Living with a certain amount of stress in our lives is unavoidable. But it is imperative for us to realize that prolonged stress will almost certainly damage our mental or physical health in the long run.
The first step in combating stress is recognizing the signs, although it’s common for people suffering from stress to believe the state they are living in as normal as they have got used to living that way. Bringing in coping mechanisms is essential in the war against stress.
What Is Long Term Stress?
Long-term stress is a build up of problems over a sustained period. Prolonged stress can have a very damaging effect on your body and mind. Some visible signs you should look for are:
- Appetite loss or gain
- Nervous behavior such as twitching or grinding the teeth
- A loss of libido
- Constantly feeling unwell
- Lack of sleep
- Tired all the time
The effect on mental health can be extreme and can easily lead to behavioral problems. Not thinking clearly can lead to far more severe issues like panic attacks and anxiety disorders. Other mood changes might be confusion, frustration, anger, and depression. In short, long-term stress can become a serious threat to a person’s every- day life, as well as lead to sufferers becoming dependent on damaging support mechanisms like alcohol, drugs or cigarettes.
It’s not uncommon for minor fears to be exaggerated, such as the fear of small spaces or impending doom. It is normal to have concerns about things that are likely to cause you harm but once those fears become exaggerated irrational thinking can quickly follow.
The effect of stress on the mind is quite complex. Perception of an event, if exaggerated can cause over-reaction to it. To add to that, we all deal with stressful situations differently. An example would be giving in to fear and not taking action or tackling the situation head-on instead. It’s the same stress, but different reactions lead to different results. People who give in to stress can often become withdrawn and isolated, leading to depression and even more stress.
Stress can be like a roller coaster, taking us up to extreme highs and crashing us back down almost without warning. This too is unhealthy as it does not give the brain the ability to form continuity and our brain is hard-wired to look for patterns that make sense.
General Adaptation Syndrome.
The term means Alarm, Resistance and recovery, but sometimes the word recovery can be replaced with exhaustion. The period of the alarm stage is where the body releases many different hormones into the bloodstream. It does this to prepare for fight or flight. This continues through each phase and then returns to the point of equilibrium. In other words, the recovery stage. If the body fails to recover, exhaustion sets in and this can quickly lead to a loss of some bodily or mental functions. A longer spell spent in this zone will lead to more severe illness.
Constant spells in the alarm stage can also damage the cardiovascular system, digestive system, and the immune system. Your heart rate can increase, and blood vessels can become damaged which can lead to higher blood pressure. Stress also causes the blood to thicken so there becomes an increased chance of blood clots. Furthermore, cholesterol builds up on primary artery walls and can restrict blood flow to the heart.
Stomach problems can also occur through acute stress levels. Blood that would normally flow through the gastrointestinal system gets diverted to muscles when the fight or flight mechanism kicks in. This leads to the body producing less acid, and the whole digestion system slows down. If this is constant stress, then problems like ulcers are commonplace.
One of the biggest problems with long-term stress is the effect it can have on the immune system. The hormones that your immune system naturally produce are there to protect you. Long-term stress limits the bodies ability to provide the correct amount, leaving you open to attack by disease.
Stress is a killer linked to heart disease, cancer, and accidents on roads and in the workplace, liver cirrhosis, and even suicide.
If you or someone you know is experiencing stress, now is the time to take active measures to combat it immediately.
The First Thing You MUST Do In Your Battle Against Stress
It’s mind-blowing when you stop and think how complex life can be at times. You have to juggle work, relationships, kids, finances, health and what seems like a gazillion other things that get thrown at you daily. It’s no wonder a massive proportion of us are going around in a constant state of stress.
But have you ever stopped to think what’s causing your stress? I mean think! It’s easy to say you hate your job, or you don’t have enough money for example. While they might be true, blanket statements like those are far too vague to be used in the fight against stress.
If you want to beat stress, you need to take action. They say “Nothing changes if nothing changes” but first you need to know exactly what to change. That’s why it’s super important that you take the time to drill down and get to the nitty-gritty of what is causing you to feel so stressed.
When you stop and identify the little things that upset you, even on a subconscious level, and make a list of those minor stressors, you’re taking a big step towards change.
