And, Valuable Tips to Help You Do Just That!
Without a doubt, being overstressed is a gigantic contributing factor to health problems. Without a doubt, it causes sleep loss and affects all kinds of bodily functions. Without a doubt, it’s a problem. Without a doubt!
The ubiquity of chronic stress in our busy, modern world is undeniable. In fact, if you looked around at most of the population, you’d think that being stressed, anxious, depressed, irritable, addicted to caffeine and craving salty or sugary foods was normal human behavior. But just because something is common doesn’t make it normal.
This almost palpable undercurrent of stress and anxiety impacts not only the health of society but the health of your body and mind as well. In fact, a recent Harvard and Stanford study suggests that work-related stress is as detrimental to your health as secondhand smoke!
Why might that be? Below is a list from Dr. William Cole* concerning various ways stress can impact your body backed up with a vast amount of scientific research. Of course, the goal isn’t to stress you out more with this information; rather, consider these to be nine more reasons to focus on what you can do to manage stress. Let’s take a stress-free look, shall we?
1. YOUR BRAIN
When you’re stressed, your brain’s hypothalamus sends orders to your adrenal glands to release cortisol and adrenaline. One study published in the medical journal Molecular Psychiatry found that chronic stress actually triggers long-term changes in the structure and function of the brain — changes which can contribute to mental health issues.
In fact, research has shown that chronic stress is associated with an increased risk of conditions like depression, anxiety, insomnia and even dementia.
2. YOUR WEIGHT
Feel like you’re unable to lose weight sustainably? Many people might be holding onto weight because of stress. A study published in Biological Psychiatry found that chronic stress alone can slow your metabolism and increase cravings enough to make you gain 11 pounds every year!
3. YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
Many Dr. Cole’s patients with autoimmune conditions have noticed their health declining during a stressful life event.
Research has confirmed the stress-autoimmune connection. A 2001 study found that autoimmune thyroid patients had more stressful life events before their diagnosis compared to control groups. And a 2012 study published in Psychosomatic Medicine found that childhood traumatic stress increased the likelihood of being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease later in life.
4. YOUR THYROID
Stress can impact your thyroid in many different ways. For example, some studies suggest that stress decreases your conversion from T4 (inactive) to T3 (active) leading to low T3 syndrome, trigger autoimmune thyroid problems (Hashimoto’s and Graves’ disease), or cause thyroid resistance.
For more on this, read about some of the underlying thyroid problems that may not show up on your standard labs.
5. YOUR GASTROINTESTINAL SYSTEM
Your gut is known as your second brain. In fact, it contains 95% of your serotonin, or “happy” neurotransmitter. So it’s not surprising that a 2011 study published in the Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology suggests that stress is linked to gastrointestinal conditions like IBS, GERD, and ulcers.
6. YOUR HEART
Many of my patients have noticed their health declining during their time caring for an ailing partner or parent. In fact, a study in Psychosomatic Medicine found that caregivers under chronic stress had an increased rate of heart disease, compared to non-caregivers.
Plus, a BMJ study suggests that stress at work is an important risk factor for metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions — like high triglycerides (a fat found in the blood) and high blood sugar — that raise your risk of heart disease and other health problems.
7. YOUR EYES AND EARS
Have your eyes ever annoyingly twitched? Chronic stress can lead to eye twitching and spasms. Plus, chronic stress has also been linked to ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and vertigo, both of which can be debilitating.
8. YOUR ADRENAL GLANDS
One University of California, Berkeley, study showed that while the brain signals the release of cortisol through the HPA (brain-adrenal) axis, excess cortisol will in turn hurt your brain.
In other words, chronically high cortisol can create a domino effect that actually changes pathways between the hippocampus and amygdala — it’s a vicious cycle where the brain becomes hard-wired to be in a constant state of fight-or-flight. Overtime, this also can lead to what’s called adrenal fatigue.
