Stress - It's Impact on our Health and How we can Reduce it
It is an understatement to say that the current state of the world is bringing added stress to the vast majority of people. The uncertainty level is at an all time high and many of us are worrying about potential job loss, financial difficulty, our health and also the health of those important to us.
It is important during this time not to focus on the things we cannot control, but instead on the things we can. Looking after our mental and physical health is one of those things we can work on maintaining and improving in this time.
Stress and its effect on our health can often go unrecognised as it can become such a common everyday occurrence in our life that we just see it as ‘normal’. But this kind of low-grade, prolonged stress can be just as detrimental to our long-term health as one major incident.
Stress can affect many aspects of our health, from the strength of our immune system to the way our digestive system digests and absorbs our nutrients. Stress can also affect our mood and our sleep.
Recognising stress and implementing strategies for stress-management is important for all of us, particularly in this current environment where life is far from easy for many of us.
Lifestyle Tips to Reduce Stress
Reduce stimulants, particularly caffeine and sugar. These will only enhance your feelings of stress. Of course, I am not saying to give up your precious morning coffee, just limit it to one single shot of coffee before 12 pm. Caffeine and sugar can also affect sleep if they are consumed too close to bed.
Aim for regular exercise. I recommend higher intensity exercise in the morning and nourishing, lower intensity exercise in the afternoon/evening e.g. yoga or stretching.
Reduce your exposure to negative media content. Don’t bury your head in the sand, however limit your updates on the current state of the world to once a day and try not to watch too much negative coverage in the evening. Put the news or radio on while you make breakfast or read the newspaper with your morning coffee. Then move on with your day. It is hard to feel upbeat when you’ve got negative news on repeat.
Find at least one thing that makes you feel happy and/or accomplished and schedule it in everyday. This could be getting creative in the kitchen, gardening, reading a good book, taking a bath, working on your six pack...you get the idea!
Talk to someone. Many psychologists are now offering sessions online via video link making looking after your mental health accessible even with the current distancing restrictions in place. If you feel like you need someone to talk to beyond your partner, your friend, your neighbour or your dog, then reach out to your psychologist or speak to your doctor about a referral.
Nutrients to Support a Healthy Stress Response
Focus on consuming enough of the right nutrients because what you eat can also influence your mental health. Starting with a fresh and colourful whole-food diet is first recommended. There are also some specific nutrients which can help to improve your stress response.
Magnesium - magnesium helps to support the nervous system and it is often deplete in times of stress. Include foods high in magnesium in your diet, such as green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, and speak to your healthcare provider about whether a good quality magnesium supplement would be suitable for you.
B vitamins - B vitamins are needed for healthy neurotransmitter synthesis and a healthy nervous system. Similar to magnesium, we tend to require more B vitamins in times of stress. Speak with your health care provider about a suitable B vitamin supplement.
About the author
Casey is a clinical naturopath and nutritionist and the founder of The Natural Path Health. She has a passion for identifying and treating the root cause of disease to achieve long-lasting health goals with her clients. "I love helping my clients regain their energy and vitality for life."