eczema and even wrinkles
- Various psychological problems including depression and anxiety
- PMS and hormonal imbalances
- High blood pressure and Cardiovascular diseases
- Eating and weight problems
- Fatigue, CFS and adrenal fatigue
- Sexual health
- Some autoimmune diseases
- Weakened immune system
How to improve stress?
So what are the best remedies to reduce stress and stress- related illnesses besides moving to a remote island and stopping to work? Here is our advice:
Some foods are known to have a positive effect on stress such as:
- Whole unrefined grains aid serotine production which acts as a “good mood hormone”
- You will be glad to hear that dark chocolate helps but only the 75% or higher cacao percentage, below this level milk and sugar are counteracting the good effects. Raw cocoa powder is even better, use it for smoothies and baking
- Walnuts are a stress superfood as they increase serotonin and decrease cortisol and blood pressure
- Sunflower seeds assist dopamine production
- Leafy greens have plenty of Magnesium, a natural relaxant
- Asparagus contains Folic acid which is a mood stabilizer
- Almonds are high in Vitamin E and Citrus in Vitamin C, both great antioxidants
Also remember that unhealthy habits such as eating junk-food, smoking and alcohol, while apparently relaxing and comforting, are well known to increase stress levels.
Some supplements may help to balance stress induced deficiencies. A good multivitamin with antioxidants, Folic acid, Zinc, Vitamin C and Vitamin B complex provides great support. Magnesium, Calcium and Potassium help relax.
Some great relaxing herbs are Valerian, Gotu Kola and Lemon Balm. Passionflower and Melatonin may help with sleep. My favorite essential oil is lavender
It is also recommended to do regular exercise and have regular 7-8 hours’ sleep. Yoga and relaxation methods such as meditation, mindfulness or massage are great aids to combat stress. Journaling and a daily planner may help to get more focused and organized.
When you are in a stressful situation try to step back for a moment, take some deep breaths, laugh or smile, drink some water or have a short walk.
If you feel you can’t cope, don’t hesitate to see a therapist. And don’t forget, sex is a great way to release stress too 🙂
I have been applying most of the above lifestyle changes over time to my own life and can say that I am far less stressed. Not always, but in general I am coping much better nowadays. If you want to improve your stress levels and related illnesses by applying a healthy lifestyle and better nutrition, contact me.
By: Andrea Caprio
Holistic Nutrition and Wellness coach
Wellness Methods offers tailor-made Corporate Wellness programs, Health and Nutrition Coaching for busy people