5 tips to reduce stress this stress awareness month
Stress has been classified as the health epidemic of the 21st century. And that was before the pandemic hit..
Stress is a natural reaction in life and we all experience stress from time to time. However, the last two years or so have been even more challenging than usual and many people are struggling more deeply.
As April is stress awareness month, I thought what better time to share information and advice around this important topic.
For the short term, stress can be beneficial. It is designed to help us cope with potentially dangerous situations, and it can also help motivate us to succeed. However, if our stress levels stay high for longer than necessary, it can have a negative effect on our overall health and well-being.
What are the effects of stress on the body and health?
Stress affects our body and health in many ways.
Some symptoms of chronic stress include:
People who experience high levels of stress become more susceptible to viral illnesses and infections such as the flu. This is because over time, stress hormones weaken the immune system.
These stress hormones also cause your blood vessels to constrict and your heart to pump faster. This means that frequent or severe stress will lead to your heart working too hard. In turn, your blood pressure will rise. When your blood pressure rises, so do your risks of a stroke or heart attack.
Additionally, under stress, your liver produces more glucose in an attempt to give you a surge of energy. If you are experiencing too much stress your body may be exposed to too much glucose. This means chronic stress may increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
These are just a few key ways in which stress can affect the body and your health. Clearly it’s extremely important to try to reduce stress as much as possible.
How to reduce stress in 5 simple steps:
1) Eat and drink healthily.
Be sure to intake the optimal levels of nutrients your body needs. Did you know stress alters the way we eat? It’s important to be aware of this. Read more into this in our article here.
2) Exercise regularly.
Physical activity is great for stress and overall well being due to the way it pumps up your feel good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Exercising is a great way to burn off excess energy and rage from stress, and it can also help you to sleep better which is vital for reducing stress. However, intensive exercise may be detrimental when running on high stress. Perhaps try more gentle movement such as walking, swimming, yoga and pilates.
3) Reduce caffeine intake - if you are finding it is affecting you negatively.
Everyone has a different response to caffeine - some people metabolise it slowly. When already stressed, or susceptible to stress, it is advised to avoid caffeine as it stimulates your central nervous system. Caffeine triggers the release of cortisol and adrenaline, which you will already have too much of when running on high levels of stress. High stress and too much caffeine may also increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
4) Practice relaxation techniques.
Deep breathing, yoga and meditation are absolutely great ways to help manage or reduce stress. Meditation can help relax your mind and draw your focus to the present, as opposed to any thoughts that may be causing you stress. By breathing slower and more deeply, you signal your nervous system to calm down. Don’t get frustrated if this doesn’t come naturally to you. In our modern world our brains have become more wired for fight or flight and find it more difficult to relax. For some people it may take lots of consistent practice to train the brain and body to relax.
It has also been proven that spending time in nature is a highly effective relaxation technique that can help to reduce stress and boost overall wellbeing.
5) Take supplements to help - particularly if your diet may not be good enough.
There are many supplements that you can take to help manage stress. Magnesium for example helps to regulate the release of stress hormones such as cortisol, resulting in a more rested state of mind and body. Here at FMA, we’ve tested for over 20 years and we have never seen anybody not in need of more magnesium. B vitamins are also ideal for managing stress; vitamin B5 helps to regulate the adrenal glands, which in turn also helps to regulate the release of cortisol. Vitamin B6 helps to regulate the body's serotonin and norepinephrine levels, which both directly affect mood and the ability to cope with stress. Adaptogens such as ginseng and ashwagandha are also excellent.
Please also note that if you are experiencing high levels of stress, or are struggling with your mental health as a whole please do not feel ashamed to reach out for professional help.
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Head to our website to find out how we can help you at Functional Medicine Associates. Our Functional Medicine Pathway will provide you with a bespoke and individualised lifestyle plan to overcome any health issues you may have or to simply get your health to its optimum.
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