It’s much easier to make small changes to reduce the stress in your life than it is to go cold turkey on anything major such as hating your overbearing boss or not having enough money to pay off your credit card bill. Small changes add up to make big differences, and as Confucius says “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”
With so many things vying for your attention at any given moment in the day, it’s easy to overlook some of the more minor things that might be giving you grief and compounding the major stressors in your life.
Think about any minor health niggles you might have that you’ve simply learned to live with rather than getting treatment for. What about any little habits your partner has picked up that get on your nerves, but he doesn’t even know it.
If you tackle the small things first, you will not only feel happier and healthier, but you will also feel like you are more in control of the stress, rather than it being in control of you.
Of course, you will also need to deal with those major stressors surrounding your job or your finances. The best way to tackle those is to break down your issues into smaller ones, so it’s less overwhelming to deal with. For example, you dread going to work every day because you don’t like your job. But what is it about the job you don’t like? Try to be specific and go into as much detail as you can. That way you can start to find a way to overcome some of the parts of your major stressors that can be tackled immediately.
It is only once you are aware of the finer details of what is causing you to feel so stressed that you can take positive action towards a long-term solution to the issue.
5 Natural Remedies For Reducing Stress
When things go wrong at work or home, that’s the time you’re most likely to feel your stress levels rising. If you have no coping mechanisms in place or don’t have a way of dealing with the punches in life, then stress can quite literally ruin your life. Here are five natural remedies for reducing the effect that stress has on your body.
Sleep isn’t only necessary for our bodies to rest physically; it’s also the time when both body and mind switch to repair and rejuvenate mode. You can counteract the effects of stress by getting 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep each night. To achieve this, it’s essential to have a proper bedtime routine, so your body knows it’s time to switch off and sleep.
Go to bed at the same time each night. Do something relaxing to wind down properly beforehand. Have a warm shower, sip a cup of green tea or read a book. Establishing a proper routine will work wonders for your sleep patterns and stress levels.
Have a Massage
Massage is an age-old practice that promotes relaxation and works wonders for reducing stress levels. It’s not just tensed up muscles that get loosened up either. Massage helps to raise levels of the feel-good hormones oxytocin and serotonin, and reduce stress cortisol levels at the same time.
Try a professional masseuse, or ask a friend or loved one to give you a massage at home using an Essential Oil such as calming Lavender. Have a midday stress-busting massage in a coin-operated Massage Chair in the nearest shopping center. Or buy a Self Massager you can carry around with you and use anywhere.
Go for a walk
If you can remove yourself from the situation that’s causing you to stress you will feel much calmer after a walk. It’s not just the fresh air and exercises you’ll benefit from. Being outside, watching the trees sway or the clouds roll gently by has been proven to reduce stress thanks to the fractal patterns that can be found in abundance in the natural world around us.
Fractals are our evolutionary comfort zone and looking at them is known to have an almost immediate calming effect.
If you can’t get outside for a walk, you can quickly reduce stress and calm yourself down with a few minutes of deep breathing. Breathing deeply from the diaphragm rather than the upper chest will slow your heart rate and signal to your brain that there is no need to kick into “fight or flight,” the body’s natural response to stress.
Deep breathing can also help strengthen your immune system by flooding your body with rich oxygen from deep in your lungs. If you can find a quiet place to meditate at the same time, you will soon feel your stress melting away.
Have a Snack
You don’t need to feel guilty about snacking, especially when you snack wisely for stress relief. Don’t turn to processed or junk food though. The right snack can lower your stress levels by releasing the feel-good hormone “Serotonin” into your system, so it makes sense to plan ahead and keep something healthy on hand.
High-carbohydrate content snacks like Cereal or Muesli Bars are ideal for keeping in your bag or your drawer at work. Bananas have the added benefit of being sweet and contain Potassium and Vitamin B6, which are known to fight stress. Walnuts are another fantastic stress buster thanks to the Omega 3 fatty acids and the serotonin-boosting tryptophan they contain.
It’s almost impossible to eradicate stress entirely from your life, but there’s no need just to accept the damage that stress can do to your body either. You now have five natural remedies you can use next time life or work throws a curve ball at you.
