Most of us agree that stress has become part of our modern living lifestyle (job and career challenges, raising children, financial problems, physical challenges, crossing a busy intersection, death in the family, etc…). But, we have a choice on how to react to it, as Dr. Andrew Weil says, “… life moves from crisis to crisis I agree, but we have a choice as to how we react to the crisis, even if we are unaware that we do. How you react to disturbing events is mostly a matter of habit and habits can be changed.”
In addition, it has been proven that prolonged stress can place a tremendous load on many organ systems in our bodies, especially the heart, blood vessels, adrenals, and immune system leading to many illnesses and chronic diseases. Therefore, teaching you how to relax your body in order to become better at handling stress when it arises is a very crucial step towards better health.
The following techniques and key dietary recommendations and nutrients are vital components of a stress management programme and of a healthy lifestyle:
Smile and have more fun: Do things that you enjoy and help you smile since smiling makes your face muscle relax and sends immediate signals to your brain to make you happy.
Exercise: Exercise is a vital component of a comprehensive stress management program and of overall good health. Regular physical exercise is one of the best ways to clear your tensions and feel good, with more energy and a better attitude toward life. People who exercise regularly are much less likely to suffer from fatigue and depression.
Express your Feelings: Emotions need regular venting; unexpressed emotions are the building blocks of stress, pain, and illness.
Meditate: When we meditate our mind becomes recharged with our own positive energy. It helps you calm down your nerves and helps you connect with your true nature. Try “Tai Chi”, an ancient form of meditative exercise, which is now practiced by millions of people around the world to improve and maintain good health.
Practice Yoga: According to Maria Costantino, “Yoga is possibly the supreme exercise, combining and harmonizing meditation with physical fitness to ensure that the mind and body function efficiently and to their maximum potentials.” Yoga enables and empowers you to control the natural and immediate reactions to a stressor.
Learn how to Breathe: One of the most powerful ways to decrease stress and increase energy in the body is by breathing with the diaphragm. This kind of breathing can activate the relaxation centers in the brain and you can feel the difference in minutes. Practice slow deep breath in a quiet place, inhale for a count of four, hold your breath for few seconds and then exhale for a count of eight. Repeat the process until you achieve a sense of deep relaxation.
Manage your Time: One of the biggest stressors for most people is time; they simply feel they do not have enough of it. Thus, set your priorities, organize your day, delegate as much authority and work as you can, handle the most important tasks first, avoid putting things off and don’t be a perfectionist.
Follow these key dietary recommendations:
- Eliminate or restrict the intake of caffeine.
- Eliminate or restrict the intake of alcohol.
- Eliminate refined carbohydrates from your diet (sugar and white flour)
- Increase the potassium-to-sodium ratio in the diet in order to support your adrenal glands. This can best be done by consuming foods rich in potassium such as avocado, cooked lima beans, potato, banana, tomato and avoiding foods high in sodium such as most processed foods.
- Eat regularly planned meals in a relaxed environment.
- Control food allergies as they can lead to chronic fatigue.
Key Nutrients include:
- Vitamins B and vitamin C are the main constituents of many anti-stress formulas:
- Extra vitamin C, in the form of supplementation along with increased intake of vitamin C-rich foods, is often recommended to keep the immune system working properly during times of stress.
- Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5): this vitamin is also very important during times of stress since its deficiency in the body can cause fatigue, headache, nausea, sleep disturbance and abdominal discomfort. Vitamin B5 is found in whole grains, legumes, cauliflower, broccoli, salmon, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.
- Vitamin B6: beside wheat germ, good protein sources of b6 include fish, poultry, egg yolk, peanuts and walnuts. Vitamin B6 is used for people with stress conditions.
- Minerals are also important, with Potassium, Calcium, and Magnesium leading the antistress list. Minerals that are helpful for their immune and enzyme support include Zinc, Copper, Manganese, and Selenium.