We have all suffered from stress at some point in our lives whether due to exams, work, an illness, children, divorce, financial troubles or other. Most of us when under stress instead of finding ways to relax tend to have more coffee, fizzy drinks and sweets to keep us going. This caffeine and sugar fix won’t last long, in fact it will contribute to raising stress levels. Reality is that unless you address the root cause of the problem it will never be solved. Pretending that everything is fine and carrying on as if nothing is wrong is not the solution. Stress is a KILLER. If you allow it to take over your life, you run the risk of a total burn out, a nervous break down, heart attack, stroke, other diseases and death. This is why you need a good network of friends and family who are there to help you.
Signs and symptoms of stress can be any of the following:
You often break down in tears
You feel you cannot cope with having to do so many different things
Feelings of anger
Loss of appetite
Brain does not work properly causing you to forget names and simple things.
If you suffer from any of these signs and symptoms you must stop, change and seek help immediately or the next step will be to have a total nervous break down!
Cortisol and stress
Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands which is released in response to a person being afraid or stressed. In a ‘fight or flight’ situation in the old days the cortisol would be utilised as the person either fought or ran for their lives. Nowadays unfortunately we seem to be more and more stressed and cortisol is not utilised and too much remains in the body. Today we sit at our desk drinking coffee to keep going producing more cortisol and not exercising to get rid of it. Cortisol levels are high in the mornings and lower at night. It regulates blood pressure, helps the body to utilise glucose for energy. It sends a message to the liver to release stored glycogen to fuel the muscles and the brain. However too much stored in the body can result in weight gain, depression, mental illness, impaired memory and brain function.
Foods not to eat and foods to eat
Red meat should be avoided as it is hard to digest. Avoid all stimulants such as coffee, alcohol and all fizzy drinks. These will put pressure on the adrenal glands. Reduce your intake of refined white carbohydrates like white pasta, bread and all cakes and biscuits. Stay away from all dairy. No rich sauces.
When you are stressed the digestive system tends to shut down so you want to eat light small meals through out the day. Eat all fresh whole foods. Cook everything fresh from scratch. No ready made meals. You want to eat foods that are easier to digest like soups, sweet potatoes mashed, steamed fish and vegetables. Include more ginger, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, dandelion greens, broccoli, bananas, tofu, quinoa, millet, spelt, lentils, chickpeas, hemp, pumpkin, sunflower, flax and chia seeds, oily fish like wild salmon and sardines. Try to eat everything baked, grilled or steamed. If you are particularly stressed I would recommend smoothies and soups as these are probably the best foods when highly stressed.
Include more super foods into your diet like wheatgrass shots, barley grass and spirulina. Wheatgrass shots should be taken on their own. barley grass and spirulina you can add to smoothies.
Take up a new hobby
Take up a hobby that you enjoy. So once or twice a week you are free from your usual daily routine and stress. Embark on something you enjoy like a cooking class, painting, pottery, dancing etc. This way you will feel more relaxed and be happier. Also watch movies and sitcoms that make you laugh. Laughing distresses you putting you in a good mood.
Magnesium is known as nature’s tranquilliser and is best taken in the evenings before bed 400mg. Take a good multi vitamin. Biocare do a very good one for women called Femgaurd. Vitamin C 2000mg daily divided in small doses of 500mg. Too much vitamin C in one go can trigger diarrhoea. Biocare which I really like make a wonderful supplement called AD206 which contains many nutrients including Siberian ginseng and B5.
Yoga and breathing exercises
Exercise is important but while you are feeling stressed do not do high intensity exercise like kick boxing or running. Instead do more relaxing exercises like walking swimming and yoga. In fact yoga is fantastic for the body, mind and soul and breathing exercises performed in the morning and evening are also good to calm you down during stressful moments.
Make time for yourself and get plenty of sleep
You must make time for yourself. Get your partner, family and friends to look after the kids while you take time out to have a relaxing massage and a facial. Learn to pamper yourself. Listen to classical music when you are home which is extremely relaxing and will put you in a good mood. Every evening before bed try to have a relaxing and soothing bath in lavender oil. A bath is more relaxing than a shower. Showers are for the mornings to wake you up. A bath before bed time will prepare you for a good nights sleep which is essential for proper brain function. Lack of sleep will make you more stressed. Surround yourself with a good network of family and friends you can trust and turn to for help and guidance. Remember, you are the most important person so start loving and taking care of yourself now before it is too late!
If you feel you cannot cope and are on the verge of a nervous breakdown, please do not be afraid to reach out for help by contacting your doctor who will recommend a good counsellor.