Why You Shouldn’t Give Up Carbs When You’re Stressed
If you’ve been stress eating junk food lately and are thinking of going on a diet to lose the excess pounds you’re now carrying, you might be thinking about giving up carbs. Some diets encourage you to cut out carbohydrate-laden foods completely, while others ask you to restrict them to a certain number of grams each day. But if you are overweight and suffering from stress, giving up carbs is the last thing you should be doing.
Why? Because some of the foods that you will be giving up can help reduce your stress levels. This, in turn, can help your metabolism to recover and get you back on the path to a healthy weight without giving up an important food group.
In this article, we will look at some of the best carbohydrate foods you can eat to help prevent stress in the first place and fight it if it has already taken hold.
Whole Wheat Bread
Eating bread made from whole grains can help increase lower stress by increasing the level of serotonin in your brain to lift your mood. It’s not just bread that can help though. Any food made from whole grains can help reduce anxiety thanks to the levels of tryptophan and magnesium they contain.
White rice is high on the glycaemic index and is proven to help you sleep better. A good nights sleep is vital to good health and is especially important if you are suffering from stress. You can eat any type of white rice to feel the benefits of falling asleep quickly after eating it, but research has shown that Jasmine Rice does the best job of ensuring rapid slumber.
Sweet potatoes, or kumara as they are also known, are another good source of tryptophan. They also contain a healthy dose of both magnesium and potassium which can help lower stress-induced high blood pressure. You can eat sweet potatoes in the same ways as white potatoes, but you will get a lot more nutrition from these brightly colored starchy root vegetables, and keep stress at bay to boot.
Chickpeas are off the menu if you are following a diet that restricts the carbohydrates you can eat. But a serving of hummus with some wholegrain crackers can help ensure you get a good night’s sleep so you can fight off stress better. Chickpeas are an excellent source of sleep-inducing tryptophan, as well as being high in protein and a rich source of fiber essential for gut health and digestion.
Porridge oats, or oatmeal as you may know it is not a food you should consider cutting out, despite its high carbohydrate profile. Oatmeal is beneficial in increasing levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin, resulting in a feeling of calm and reduced stress. The really good thing about oatmeal is the variety of ways you can incorporate it into your diet. Try a bowl of cooked porridge with almond milk, walnuts, and blueberries in the morning, or make up a batch of oatmeal cookies and snack on a couple whenever you need a stress-busting snack.
Bananas have been perfectly packaged by Mother Nature as a healthy and nutritious on the go snack. If you decide not to eat bananas to cut out the carbs, you are not only missing out on their delicious natural sweetness; you are also depriving yourself of their mood-boosting tryptophan and gut healthy fiber.
5 Foods That Help You Sleep Better At Night
Sleep is right there up with oxygen, water, and food in terms of being essential to life. We need quality sleep so our body and mind can rest, recover and repair from the day’s physical and mental challenges.
Unfortunately, it’s one of the first things to suffer when stress rears its ugly head.
You are either tossing and turning for what seems like hours before you finally manage to drop off, or you find yourself waking up during the night, not being able to get back to sleep again. Either way, it’s no fun at all and is like a double whammy on top of the stress you are already feeling.
So how can you get the quality sleep you need if you are struggling to get the right amount of shut-eye necessary for good health?
The answer could be in what you are eating, or not eating in the evening. Here are five foods you should try to incorporate in your diet before bedtime.
These soft and crunchy brain shaped nutritional gifts from Mother Nature contain melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep patterns. Not only that, but they are also a source of tryptophan, which helps in the manufacture of melatonin by your body. Walnuts have a lot more nutritional benefits on top, but in terms of stress and sleep, that’s what I call a double blessing!
2. Jasmine Rice
All types of white rice can help you fall asleep quickly, but Jasmine Rice, in particular, has been found to bring on the shut-eye quicker than other types according to a study by researchers in Australia. It’s all thanks to white rice being high on the glycemic index.
Kale is one of those green leafy vegetables that is hailed as a superfood thanks to its many nutritional benefits. Like most green leafy veggies Kale is chock full of calcium, a mineral that helps your grey matter use the tryptophan you have in your body to make the sleep hormone melatonin.
