The one complaint we all have in common is stress. Some people manage to shrug it off, but for the most of us it’s an ongoing battle. So what’s that practical answer? One that doesn’t mean packing your bags and moving to the Outer Hebrides? You can’t eliminate stress from your life altogether - in fact, a certain amount is beneficial - but you can learn to live with it and turn it to your advantage. Learn how to incorporate stress management into everyday life. Grab stress by the horns and show it who’s boss!
WHAT IS STRESS?
Stress is a state of tension that is created when an individual responds to the demands and pressures that come from work, family and other external sources, as well as those that are internally generated from self- imposed demands, obligations and self-criticism. It’s what you feel when the demands on your life exceed your ability to meet those demands. The “stressor” may be external, such as the death of someone close to you or a sudden change in activity level. Or it can be an internal stressor such as an illness. Stress is both additive and cumulative. It adds up over time until a state of crisis is reached and symptoms appear. These symptoms can manifest themselves in a variety of ways. Stress becomes the body’s biochemical reaction to how you live your life.. It can develop into distress and disease through personal adaptation to internal and external environments. Distress occurs when energy production is higher than the body can discharge. This can result in feelings such as loss of control, being overwhelmed, stuck andor agitated. Each individual reacts differently to different “stressors”. There is “good” and “bad” stress. Positive stress or “eustress” may be experienced when buying a house, having a baby or getting married. Although these are stressful life events, they impact positively and not in the same way as unhealthy stress does. We need to keep stress carefully balanced just enough to let us know we’re still alive, without being over-stretched.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
The key to managing stress effectively is to know what causes you distress and to be able to recognise stress indicators and the signals they give. Signs and symptoms of stress are tension, physical illness, low energy and fatigue, irritability, insomnia, indigestion, loss of appetite, sweaty palms, headaches and backaches. The psychological symptoms of stress include anxiety, irritability, inability to concentrate and depression.
WHAT AGGRAVATES STRESS?
Salt: Salt is a major source of sodium, which together with potassium plays an important part in the way the body deals with stress. When you’re under pressure your body holds onto sodium and loses potassium. This imbalance combined with a lot of salty food, pushes up the risk of high blood pressure the low potassium levels can lead to weak muscles, dizziness, nervousness and cramp. Salt also depletes your adrenal glands and stimulates and drains the nervous system. Too much salt can aggravate pre-menstrual tension, irritability and edginess.
Besides draining the body of nutrients, alcohol stimulates the release of adrenaline, dulls mental agility, increases emotional instability and encourages dependence. It is high in “empty” calories and hangovers leave you craving salty, fatty foods. Meat, fish and dairy products: These can all change the sodium balance. The food in this group, with the exception of fish, tends to be high in saturated fat and cholesterol which leads to an increased risk of heart disease. Too much can cause weight gain which causes extra stress and pressure for the heart. Sugar: Although it is an important source of energy, too much sugar or the wrong form can do more harm than good. It can lead to rebound hypoglycaemia - the energy slump you often get after eating a bar of chocolate. A high sugar diet can also compromise the immune system, cause poor concentration, depression and mood swings. Caffeine: Drinking copious amounts of caffeine-filled drinks when you’re stressed can speed up your progress towards adrenal exhaustion, cause exhaustion, lethargy, nervousness, poor concentration, migraine and palpitations. Tea and coffee also inhibit the absorption of iron and zinc - the latter is needed to produce adrenaline.
WHO IS MOST AT RISK?
While there are certain types of people and people in certain occupations, who are more likely to suffer from stress, the current situation in South Africa is extremely stressful. Personal safety, job security and a poor economy all add to most people’s concerns. According the Sean Germond, a Cape Town-based psychologist, people who don’t have the ability to deliver what is expected of them in the workplace are at risk from stress and burnout. “Individuals lacking resilience are also likely to suffer from stress, particularly those who don’t have a healthy lifestyle”. Gender, income and occupation do affect stress and burnout. According to an American study, women are more likely than men to suffer from high levels of stress-related illness. Sales, administrative, technical and service workers are also more likely to be candidates for burnout, claims the report. Many professions and occupations are stressful, including law enforcement, teaching, fire-fighting and health care.
