How does stress affect your health?

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What is stress?

stressStress is basically anything that causes you physical or mental strain. The amount of stress that is generated by any condition also depends on how you react to that situation.

Not all stress is bad. In fact every human being needs a little stress in their lives to stimulate them to e.g. meet a deadline. Without a little stress you’d go out of your mind with boredom. The problem comes when you have too much stress bombarding you. The key to stress management is achieving a balance.

How does stress affect health?

Remember that stress affects your health negatively if it is continuous over a long period of time (i.e. chronic). Almost half of all adults suffer from effects of prolonged stress.
These range from mild to severe.

Side effects of stress include:

  • sleeplessness
  • tiredness
  • change in appetite and gastrointestinal disturbances
  • irritability
  • headaches and memory loss
  • lowered sex drive
  • shallow breathing
  • high blood pressure
  • severe emotional disturbances

Many major illnesses like diabetes, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, cancer, heart disease and skin disorders have stress as a major contributing factor.

Sometimes the stressed out body starts attacking itself contributing to disorders like multiple sclerosis, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

The symptoms of stress are brought about by 2 main hormones in the body

  • cortisol and
  • adrenaline

These bring about what is known as the “flight or fight” response which helps us survive when faced with danger.

Effects of cortisol and adrenaline

  • The body uses up stored nutrients faster
  • The body cannot absorb nutrients from the food you eat so there is a shortage of vitamins necessary for proper functioning of the body especially the nervous system.
  • The body diverts from producing progesterone and other sex hormones to producing cortisol. This explains why you feel tired and uninterested in sex when you’re under stress.

Where do I start?

reduce stress

  • Try and identify stress factors in your life and off-load those you can do without. This may require some soul-searching and honesty on your part.
  • Do you know how to say “No!”? Taking on added responsibilities which you can’t really cope with especially when they’re pushed on you by other people, can be frustrating. Learn to say “No” gently, respectfully and without apology.
  • Find out the situations you encounter every day that stress you. If you can avoid them, great! If you can’t, try adjusting your routine e.g. listening to a favorite cd on your daily commute.
  • It’s in the mind! One person’s stress may be another’s favorite recreational activity. The difference is in the way you think. Approach every situation positively. A “can do” attitude can go a long way.
  • Express yourself. Don’t bottle up your emotions. Try talking things over with a counsellor at your church, a close friend (that’s not a part of that particular situation) or someone you can trust to give you sound unbiased advice. Don’t be afraid to cry.
  • Laugh! Try to see the funny side of things. Laughter can often de-fuse a sticky situation and bring down tension. Laughter is like medicine.
  • Prayer and meditation – this is a source of relief for many people. Praying to and committing everything into the care of your heavenly Father can bring a tremendous sense of relief and peace. Reading from the bible can also have a very soothing effect.
  • Supplements :
    1. Take a good multivitamin daily especially one high in B-vitamins which are good for the stressed-out.
    2. Take a green Superfood daily to help cleanse your body and increase your immunity (ability to fight disease). It contains high chlorophyll foods which are a very good source of essential nutrients.
  • Natural progesterone cream may also help if you’re having menopausal symptoms.
  • Diet - watch what you put in your mouth.
    1. Avoid processed food e.g. junk food, chocolate, soft drinks, artificial sweetener, fried food, pork and sugar.
    2. Avoid caffeine (disrupts sleep), tobacco and alcohol.
    3. Eat lots of high fiber foods like bran, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. (Now, where have you heard that before?)
  • Aromatherapy – scent can have a very strong influence on our emotions. Aromatherapy involves using essential oil to stimulate your sense of smell and elicit certain feelings in the body. Some of these essential oils may help to relax you
    • lavender
    • chamomile
    • bergamot
    • sandalwood
    • geranium

    Put 10-20 drops of one of these in your bath and soak for 20 minutes. Alternatively, they can be incorporated into a calming and restorative massage. Read Techniques of massage.

    • Relaxation techniques- learn how to relax no matter where you are .
    • Time management – learn how to manage your time more effectively.
      1. Avoid activities and relationships that sap your time and energy without yielding useful results e.g. spending time with your family-positive use of time, sitting in front of the television soaking up useless “information” negative use of time!
      2. Planning -set goals for what you want to achieve in the areas of
          • your family
          • your work
          • your health
          • your faith & spirituality

        (not necessarily in that order!)

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