Stress is the body’s way of responding to life’s demands. While necessary for our survival, in modern times stress has become one of society’s main health challenges contributing to a raft of health conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, adrenal fatigue, hypertension, obesity, anxiety, depression and even cancer.
Short term, stress is great for helping us to make split decisions to ensure our survival but being chronically stressed from an over-demanding job, relationship or life situation can start to have a hugely detrimental impact on your health.
Learn to go with the flow.
Stress can begin to manifest in symptoms like headaches, insomnia, muscle tension, an upset stomach, change in appetite, difficultly concentrating, weight gain or weight loss, irritability, and premature aging.
Whilst it is impossible to remove stress from your life altogether, there are some tips and changes you can make to help your body better cope with stress:
1. Make sleep a priority. Insomnia and sleep often feed each other creating a vicious cycle of sleeplessness, anxiety and fatigue. Ensure that you are getting 7-8 hours high-quality sleep each night to help regulate your cortisol (stress hormone) levels and support your body’s repair processes.
2. Keep hydrated. Dehydration decreases cardiac output, which leads to less blow flow and oxygen for the brain, making you feel fatigued and stressed out. Aim to drink 2-3 litres of good quality water each day to help keep alert, focused and stress-free.
3. Focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking might seem like the best way to power through your to-do list but it can actually decrease productivity and increase your stress. Rather than hurriedly trying to do 10 things at once try focusing on one task at a time.
4. Eat regularly. This will help keep your blood sugar levels steady and prevent fatigue, headaches and stress caused by low glucose levels. Eat well-balanced, nutrient-dense meals and snacks and try to avoid consuming too much sugar and caffeine.
5. Just breathe. If you feel yourself getting stressed take a minute to do some deep breathing to calm your nervous system and bring you back into a state of balance. If you have the time, meditation or a short walk outdoors are great ways to bring down cortisol levels. Mineral supplementation is also very helpful.
Lastly, learn to go with the flow. Stress is often self-inflicted from expectations and demands we put on ourselves. Go easy on yourself and let go of things that are outside of your control. You’ll be a much happier, stress-free person without the worries of the world on your shoulders.
Kirsten Taylor is NZ’s only Naturopathic Sleep Specialist, Naturopath, Medical Herbalist and Nutritionist. She is also Managing Director and formulator for SleepDrops International.