Is it me or are all we all more stressed these days?
From school, what to study, to career choice, to finances, rent, mortgage, to life choices, boyfriends, husbands, kids, to how to balance it all…and the list goes on and on!
But whilst many of us might think of stress as simply being under a bit of pressure and having to juggle a number of things, it can have further implications to general health and wellness. In my bio I alluded to studying nutrition and what I’m discovering more and more is how much stress impacts on our whole body and it’s functions (including digestion). Many nutritional complaints originate from stress as do numerous other irritations and infections so learning to identify and cope with modern day stress is becoming more important for all of us.
The reason I talk about “modern day” stress is because our body’s are finely tuned to react to stressful situations but most of our defences are based on old-fashioned fight or flight scenarios eg run away from danger. Modern day stress differs as it’s often more emotional or psychological eg dealing with a horrible boss everyday at work but the reaction in our body is still the same.
Our natural defence is to prime the body for flight; increase heart rate and blood pressure, dilate the lungs to let more oxygen in, suppress the digestive and immune systems (as no time to digest or repair when in danger). When stressed we get that classic adrenalin rush that carries us through after which our body returns to normal.
However modem stresses are often longer lasting such as problems at work, illnesses, money issues, everyday family stresses and so our bodies stay in stress mode for long periods of time causing physiological damage. How to balance these stresses is somewhat of a million dollar question but recognising stress and its symptoms is the first step.
It makes perfect sense to have increased blood pressure or more oxygen going to the lungs and muscles when fleeing but not when sat at your desk worrying about issues at work. And suppressing digestion so you can lighten the load to run is again helpful when jumping out of the way of a bus but not when over prolonged periods your body continues to digest poorly meaning its not getting the vitamins and minerals your body needs to function healthy. Likewise with the immune system, great to save repair for later when you need to move out of stressful or harmful situations quickly but not if over time your body starts to lack protection from infection and illness.
Think about how you feel when stressed?
Sufferers of long time stress often suffer from continuous colds, headaches or from complaints such as irritable bowel system and poor concentration coming from reduced digestive capabilities. The goodness we put into our bodies is what keeps everything running smoothly. Healthy brains, healthy cells, healthy blood, healthy skin, nails and hair etc all need vitamins and minerals but if our body stops digesting properly and they don’t get absorbed then everything suffers.
So it’s key we all learn to spot the symptoms of long term stress and act on them quickly before they turn into more serious complaints.
Eating well in times of stress ensures the body is getting the nutrition and ammunition it needs to cope with stress.
Relaxation techniques help lower blood pressure, heart rate and return breathing to normal. This can be anything from yoga, meditation, swimming, reading, walking, listening to music or anything that helps you relax.
And help is at hand from many experts across all fields so don’t be afraid to seek help if you think you or a family member may be suffering from extreme or long term stress. Health is one of the key drivers of our happiness so we all need to stay as healthy as we can!