9. YOUR CHROMOSOMES
Telomeres, the end-caps to your chromosomes, are linked to aging and disease. In general, the longer your telomeres, the longer your life and vice versa.
Research has shown that chronic stress actually shortens your telomere lengths, which accelerates your aging. Another study found that women under chronic stress had telomeres that were shorter than those of low-stress women — equivalent to a decade of aging.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO NOW?
If you’re waiting for the right time to focus on stress management and your overall health, it’s now.
Research shows that mindfulness meditation can be one effective way to break the unrelenting storm of stress.
Mark Sisson, the author of The Primal Blueprint and a renowned expert on primal living and the effects of stress on the body and mind suggests a few things below to help destress our lives including altering our biochemistry for the good.
An ounce of prevention is worth… you know the saying. Just as Batman depends on extensive amounts of prep-time to defeat his often-physically superior opponents, our bodies do best when we lay a strong foundation before stress hits. That means:
Brace for the Punch
Stress will come. It cannot be avoided. Accept this. In my experience if you don’t and then stress comes it will hit you harder than if you had accepted its inevitability. How you think about stress affects and even determines how it’s expressed in your physiology.
You know what? There’s nothing wrong with a little order in your life, especially if you’re worried about family-related stress. It’s not always good to fly by the seat of my pants if large groups are involved; it’s good to know what we’re doing, with whom we’re doing it, and when it’s going to happen. If things have the potential for spiraling out of control, make a schedule to minimize the guesswork.
Balance Your Omega 6 to Omega 3 Fatty Acid Intake
Our bodies use the PUFAs (Polyunsaturated fatty acids) we eat to manufacture inflammatory cytokines, which are part of the stress response. If the ratio is all out of whack, the response to stressors will be overly inflammatory. An overabundance of omega-6 fats, for example, will produce an overabundance of IL-6, one of the premier inflammatory stress-response cytokines that’s potent in small doses but overwhelming in large doses. Avoid industrial seed oils, vegetable oils, and try to eat fatty fish. Take fish oil, and favor pastured animal products over CAFO (Concentrated animal feeding operation) products.
Go Primal. Yesterday.
Being healthier, stronger, fitter, and less metabolically deranged will prepare your body for the coming onslaught, and going Primal is the best way to become those things. Ditch the grains, legumes, sugar, and seed oils if you haven’t already; start a resistance training and sprinting regimen to build up those muscles and organ reserves, because you’re gonna need them; start a normal, healthy sleep schedule.
Avoiding unnecessary and excessive stress is the best way, but it’s also the trickiest. Oh, I suppose we could go Thoreau and become hermits to avoid social stress, but then some of us could go crazy from the stress of isolation. Let’s explore some effective, realistic strategies for stress avoidance.
Know Your Limits, and Hold Yourself to Them
Humans are finite. We can’t be everywhere at once. Be honest with yourself when apportioning your time. You probably can’t wrap up work by noon, have two lunch meetings, pick up groceries, prepare a five course meal, then meet up with friends for drinks all in a single day without driving yourself mad from the stress of it all. But if you’re honest about your limits from the very start, you won’t have failed, and there will be no stress – because you never convinced yourself the impossible could be done in the first place. Don’t overcommit!
Opt for Acute, Rather Than Chronic Stress
We’re built to handle acute stress. Things like animal attacks, natural disasters, confrontations on the street – these are examples of acute stressors. They may not be pleasant, per se, but they make us feel alive. Time slows down, your senses hone in, and you just tough it out. But what about sitting in traffic for two hours every day on the way to and from work? It’s not exciting. It’s mind numbing chronic stress that drives you insane.
I’m not asking you to go get mugged or wrestle with a mountain lion; I’m saying instead of sitting around the house or battling the holiday crowds, go for a hike. Head off trail and climb some boulders. Get dirty and don’t shy away from rough terrain. Invigorate your system with those real-world, in-your-face acute stressors, instead of submitting to chronic stress.
