Managing stress – don’t be so hard on yourself

Managing Stress

Have you ever noticed how often we tell each other how busy we are? Most of us are busy with very important things to do, but why the need to ‘advertise’. This work ethic is bound to increase stress levels, and we tend to wear stress ‘like a badge of honour’, proud of how much stress we can take, basking in admiration for being able to take on more projects and being able to handle the stress.

Does this sound like you? What are the long-term effects?

Stress was designed to be short-lived

Stress is derived from Latin to ‘draw tight’, like a bow ready to let off an arrow. Stress should be momentary, but consistently stressed has become the default state for most.

Stress is one of the body’s responses that keeps us safe and alive. When you are stressed your body goes into fight or flight mode. Your breathing becomes rapid and shallow, your heart rate increases, and your body releases the hormones adrenaline and cortisol so that you can run away from the oncoming danger of a hungry lion!

This was vital back in yesteryear, but today our brains cannot tell the difference between a hungry lion and a project deadline.

Our bodies don’t cope with constant stress and go into shut-down.

  • You don’t digest your food properly.
  • You start to put on fat, especially around the middle.
  • Your immune system becomes disrupted, leading to long-term health conditions.
  • Your sleep becomes disrupted, as your hormones change.
  • Sex drive decreases as stress hormones are produced in preference to sex hormones.
  • Your reasoning, anger control, judgement and attention are impaired.
  • You become anxious and depressed.

Change your attitude to stress

Rather than wearing your stress as a ‘badge of honour’, treat stress as a warning sign that your life needs to change. Constant stress will increase the likelihood of you suffering from an auto-immune disease [1], be it heart disease, arthritis or diabetes.

3 ways to help your body combat stress

1. Eat a stress buster diet

  • Complex Carbohydrates – Replacing refined carbohydrates like white bread, cakes and pasta with complex carbohydrates such as wholegrains and vegetables will help balance blood sugar and stress hormones.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – Omega-3 fatty acids are important for brain function. Good sources include oily fish, nuts and seeds.
  • Herbal teas – Switch from stimulating coffees to soothing herbal teas like chamomile, peppermint or lemon balm.
  • Dark leafy greens – Green leaves like spinach and chard contain high amounts of folate which help increase the mood enhancing brain chemicals, serotonin and dopamine.

2. Take supplement support

Natural supplements can back up a stress busting diet by supporting the adrenal glands and reducing inflammation. Make sure they contain:

  • Magnesium – Healthy magnesium levels enable your muscles to relax, and can help aid sleep
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – Omega-3 has a beneficial effect on anxiety and inflammation.
  • L-theanine – An amino acid with an ability to increase relaxation, reduce stress and keep you focussed.

Vive’s magnesium product was created with stress and relaxation in mind and includes both magnesium and L-theanine along with other nutrients, like lemon balm and rhodiola root, adaptogenic herbs that are valued in herbal medicine for their calming effect on the body.

3. Practice Mindfulness

Practising mindfulness is a way to transform stress into resilience in the moment. Find time each day to sit quietly and take time to breathe slowly in and out. Let go of your thoughts and simply observe your breath as it enters your body and fills you with life. If you are somebody who thought they’d never be able to meditate, guess what? You are halfway there already!

The Bottom Line: Stress is a killer and doesn’t need to be something that we have to endure. Simple changes to how you view it and support your body will build your resilience to it.

References

  1. Dube, S. Fairweather, D. Pearson, W. et al. (2009) ‘Cumulative childhood stress and autoimmune diseases in adults’ Psychosom Med 71(2);243-250.