Eating hummus is just one way you can get a healthy dose of the tryptophan found in chickpeas. As mentioned above, tryptophan helps in the manufacture of melatonin by your body. It’s a great reason to indulge in a few whole grain crackers and a good dollop of hummus in the evening so you can look forward to better sleep.
You might not necessarily like the thought of eating the meat from an animal like a deer, but venison and other game meats are very good sources of tryptophan. If you really can’t stand the thought of eating it, have a serving of turkey breast in the evening instead. Although it contains half the tryptophan that venison does, you will still get a dose effective enough to make you feel sleepy – just like you do when you’re full of turkey dinner at Thanksgiving!
So now, instead of tossing and turning, not being able to sleep at night because of stress, you can enjoy nutritious food AND know that you are doing your best to help your body sleep so you can repair and recover as well as possible. Go ahead and try each food one day at a time. Don’t forget to make a note of how you slept so you can incorporate what works best into your regular diet.
5 Ways to Work Stress-Busting Turmeric Into Your Diet
Although stress is part and parcel of today’s modern society, that doesn’t mean we should just accept it. Stress wreaks havoc with our brains and our bodies, so it is imperative that we take every step possible to protect ourselves from the irreversible damage that could occur.
It’s proven that stress changes our brain in damaging ways, but studies on both animals and humans have shown that the active ingredient of a humble spice can reverse the brain damage caused by chronic stress.
Curcumin is the main active ingredient in the golden yellow spice Turmeric. As well as reversing damage to brain cells, the polyphenol has also been shown to stimulate the formation of new brain cells.
While Curcumin supplementation is recommended for maximum benefit for the brain, there are proven benefits to incorporating more Turmeric into your diet for general good health too. Benefits range from alleviating symptoms of the common cold and curing headaches, right through to helping prevent cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
Here are five ways to incorporate the golden goodness of Turmeric into your daily diet.
#1 Blend into a smoothie
The most commonly recommended amount in most smoothie recipes is 1/2 tsp of ground turmeric, or you can grate about a thumbnail size piece of raw turmeric into the blender. Be aware that if you use more than the recommended amount the other ingredients will not mask the pungent and slightly bitter flavor of the turmeric as well as they would normally.
#2 Brighten up plain food with a bit of color
Turmeric has long been used to give color to curries and plain rice (as well as used as a textile dye!), but why stop there! Sprinkle a dash of ground turmeric into mashed potato, or scrambled eggs if you want it to go unnoticed by the kids. You could also try it in bechamel sauce next time you make a lasagne.
#3 Keep calm and drink turmeric tea
There are many commercial brands of turmeric tea available nowadays, including organic. However, it’s just as easy to make your own. Add 1/4 tsp ground turmeric and 1/4 tsp ground ginger to a cup (250ml) of water and heat until boiling. Reduce the temperature to a simmer for 10 minutes then strain the mixture into a cup or mug. You can add a splash of almond milk if you need, as well as sweetener or honey if you wish. You’ll no doubt find plenty of different variations on this recipe, but whichever you prefer, there’s no denying the calming effects of Turmeric Tea.
#4 Season to taste
If you’re big on having the salt and pepper mills at the table why not add some turmeric to the mix – literally. According to Herbalist Rosalee de la Forêt “Black pepper improves the bioavailability of turmeric, making smaller doses more effective.” Simply add about 1/2 tsp black pepper to 1/4 cup of turmeric and transfer to a shaker for easy use at meal times.
#5 Mustard your meats
Mustard is the perfect companion to hot or cold meats, and most ready-made commercial mustards include turmeric as an ingredient. However, it’s super easy to make your own in small batches, so you don’t have to worry about preservatives. Blend 1/2 cup of ground mustard with 2 tbsp of vinegar (white wine vinegar gives a slightly sweeter taste), 1 tbsp water, one tsp of salt and one tsp of turmeric. Keep refrigerated. Tip: if you want to use mustard seeds, make sure to soak them beforehand so they can be ground. Yellow seeds are milder than dark seeds.
