We all want to stay away from stress but we should know that stress has been part of our lives and body’s ability to react to any change since we were born. Our bodies may experience stress in positive situations- getting a new job, receiving promotion at work, moving into a new home, getting married etc.- as well as in negative situations - unwanted and negative perceived changes. Positive stress prepares us for danger by keeping us motivated and alert. However, negative stress is perceived when there are any continuous or constant states of stress and no relief or time to relax to deal with it.
The human body responds to stress physically and/or mentally. Positive stress, is a form of stress that provides beneficial effects on health, motivation, performance and well-being.
Distress is the type of stress we are usually referring to when we say “stress” or "I'm stressed" and it’s the form with negative implications. Examples of negative stress are anything that brings extreme fear and anxiety - death of a loved one, financial instability, injury, unemployment- that causes us to be stressed.
Constant negative stress leads to release of high levels of stress hormones-cortisol- which has significant effects on our health and wellbeing. High levels of cortisol in the body increases sugar levels in our bloodstream which is a life saver adaptation since we need glucose to "run away from danger" or need to use our brain to think faster. At the state of high stress we’re more prone to get sick because our immune system is suppressed. In addition to immune system, chronic stress has side effects to our digestive system, cardiovascular system, sleep quality, hormones, muscular system etc.
Also, chronic stress may effect our brain region which is involved in the stress / motivation circuit aka reward pathway. This adaptation may increase the body’s sensitivity to become rewarded through changing food preferences and seeking hyper-palatable foods.
The quality of nourishment - nutrients in diet- has an impact on proper functioning of the body. Implementation of lifestyle approaches and dietary habits is an extremely powerful way to reduce stress levels. If we can naturally lower the inflammation in the body and decrease the stress, cortisol levels should be reduced. It results with decreased chronic disease risk and improved wellness. Following a low-inflammatory diet and maximizing the anti-inflammatory foods while minimizing the pro-inflammatory ones would be the best approach to do that.
Dietary factors significantly contribute to inflammation: Caffeine, alcohol, high glycemic load, saturated and trans fats, low-fiber diet intake, inadequate micronutrients-antioxidants.
Stress is an important factor in the development of addiction to hyper-palatable (e.g., high-fat, high sugar) foods. While you’re under stress eliminate caffeine and alcohol consumption as much as possible because they both act as a stimulant, causing the adrenal glands to release more stress hormones - cortisol. Excess consumption of high sugar foods causes unstable blood sugar levels that is accepted as "stress” by our body and cortisol will be released to deal with that situation. So rather than going with ultra-processed foods incorporate more whole foods into your diet to fight with the inflammation in the body.
To minimize inflammation related stress:
- Choose low glycemic load foods
- Eliminate trans fats & lower saturated fat intake
- Reduce/eliminate alcohol
- Increase vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts / seeds, and beans
- Increase fatty fish consumption & Omega-3 supplementation
- Reduce caffeine intake
Some other tips:
1- Have a Mindful Moment -Be present. Take a step back, focus on your breathing and slow down. Spend some time in the moment and realize your senses- what you hear, feel, smell, see…
2- Talk with your loved ones, family or friends. Talking with them and getting their support can help lower your stress. Self talk or journaling is also another way to reduce stress but make sure that you’re making it with a positive manner, without being hard on yourself.
3- Save time for your hobbies - At least have 15-20 minutes a day to do what makes you happy and you enjoy mostly. It can be reading, playing board games, playing cards, painting, drawing…
4- Identify your stressors - Recognize your biggest stress trigger(s) in your life and if you can, try to eliminate them. Sometimes our job and main duties are the main stress source in our lives and it’s not possible to eliminate them. So prioritize your mental and physical health and follow the recommendations we have provided below.
As Team BODZii we believe health is whole. We’re following a holistic approach and are aware of many factors - sleep, hydration, nutrition, stress, physical activity etc.- should be addressed while talking about health and wellness. If you want to get in touch and know more about our Lifestyle coaching goals or chat about your health goals, book a call with us to find a way.