Stress is simply reaction to a stimulus that disturbs our physical or mental equilibrium. When you feel threatened, your nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which rouse the body for emergency action.
What happens when we undergo stress?
Whether it is physical stress or mental stress, whenever we subject our body to it, it starts producing free radicals, i.e. toxins. These toxins disrupt our body’s functions and can show up outwardly as dulling of the skin, hair fall or acne or inwardly as indigestion, acidity or gas. Long-term side effects of stress include high blood pressure, high levels of cholesterol, diabetes, etc.
But did you know that there is one more ill effect of accumulating toxins? When there are high amounts of toxins present in the body, we need high amounts of antioxidants, i.e detoxification to flush out the toxins. In the absence of these antioxidants in our regular food, our body starts accumulating the only antioxidant it can – fat. That is why people undergoing stress – physical or mental – usually have high stores of fat, especially around their abdominal area or hips.
Types of stress:
- Acute stress. It comes from the demands and pressures of the recent past and anticipated demands and pressures of the near future. Acute stress is what actually brings about excitement, joy and thrill in our lives.
- Chronic stress. Chronic stress is the total opposite of acute stress, it’s not exciting or thrilling, but dangerous and unhealthy. Chronic stress tears the life of a person apart, whether it’s her/his mind, body or spirit.
Symptoms of stress:
- Memory problems
- Inability to concentrate
- Poor judgment
- Seeing only the negative
- Anxious or racing thoughts
- Constant worrying
- Irritability or short temper
- Agitation, inability to relax
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Sense of loneliness and isolation
- Depression or general unhappiness
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
- Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
- Nervous habits (e.g., nail biting, pacing)
Causes of stress:
- Chronic worry
- Negative self-talk
- Unrealistic expectations/Perfectionism
- Rigid thinking, lack of flexibility
- All-or-nothing attitude
Effects of stress:
Mental stress can be combatted through various avenues:
- Taking time off
- Comfort food
For physical stress, all we need to do is make sure our body gets proper nutrition, timely meals for the physical activities that we are doing throughout the day.
The best foods to reduce stress:
Eating a diet full of processed and convenience food, refined carbohydrates, and sugary snacks can worsen symptoms of stress, while a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, high-quality protein and healthy fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, can help you cope better with life’s ups and downs.
- Eat a healthy diet
- Ensure a healthy breakfast
- Reduce your caffeine and sugar intake
- Add plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
- Cut back on alcohol and nicotine
- Dark leafy greens like spinach are rich in folate, which helps your body produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine
- Add organic turkey breast to your meals
- Include fermented foods
- Sample wild-caught Alaskan salmon
- Gorge on dark chocolate
- Antioxidants are nutrients which help in flushing out free radicals from your body – vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B, zinc and selenium are a few nutrients which work as antioxidants. This includes a variety of fruits, vegetables and nuts. Including sufficient good fats in the diet also helps.