Stress is part of our daily lives – most people experience it and expect it. Some are very good at hiding it, whilst chaos lives in their head.
Stress can be defined as “tension caused by unmet needs”. This can be serious needs – losing a loved one or losing a job; and obvious things such as needing food, sleep and rest. It can also be as simple as not allowing enough time for a journey, overspending on shoes or eating one too many chocolate bars!
Slow Down and Flourish!
Are you one of those people languishing, not necessarily depressed (although there are plenty of those) but existing on auto pilot trudging through debt, ignoring friends, not living a fulfilling and happy life; or are you flourishing? For many years I was languishing, just existing or rushing – relaxing was a luxury I didn’t have time for. Not even a big dose of cancer made me stop and evaluate. It was only when I met up with someone from the past who had had a heart attack at a relatively young age and consequently completed reassessed their life, taking time out and prioritising friends and family, that I too began to value life and start to limit stress.
Love cures many ills.
To be happy you need to be able to feel and express other emotions –anger, tears, fear, shame. A flourishing person is someone without masks.
Stages of stress
- Wired – we feel tense, anxious, on edge as a result of adrenaline, often accompanied with migraines and stomach upsets. This is a warning to us that we are over-doing it. Alcohol is often used to help us unwind.
- Wired and tired –adaptation to the stress by on-going physical changes affecting blood pressure and glucose etc. Coffee and energy drinks, as well as alcohol are often used to hype us and wind us down.
- Exhaustion – at its worst can result in ME, Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, physical or mental breakdown. Often work and social life suffers.
Which stage describes you?
When we are stressed we often eat fast food, drink more and sleep poorly. The result is can be a depressed immune system, heart disease, stroke, depression, memory problems, and even car accidents. However this is the very time that we should take extra care of ourselves – with good food, gentle exercise such as yoga, more sleep and relaxation, and exploring nature.
What can you do?
Chatter and stories in our head prevent us from living in the present . Try 4/7 breathing (breathing in for a count of 4 and out for a count of 7) whilst concentrating on the body not the mind. This allows a shift of stress.
Stop being busy and just ‘be’. Notice nature, people, colours and take delight in your existence. Turn off your phone / laptop and really relax.
Are you genuinely busy, or are you masking painful thoughts such as anger, sadness and loneliness by not allowing a space in your mind.
What’s missing that you need?
Relaxation, more sleep, good nutrition, communication, honesty or setting boundaries? Once you have identified what’s missing, change the two most important things first, which will have the biggest impact on your mind, and build on this with small steps.
Stress is often held physically in the body – the head, the heart and chest, the shoulders (hunched), the hands (clenched) and the stomach and colon. When you are stressed recognise where you are holding it and visualise it. Then picture a door or a valve which opens and allows the stress to release. This can be very effective.
Try to imagine how you will feel a year from now in terms of health, happiness and relationships if you continue as you are, and then ask yourself what is the biggest change you need to make now for a better outcome.
………………………Whatever is the answer, make that your priority.
Nutritional Changes to improve stress
- Theanine found in green tea encourages relaxation and stress relief
- Fish oils may reduce depression and anxiety
- Reduce stimulants such as colas, sugar, coffee, tea, alcohol and cigarettes
- Mindful eating – focus on your food when you are eating, chewing slowly and savouring the taste. This enhances digestion and satisfaction often missing when we are stressed
- Increase protein – especially fish, turkey, chicken and eggs- in the diet needed for the manufacture of feel- good neuro-transmitters serotonin and dopamine which elevate mood and increase calm
- Increase magnesium and B vitamins by eating green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds and whole grains, plus supplement with a multivitamin that contains 50mg of each B vitamin and 100-200mg of magnesium and 15 mg zinc for immunity. B vitamins help release energy from food and improve mood, magnesium encourages relaxation. Tight shoulders and fatigue can be symptoms of magnesium deficiency.
- Vitamin c is often needed in higher amounts when our adrenal glands are overworked. Increase your berries, kiwi, citrus fruits, raw peppers, tomatoes and leafy greens.
Adapted from the Nutri Education Programme Presented by Dr Mark Atkinson