Let's Talk About Stress...
Updated: Jan 20
How do you define stress? How do you feel when you are stressed?
Did you know that stress is a "primal" response? When we perceive a stressful situation or threat, the nervous system sends signals to the rest of the body to prepare its response through the two automatic nervous systems. These two autonomic nervous systems are:
Somatic- which controls our voluntary, consciously directed movements- like muscular movements.
Autonomic- which is the involuntary part of the nervous system responsible for the control of the bodily functions not consciously directed, such as breathing, the heartbeat, and digestive processes
However, our bodies can't determine if it's minor stress or colossal stress, so it just reacts the same every time. There are two distinct reactions when we are stressed, and they are:
The Sympathetic Nervous System or “Fight‐or‐Flight” response gives us a burst of energy during times of danger. This will cause the blood flow to shift towards the muscles, heightens awareness, and increases heart rate.
The Parasympathetic Nervous System, or “Rest‐and‐Digest,” responds to other times of stress. Once the "danger" has passed, the body will re-focus on growth, energy storage, and digestion. A more balanced state.
Another component of stress is that it is a habit. We form coping mechanisms to deal with stress, positive or negative. Your brain is designed to perform without thought when you are stressed. The more you repeat the coping mechanism, the more it will solidify in your brain. Life with anything takes time to re-learn new coping mechanisms, especially when replacing those not so good for us habits. Starting slow and steady by being aware of what Stress is and how you cope are the first steps after learning what your body is doing and the whys; this is the education piece before the action or actions.
Signs of Stress
The effects of stress are natural and impact the mind and the body where one might experience:
Lack of concentration or focus
Increased heart rate
Hives or rashes
Appetite variances- overeat or undereat
Elevated blood pressure
Alterations in digestion
Before we move on-- you may be asking what Telomeres are?
Telomeres are the protective tips at the end of our chromosomes or DNA. These protective tips are like the plastic ends found on shoelaces, which protect the chromosome ends from fraying or getting damaged. The simplest way of advising what telomeres are.
Effects of Stress
We were designed to respond to a stressful situation and move on. Still, in today’s world, that becomes increasingly difficult to make so much of the stress response stay in the “on” position, which can lead to ongoing illnesses such as:
Chronic lowered immunity
Depression and/or Anxiety
Sleep Issues- Insomnia, fatigue, brain fog
Substance Use Disorders- excess alcohol intake and/or other drugs
Body Aches & Pains
Nutrients and Stress
When stressed, your body depletes critical nutrients such as B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, and zinc. B Vitamins- these provide a boost of energy during a stressful event. These will allow you to either fight or flee if necessary.
Foods with B vitamins- Bananas, spinach, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, avocados, nuts (Hazelnuts, Almonds, Brazil nuts, & cashews), seeds (sunflower & pumpkin), and also meat, chicken, fish, and dairy products should be consumed to obtain the different B Vitamins.
** B Vitamins are crucial elements the body needs to create neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.
Vitamin C – We cannot make vitamin C, a crucial antioxidant essential for immune function and collagen. The vitamin also helps remove toxins and oxidative stress that increases when a person is stressed.
Good sources include fruits and vegetables such as oranges, grapefruit, kiwifruit, green and red peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, and spinach.
Magnesium – The stress response increases chemical reactions in the body, which can use up magnesium. In addition, magnesium can help to relax the muscles. Magnesium intake can be expanded via taking an Epsom salt bath, which is absorbed through the skin.
Improved by consuming magnesium-rich foods such as raw pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, leafy greens such as spinach and Swiss chard, raisin, broccoli, almonds, quinoa, or beans.
Zinc- Zinc is also a key element in the body.
Sources of zinc include beef, pumpkin seeds, cashews, lentils, garbanzo beans, pork, turkey, and green peas.
Foods that should be avoided:
Caffeine - coffee, soda, tea, chocolate, energy drinks
Alcohol - beer, wine, spirits, or sugar alcohols
Highly Refined Sugary Foods- simple carbohydrates from processed foods, soda, candy etc.
What Can You Do?
There are several things you can do to help reduce stress:
Identify the Source‐ Find the source of the stress and, if possible, resolve it or placed boundaries.
Build Solid Relationships‐ Reach out to those around you as they may be able to help you with a different perspective or just give you the strength you need to work through the stress. Another option is a sponsor and/or counselor (i.e., 1-to-1 sessions or group sessions) may be able to offer help too.
Rest Your Mind‐ Find a way to rest your mind. It could be watching a movie, playing a game, meditating, journal writing/ gratitude, or even praying.
Exercise/Movement‐ Getting active can increase endorphins or “feel‐good” brain chemicals and increase dopamine and serotonin, which may reduce stress, relieve depression/anxiety, curve cravings if you are in substance use recovery, and improve sleep.
Breathe‐ Controlled breathing is subtle but can reduce stress and invokes a relaxation response. This can be achieved through breathing exercises, meditations, or vagal nerve stimulation exercises (i.e., breathing, humming, singing, cold showers).
Mindfulness- Be in the here and now. Slow down with where you are walking or doing or eating. Enjoy the moment.
Possible Supplements- if you cannot eat a wide variety of foods...
***Before beginning any supplementation protocol, please consult your doctor‐ especially if on medications.
****Reminder-- food first to gain the nutrients at 100% and supplements only if you aren't getting enough through food.
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