Turmeric is a very inexpensive spice and probably one of the cheapest Superfoods you can buy weight for weight. Now you know just how easy it is to incorporate the many health benefits of this wonder spice into your daily diet, there is no excuse not to get on board the Turmeric and Curcumin train.
7 Reasons To Take The Quality of Your Sleep Seriously
We don’t yet fully understand everything about sleep patterns, but we do know that it is essential for good health to get enough of it regularly. Experiments and research have shown that rapid eye movement, which is a zone of sleep that we all go through every night, is extremely important. It’s during this time that our brain either makes sense of the millions of thoughts that we experience throughout the day or acts to debunk them. People who are starved of quality sleep quickly deteriorate mentally. There is also a form of detoxing going on inside our body. Some of the hormones that are usually cleaned out of our system are related to the onset of brain disease like Alzheimer’s.
Sleep is so essential in our daily lives that the effects when we are deprived of it show up alarmingly quickly. Even not getting enough sleep in 24 hours can increase stress tremendously. Here are seven reasons to take the quality of your sleep seriously.
Research has revealed that women who regularly have less than six hours of sleep a night are far more prone to aggressive cancers. This is especially so in patients who have previously suffered from an episode of breast cancer.
There is a well-established link between short and long-term sleep deprivation and blood pressure. With some irony, too much sleep has been linked to the same thing.
The Immune System
The stress caused by lack of sleep also helps to break down the efficient functioning of the body’s natural immune system. This allows viruses like the flu and other diseases to find their way in and take hold.
A lack of sleep is a common cause of anxiety, which can easily lead to depression if the problem continues over any length of time. This can become a vicious cycle as depression is known to hurt sleep patterns. This, of course, compounds the problem.
Putting on Weight
Poor food choices have long been associated with poor quality sleep. They have also been linked to the release of certain hormones that inhibit the area of the brain that controls emotions. This can make us less likely to distinguish between good and bad food choices. It is also not uncommon to overeat when tired due to hormonal changes.
Once long-term sleep cycles are disrupted, anxiety, irritability, and even depression can start to rear their heads. All these moods can harm our lives. How we interact with one another is extremely important for mental health, and sleep deprivation can cause changes that make us moody and less receptive to conversation. This can massively impact both personal and business relationships and can even cause irreparable damage in some cases. Constant poor sleep can also damage our ability to concentrate or focus, which can be extremely dangerous if driving or handling machinery.
How Regular Exercise Helps With Stress
Getting regular exercise is important for your physical health, but it can help you emotionally as well. Moving your body and getting your blood pumping can do wonders for your stress, whether it is from relationships, work, finances, or other forms of stress.
It Clears Your Mind
One way that exercise can help with stress is by clearing your mind during those minutes when you are working out. Think about the last time you were swimming laps, going for a jog, or running on the treadmill. You will be probably more concerned with your speed, agility, or even how sore your body was becoming, so you were less focused on whatever was stressing you out. Exercise can clear your mind and start relieving stress one workout at a time. Before too long, you look forward to your next workout when you are thinking about whatever is causing you stress.
You Can Release Endorphins
Regular fitness will also help you release endorphins, which improves your mood and benefits you greatly when you are struggling with stress. Endorphins are happy chemicals in your brain that are always there but need to be released. When your blood is pumping through exercise, you start releasing those endorphins, which is when you start to feel happier. It puts you in a great mood, you feel more energized and ready to take on the day, and of course, your stress doesn’t bother you quite as much.
It Keeps You Busy and Distracted
Stress is sometimes overwhelming due to the many issues in your life. Sometimes you just need to distract your mind a little bit, which can be done by exercising. Try to stick to a regular fitness routine that keeps you busy 30-60 minutes a day, several days a week. By doing this, you are distracted and not thinking about the financial, work, personal, or relationship stress in your life.
You Can Handle Acute Stress Much Better
Acute stress occurs from individual situations instead of simply being stressed all day, every day. You can have acute stress if your boyfriend breaks up with you, during a fight with your best friend, or when something at work becomes too much to handle. Severe stress is easy to relieve simply by running after work or hitting the gym for an hour. It is a great thing to turn to when you want to relieve that stress healthily and productively. It also helps to keep you from turning to alcohol or drugs to take the stressful feelings away.