Do One Thing at a Time
Very important point! People are obsessed with multitasking. The ability (or should I say willingness to try?) to do it has become a prerequisite for resumes and job interviews. It’s no longer just something that occasionally occurs during the course of a working day; it has become the norm. People text while driving (very dangerous), check email while eating, check stock quotes while lifting, and browse Facebook on their phones in the middle of conversations.
And yet, for all the focus on multitasking, there’s considerable evidence that true concurrent multitasking is impossible. Instead of cramming multiple tasks into the same temporal space, our brains are actually flitting between various streams at breakneck speed. The illusion of multitasking is there, but we’re really just running around like mad inside our heads. The result is a more superficial understanding of and engagement with the tasks, and a more scattered, battered brain. Focus on a single task, item, or duty at once before moving on to the next one.
Remove yourself from stressful situations. Turn off the computer, shut down the laptop, leave the cell phone at home. Walk to the corner store; don’t drive. Turn off the TV and turn to your loved ones instead. Talk things out, read stories, tell jokes. This is how humans typically relaxed and retooled, with mental and social stimulation. Disconnect from LCD (or plasma) screens and unnatural lighting, and connect with the people you love.
Prevention, avoidance, acceptance – these are all fine and dandy, but sometimes you just wanna know if there are any dietary, lifestyle, or supplement hacks for stress relief, especially once stress has already arrived and looks to be staying for an extended visit. Luckily, there are some things you can try, supplements you can take, and strategies you can employ:
This is not a new concept, but well worth reiterating: breathing deeply can reduce stress by promoting relaxation. Just focus on belly breathing through your nose, and exhaling – slowly – through your mouth. Use a chant or a prayer if you need guidance to breathe deeply and rhythmically.
Explore the Blurry Realm of Causality and Correlation
Happy people are not stressed out. Are they happy because they’re stress-free, or are they stress-free because they’re happy? And to go a bit further, are they happy because they’re smiling, or are they smiling because they’re happy? If you’re unhappy without justification for smiling, does smiling produce happy feelings? I’m not sure, but in my experience, these states of mind are all quite malleable and, rather than being a linear cause-and-effect type thing, the smiling and the state of mind are subject to a feedback loop.
You smile enough and eventually you start feeling it, and it just snowballs from there (it goes the other way, too). If you’re stressed out and on the verge of losing it, trying bursting into uproarious laughter or forcing a big beaming smile. Think of a funny joke if it helps, but the important thing is the physical act of laughing and/or smiling. It can’t hurt to give it a shot, and I think you’ll be surprised at the results. Force a smile or laugh when enduring stress.
Get More Magnesium
Most people probably get insufficient amounts of dietary magnesium, but it’s one of the most important minerals for overall general health, including the stress response system. It’s nigh impossible to overdose (you’ll just have to hit the toilet), making it very safe to supplement – so do it! Take some magnesium if you aren’t eating leafy greens and nuts on a regular basis.
Excessive cortisol is the bad guy, obviously, and green and black tea has been shown to reduce stress, lower stress-induced cortisol, and increase relaxation when compared to placebo. Green tea is one of the most nutritional drinks for our bodies on the planet and is not too shabby in the psychological stress arena, either. You may even sleep better, too. Drink a cup or two a day, and mix it up with both green and black.
For additional information: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/15-ways-to-fight-stress/#ixzz4HVlMm3hf
In meantime, allow the time to plan to help yourself to lead a less stressful life, my friend. Believe me, you’ll be so much better off.
* Dr. William Cole D.C, graduated from Southern California University of Health Sciences in Los Angeles, California. He has his post doctorate education and training in Functional Medicine and Clinical Nutrition through The Institute for Functional Medicine and Functional Medicine University. Dr. Cole consults in the Pittsburgh area and phone or webcam consultations for people around the world. He specializes in clinically investigating underlying factors and customizing health programs for chronic conditions such as thyroid issues, autoimmune, hormonal dysfunctions, digestive disorders, diabetes, heart disease and fibromyalgia.