19 Apr How to deal with stress?
Nowadays, stress affects everyone, young and old, rich and poor. Life is full of stress. Stress is an aspect of life that we must all deal with. There are three theories regarding stress:
- The environmental stress-related.
- Emotional stress.
- Biological stress.
Before we move to the biggest part, let’s find out what causes stress? What are the negative effects of stress? How do you deal with stress? Can healthy diets help relieve stress?
What causes stress?
Things that cause us stress are called stressors. Stress can be positive, keeping us alert, motivated, and ready to avoid danger. Stress becomes negative when it exceeds our ability to cope. It fatigues body systems and causes behavioural or physical problems. This harmful stress is called distress. Distress produces overreaction, confusion, poor concentration and performance, anxiety and usually results in subpar performance.
What are the negative effects of stress?
When stressed, the body thinks it is under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode, releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine to prepare the body for physical action. A certain amount of stress can also help you to reach your goals or to perform better, perhaps during an exam, a job interview, or sporting activities.
Not all stress has a negative effect. When the body tolerates stress and uses it to overcome lethargy or enhance performance, the stress is positive, healthy and challenging. Stress is positive when it forces us to adapt and thus to increase the strength of our adaptation mechanisms, warns us that we are not coping well and that a lifestyle change is warranted if we are to maintain optimal health.
However, chronic stress can wear down the body’s natural defences, leading to a variety of physical symptoms, including:
Musculoskeletal system: Your muscles tense up to protect you from injury. Too much stress can lead to body aches and pains, tension headaches, muscle spasms.
- Respiratory system: You breathe faster to take in more oxygen. Too much stress can lead to hyperventilation and shortness of breath, as well as panic attacks in those who are prone to them.
- Endocrine system: Your glands produce the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which help the body react to stress. Too much stress can lead to diabetes, lower immunity and increase illness, mood swings, weight gain.
- Reproductive system: Too much stress can lead to impotence, disrupted menstrual cycle.
- Nervous system: Your nervous system causes hormones such as adrenaline, and cortisol to be released. Too much stress can lead to irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches, insomnia.
Cardiovascular system: Too much stress can lead to high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke.
- Gastrointestinal system: The way your body processes food is disrupted. Too much stress can to nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation.
How do you deal with stress?
To deal with stress you need to think about your physical health, and the way you interact with others, your goals and priorities in life. The things you consider to be truly important.
Here are a few ways to deal with stress:
- Try to live one day at a time: “Daily anxieties are a part of life. But do not increase today’s anxieties by adding tomorrow’s to them. Try to live one day at a time” Matthew 6:34
Stress can cause anxiety. So, try this: First, recognize that some stress is inevitable. Second, understand that quite often things do not turn out the way we may fear they will.
- Set reasonable standards: “Do not be a perfectionist. Avoid setting unrealistically high standards for yourself or others” James 3:17
Be modest, set reasonable standards, and know both limitations and those of others. Also, keep a sense of humour. Laughing, even when something goes wrong, relieves tension and brightens your mood.
- Know what stresses you: “Negative emotions can cloud clear thinking, so try to stay calm” Proverbs 17:27
Identify what stresses you, and note your response. Also, think of ways to eliminate stressful things from your life.
Try to see things in a different light. What stresses you may not stress someone else.
- Try to be Orderly: “Try to maintain order in your life” 1 Corinthians 14:40
Why not try this two suggestion?
- Make a practical schedule, and stick to it
- Identify and correct any attitudes that cause you to procrastinate
- Pursue a balanced lifestyle: “Better is harmful of rest than two handfuls of hard work and chasing after the wind”
Have a realistic view of work and money. More money does not mean more happiness or less stress. It’s important to make time to relax. You relieve stress when you do the things you enjoy.
Keep technology in its place. Avoid constantly checking e-mail, texts or social media sites.
- Take care of your health: “Regular exercise promotes better health” 1 Timothy 4:8
Physical activity can lift your mood and improve your body’s response to stress. Eat nutritious food, and try to avoid skipping meals. Be sure to get enough rest.
Avoid harmful solutions to stress such as smoking or drug and alcohol abuse. If your stress becomes overwhelming please see your doctor. Also, getting professional help is not an admission of failure.
Can healthy diets help relieve stress?
It’s possible that someone eating a healthy, balanced diet is going to be far less stressed than someone eating a poor diet. If you’re feeling overly stressed, your digestive system is probably under a great deal of strain, making changes to your diet could be key to feeling better physically and emotionally.
Here are some stress-relieving foods to include in your diet and certain foods to avoid which may help to improve symptoms.
A- Foods that can have negative effects on the body when under stress include:
This is a natural stimulant most commonly found in tea, coffee and some soft drinks Caffeine reduces our ability to deal with stress, this is because it acts as a stimulant, causing the adrenal glands to release more hormones like cortisol (which are already high due to the strain our bodies are under). Higher levels of caffeine also contribute to insomnia and nervousness, which are intrinsically linked to stress.
However, the consumption of caffeine can also deplete levels of magnesium (needed for energy production) and metabolism-boosting B vitamins from the body.
- Foods highs in fat and sugar:
Cravings for processed and sugary foods may be heightened when you are feeling stressed, but it is important to avoid consuming these in high quantities.
Sugar, for example, will provide a short burst of energy and temporary relief from stressful feelings, but this will be swiftly followed by a ‘low’ period when your blood sugar levels crash. This can lead to irritability and increased food cravings, which can put a strain on the body.
Many people turn to alcohol as a means of dealing with stress. While it may have an instant calming effect on the body, in the long-term alcohol increases the amount of stress in people’s lives. Drinking heavily can lead to complications such as addiction and can take a toll on overall health and well-being. Sleep problems, nervousness and skin irritations are common side effects of drinking because alcohol makes the body release larger amounts of adrenaline and affects blood sugar levels.
B) Stress-relieving foods to eat more of:
Eating a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables will ensure you get plenty of nutrients and minerals, which is crucial when your body is feeling stressed and using more nutrients than it normally would.
Aim to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day to get a sufficient amount of vitamins and minerals, and focus on foods containing vitamins B, C and magnesium.
Eating healthy snacks throughout the day, such as fruit, raw vegetables, yoghurt, nuts and seeds will help your blood sugar levels stable and your metabolism functioning smoothly.
Eating whole, unprocessed carbohydrates such as wholegrain bread, pasta and cereals, as well as oats and brown rice will help to enhance levels of serotonin the mood-boosting hormone that helps you to feel happy and more relaxed.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs):
Essential fatty acids (Omega 3 and 6) are vital nutrients, which help the body to function effectively, particularly the brain. EFAs also help to moderate the effects of psychological and physical stress. This is because they lower the release of glucocorticoids (hormones released from the adrenal gland) under stressful conditions. To get the right balance of EFAs in your diet, eat sources such as oily fish, nuts and seeds.
Research into stress and diet shows that calcium may be able to help reduce certain symptoms, such as muscle tension and anxiety. Therefore, including plenty of calcium-rich foods in your diet (such as low-fat milk, yoghurt, sesame seeds, kelp, cheese, leafy greens and broccoli) may be beneficial. Eating these in the latter part of the day is thought to help with absorption.
- Cohen S, Kessler RC, Gordon LU. Strategies for measuring stress in studies of psychiatric and physical disorders. In: Cohen S, Kessler RC, Gordon LU, editors. Measuring stress: A guide for Health and Social Scientists. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 1995.