HOW TO BEAT STRESS:
Develop good eating habits: What you eat really does have a dramatic impact on your ability to deal with stress. While some foods can aggravate symptoms, others counteract many of the unwanted side effects. · Try to limit your intake of coffee, tea, cola and cold and flu preparations as these contain caffeine. Switch to herbal teas and decaffeinated coffees instead. · Replace sugary desserts, cakes, sweets and junk food with fresh fruit and vegetables and herbal fruit teas. · Cut back on high-salt foods such as olives, pickles and stock cubes and opt for tinned foods with no- added salt and use spices when you’re cooking instead of salt. · Animal and vegetable fat, hard margarine, coconut oil and biscuits contain saturated fat. Try switching to semi-skimmed milk and low-fat dairy products. · Whole grains such as brown rice, barley, rye and oats are a good source of complex carbohydrates which release sugar slowly into the body without adversely affecting blood-sugar levels. · Beans and legumes such as soy beans, lentils, kidney beans and chickpeas are highly nutritious and are a good source of fibre, needed to help the body eliminate the toxic-products dumped in the system when we’re stressed. Eat three meals a day · Take time off to eat · Eat slowly · Choose fresh foods · Don’t overeat · Eat regular snacks · Eat early Don’t eat if you’re angry, upset or agitated.
Vital Vitamin B - to improve concentration, memory and mood balance.
Vital Vitamin C - to assist in the body’s absorption of iron.
Vital Herb Time For Stress & Insomnia - to assist in calming to mind and easing tension
Vital Calcium and Magnesium or Dolomite - to help with insomnia, calm the nervous system and help combat irritability and fatigue ·
Vital Zinc - to promote mental alertness
Vital Ginseng - to increase mental alertness and work output Aromatherapy:
This is the use of essential oils, either in the bath, a therapeutic massage or in a burner. · For tension headaches - Burgess & Finch Lavender can be dabbed onto the temples and back of the neck. · For emotional stress - Geranium works well as a sedative, and is very soothing. · For nervous depression and fear - Sandalwood is warm and woody, thus very comforting. · For insomnia - Chamomile is very calming and Neroli is excellent for insomnia. Bach Flower Remedies: The 38 Bach Flower remedies are designed as a complete system of emotional healing, covering everything from anxiety to homesickness. The first choice in any stress situation would be the Rescue Remedy which is a combination of Star of Bethlehem, Rock Rose, Clematis, Impatiens and Cherry Plum. It is generally used for emergencies and can be very reassuring during stressful periods such as exams, bereavement, interviews, etc. All that is needed is four drops in a glass of water, on on the tongue, taken whenever needed.
Try the following acupoint for dealing with an attack of anxiety. With your hand palm up, use the fingers of your other hand to press a point on the little finger side of your palm, an inch below the wrist. Massage in tiny circles for up to three minutes. Meditation: This can help to cleanse and strengthen the body, and to calm and steady the mind. It can be done in the comfort of your own home, and if practised regularly it could be the most effective stress-busting technique you’ve ever experienced. · Sit comfortably and wear loose clothing. · Set an alarm clock for 20 minutes, so you won’t have to worry about the time. · Close your eyes and relax. · Breathe rhythmically and slowly through your nose and into the abdomen. · Focus on a positive word like “one” or “peace”. · If your mind wanders, just accept what ever happens and bring yourself back to the object of your attention. · End by sitting quietly for a minute or two. · Stretch your limbs gently before getting up.
This induces a deep state of relaxation, which allows for direct communication with the unconscious mind to bring about therapeutic benefits. As a de-stress factor, it is great for problems rooted in the past, which are unresolved and still a source of stress. It also helps feelings of stress, anxiety and panic attacks.
This is a whole body treatment where practitioners press reflex points on the feet which correspond to different organs in the body to bring about therapeutic benefits. One treatment can leave you feeling instantly relaxed and many people find it useful to have regular fortnightly or weekly treatments. Top Tips: Say it! - Don’t bottle up feelings of resentment and dissatisfaction - talk about them. Laugh - Taking every opportunity for a good laugh is a natural stress reliever, and raises your immunity. Enjoy yourself - Deliberately taking time out each day to do something you want to do can really bring your stress levels down. Hug someone - Showing affection acts as a wonderful stress reliever. Be assertive - Learn to say “no”. The world won’t come to an end! Pamper yourself - Take time off during a busy day to sit at an al fresco restaurant and just feel the sun on your face. Get away from it all - Drop the kids off with friends and go for a picnic in the country, or spend a night in a hotel if you can afford one.
Think positive - Talk to yourself constructively. Use affirmations - statements you can repeat to yourself to boost confidence at difficult times. Exercise - Whether it’s dancing, swimming, step aerobics or squash, it is known to combat stress, improve concentration and even boost self-esteem Have a good stretch - Symptoms of mental stress can lead to muscular tension in the body. Keep a diary - Writing down your thoughts and worries at the end of the day can be a therapeutic release. Article courtesy of VITAL