So, what is stress exactly? “Stress refers to any reaction to a physical, mental, social, or emotional stimulus that requires a response or alteration to the way we perform, think, or feel.” (Phyllis A. Balch, 736)
Stress can be caused in all kinds of different ways; however, we do need some stress in our lives in order to function. It only gets problematic when we become overwhelmed with stress and lose control of managing it. Our bodies have a ‘fight or flight’ response, designed to deal with immediate dangers; however, in this busy modern world, our bodies tend to respond in this way a little too often, which can cause exhaustion of our adrenals.
When we are stressed, our adrenals produce hormones called cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. The more stressed we are, the higher the production of these hormones (by the adrenal glands). If we produce too much of these hormones, other problems can be created within our bodies.
There are many factors that can lead to release of the cortisol hormone, and the causes can be very different for different people. Some common sources of stress include:
· Starting a new job
· Moving to a new place
· Financial difficulties
· Family changes
· Health issues
· Physical challenges
· Emotional challenges
· Work demands
· Attitude towards self
Signs and Symptoms
Some of the signs and symptoms related to an excess of stress in our lives include:
· Fat around the abdominal area
· Unstable blood sugar
· Supressed immune system
· Changes in sleep patterns
· Slowing of digestion
· Nutritional deficiencies
· Increased cholesterol levels
· Neck and back pains
How to Manage Stress
“Stress is not the situations or incidents themselves; rather, real stress comes from the way we react to these events or experiences.” (Elson M. Haas, 598)
We are under a certain amount of stress all the time; however, we do not need to become overwhelmed by it. There are ways to manage stress, some of which include:
Meditation is a great way to direct our minds to think more positively and create beneficial attitudes. By adjusting our mindset, we are able to better deal with stressful situations and calm our outlook of an event or experience.
Exercise is another great way to manage stress. Maintaining regular exercise helps clear the mind, promotes better sleep, and improves energy levels – all important ways to help with symptoms of stress. Exercise also helps boost the production of those feel-good endorphins. Let’s get physical, let’s get positive!
A diet packed with whole, natural, and nutrient-dense foods is a wonderful way to promote good health and prevent overwhelming stress. Avoiding stimulants and foods that are high in sugar is very important.
One of the effects of unmanageable stress is nutrient deficiencies. The B vitamins and antioxidants are significantly depleted when experiencing high levels of stress. So, I can’t ‘stress’ strongly enough the need to include as many foods as possible in your diet that provide these nutrients! Some of these foods include:
· Brown rice
· Leafy green vegetables
· Sunflower seeds
· Green tea
Supplementing the diet with a good-quality B-complex and an antioxidant formula may also be beneficial during stressful times.
Some other great nutrients to include in your diet are:
· Calcium: sesame seeds, spinach and legumes
· Magnesium: pumpkin seeds, cacao and almonds
· Choline: salmon, eggs and avocados
If you need a boost, you may want to seek out a good-quality supplement, too.
Are you feeling overwhelmed with stress? Need help picking the right foods and supplements for your body? Connect with me and we’ll get you on track with managing those stressors!
Want to learn more about how to manage stress? Click here and tune in to Drew Taddia's 'Exploring Mind and Body Radio' to hear Drew interview Dr. Ciaramicoli about "The Stress Solution". Or, simply hit the 'play' button below.
Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for Nutritional Healing. New York: Avery, 2010. Print.
Chodron, Thubten. Open Heart, Clear Mind. Ithaca, NY, USA: Snow Lion Publications, 1990. Print.
Haas, Elson M., and Buck Levin. Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine. Berkeley: Celestial Arts, 2006. Print.