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So what is stress? Let’s break it down – stress is the body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. Our Resident Nutritionist Steph Lowe tells us when you feel threatened, your nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, your heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, breath often quickens, and your senses become sharper -- it's a feeling we've all had at one time or another!
These physical changes increase your strength and stamina, speed your reaction time and enhance your focus. The hormone cortisol, which is released from the adrenal glands, causes insulin to be dumped into the blood stream and consequently increases blood sugar.
Now, this is something that would be useful if you need to outrun a hungry lion as our caveman ancestors would have done, however, less so if the perceived threat is among many of the chronic stressors of the modern world, such as an impending meeting or a work deadline! It’s so important for us to remember that beyond your comfort zone, stress stops being helpful and can start causing serious consequences for your health.
What can stress affect? Stress can cause havoc on our digestive health, can lead to weight gain, can drain our energy, can cause hormonal imbalance and of course, our mental health.
We turned to our Resident Nutritionist Steph Lowe to share what she finds works for her in reducing her stress levels:
- Identify what's causing your stress: Sounds obvious, but once you know what's bothering you, develop a plan for addressing it. Start with a to-do list (these can do wonders) and set reasonable expectations (this can go a long way as we often lose track of this when we are stressed).
- Maintain a healthy diet: Just another reason that healthy eating is so important! Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress. Start your day with a healthy breakfast, reduce your sugar intake, add plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit into your diet and try to eat whole foods whenever possible.
- Exercise: Exercising regularly can lift your mood and help relieve stress, anxiety, anger and frustration. It can also serve as a distraction to your worries, allowing you to find some quiet time and break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed stress and anxiety. Working up a sweat will help burn off excess energy and leave you well rested at night.
- Get plenty of sleep: We know that getting a full night's sleep can be hard, but feeling tired can increase stress by causing you to think irrationally (sleep helps you to keep your cool in stressful situations).
- Take time out for yourself: This is so important. Whether it be as simple as taking a warm bath, reading a book, taking a few moments in the day to meditate, practice yoga or get a massage.
- Seek professional help: If you feel more serious issues are at play please consider talking to an expert. Chronic stress is not normal and stress management is an essential part of optimal health and wellness – so look after yourself.
So let's start now..... Stop. Take a long breath in. Exhale slowly. And repeat. And repeat.