It is estimated that over 8.3 million Americans suffer from stress, anxiety or depression. The figure is staggering and has risen sharply since the recession that started in 2007. The problem is, is that most are not able to access the help that they need to combat these serious symptoms, either through lack of funds or because their condition hinders them seeking help.
There are two types of stress that people suffer:
Acute stress comes from a specific situation or event that has often occurred unpredictably and causes a reaction that makes you feel out of control. Having to speak in public or being involved in a near miss car accident can provoke feelings of acute stress. The stress hormones kick starts your coping mechanism: a raised heartbeat to pump more oxygen to your brain makes you hyper-aware, and you experience a surge of adrenalin which can boost your ability for fight or flight.
Acute stress is responsible for our ability to survive. However, it is chronic stress that in the main causes the most suffering.
Chronic stress is the response to repeated exposure to situations that cause your body to release the stress hormones. For example, work-related stress or long-term financial stress. Our bodies are not designed to be constantly in a state of stress or fear, and chronic stress can affect our bodies’ ability to function. Physical effects of chronic stress include:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Type 2 diabetes
- Clinical depression
So, how can you relieve yourself from suffering from stress? It’s important that you find out what works for you, there is no golden rule because everyone has their own unique reasons for being stressed. Often it is not one principle cause but the cumulative effect of several factors, and often it is the straw that breaks the camels back.
You will have heard a million times how exercise releases the body’s happy hormones endorphins, but often getting motivated to exercise is half of the battle. You do not need to sign up to run a marathon. Be gentle with yourself, and don’t set yourself unachievable exercise goals.
A good brisk walk every day is better for you than a forced run twice a week. Consistency is more relevant and effective than intensity. It takes eight weeks for a change in behavior to become a habit, so try to bear with it until it becomes second nature to you. Who knows, you may yet sign up to the marathon!
How you fuel your body has a very real impact on how your mind and body function. Your food choices influence how you think. While you may reach for the comfort foods to alleviate stress, they can often add to the symptoms.
Magnesium rich food
Foods that are high in magnesium are excellent for relieving feelings of stress, and unfortunately, modern diets are typically deficient in it. Magnesium plays an essential role in most of our body’s biomechanical functions and in brain function. It has been argued as far back as 1965 by Wacker and Parisi, that the reason why stress, anxiety, and depression have increased over time is due to this lack of magnesium in modern diets. Almonds, avocados, spinach and pumpkin seeds contain digestible quantities of this vital nutrient.
Good fats and carbohydrates
When people diet, they often focus on restricting fats and carbs; however, they are vital for good health. They just must be the right types of fats and carbs!
Ever wondered why you crave sweets and pastries when you are feeling stressed? It’s because carbohydrates produce serotonin and so restricting them from your diet can be harmful, especially when you are trying to reduce stress. Whole-grain products, vegetables, and green beans are great mood-boosting carbohydrates.
Omega 3 fatty acids have long been recognized for their boosting brain function by scientists. They help to lower heart disease, depression, and dementia and can be found in fish, broccoli, tuna, and anchovies. Other food fats can be found in avocados, fatty fish, cheese and eggs.
Your meals need to consist of foods that give you nutritional balance. Don’t be tempted to miss meals, it is important that your body has regular access to the nutrients that it needs to combat your stress. If anything, have smaller but more regular meals.
When you are stressed it can feel that you can’t see the wood for trees. When you are suffering from chronic stress, something has triggered this response. You need a time of introspection so that you can identify what you can change to alter the situation.
- If you have work-related stress, ask a friend or family member to help you update your cv and find a new role. You need to extricate yourself from the work environment that is causing you to feel like you do.
- If you have financial stress, sit down and go through your bank accounts and review your finances. You may find that taking out a loan and paying the debts is the best course of action so that you only have one repayment coming out of your bank account. Bonsai Finance offers products to people even if they have a bad credit rating, while it won’t make your debts disappear, it will make them more manageable.
- If you are in a negative relationship, seek help and guidance from friends who will help you take the first steps to be liberated from it. If there is no one to help you, seek support from one of the charities who specialize in this area.
Making big changes to your life can be scary, but these feelings of fear are temporary and will subside. Suffering from stress has very real implications for you and the people that love you. Be kind to yourself and take baby steps towards recovery, as long as you go in the right direction, it doesn’t matter how long it takes you.