5 Stressful facts about Stress – Then We’ll Tell You What to Do!
1. More than 50% of adult Americans suffer adverse health effects due to stress.
2. Medical researchers estimate that up to 90% of illness and disease is stress-related.
3. Stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments,accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide.
4. Tranquilizers, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medications account for one fourth of all prescriptions written in the U.S. each year
5. Americans spend $11.3 billion per year to cope with stress
Excluding the trauma of living in a war zone, most of our stress comes from the makings of our own mind, our perceptions of our experiences that arise out of daily living. Whether it’s career/work stress, relationship stress, money stress, aging stress, or vacation stress (!), we are all faced with the task of organizing our response to the stuff of our lives. And that’s what stress really is – not the actual event or situation, but our responses to it.
How Stress Affects Aging
Stress doesn’t just make a person feel older. In a very real sense, it can speed up aging. A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that stress can add years to the age of individual immune system cells. The study focused on telomeres, caps on the end of chromosomes. Whenever a cell divides, the telomeres in that cell get a little shorter; when the telomere becomes too short, time runs out and the cell can no longer divide or replenish itself. This is a key process of aging, and it’s onec of the reasons humans can’t live forever.
Researchers checked both the telomeres and the stress levels of 58 healthy women, and found, stunningly, that the immune system cells of highly stressed women had aged by an extra ten years. Though the study didn’t explain exactly how stress adds years to cells making up the immune system, researchers do have a not very surprising theory. Stress hormones could somehow be shortening telomers and cutting the life span of cells. This in a nutshell is what isreferred to as the ‘mind-body connection’. It’s a real thing.
How to Limit Your Stress?
What to DO about stress that is not stressful at all?
1. Eat Consciously
The important connection between diet and stress cannot be “stressed” enough. If the food you eat is imperative to your overall everyday health, then it may very well save your life in times of stress. Eating high fat, sugary, fried foods, and/or drinking and smoking while experiencing stress, is literally proving to be like playing Russian roulette: it will definitely catch up with you and harm you greatly.
2. Limit These 6 Foods
Caffeine: overstimulates the adrenals which are responsible for the hormonal “flight or fight” response in the body.
Alcohol: Spikes sugar levels in blood, bogs down liver function needed for immune system, disturbs sleep patterns, causes depression, reduces ability to judge situations rationally – things feel worse than they really are.
Salt: triggers hypertension. Restricted salt intake allows kidneys to remove stress hormones from the bloodstream at a faster rate.
Sugar: Exacerbates mood swings – gets you high, then you crash.
Trans fats: from fried and processed foods clog liver function, reduce circulation and raise blood pressure.
Animal protein: elevates brain levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, both of which are associated with higher levels of anxiety and stress.
3. Include These 5 Foods
Avocado, chia and hemp seeds: all high in Omega-3 fatty acids that fight depression. Oatmeal: Carbs produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for calm, relaxed feelings. Whole grains and complex carbohydrates are better than sugary carbs.
Walnuts: contain Omega 3s, as well as substances that allow blood vessels to relax. Dark Chocolate: Feel good chemicals anandamide and phenylethylamine calm the mind and lower blood pressure.
Sweet Potatoes: boosts serotonin levels that balance moods.
Blueberries: Number one in antioxidants (supports immune system), and potassium which helps lower blood pressure.
Asparagus/Chickpeas: high in folic acid, which helps stabilize moods. The body converts folic acid into serotonin.
4. Add Aromatherapy
Many plant essences can help to bring on a calm, relaxed state of mind through distillation of their essential oils. Aromatherapy is simple to do: just saturate a cotton ball with the oil and inhale, or drop in a warm bath. You can find essential oils on line or at your local health food store. Organic is best, when available.
How to Calm These Emotions:
Anger, Anxiety: bergamot, clary sage, cypress, geranium, lavender, ylang-ylang
Depression: grapefruit, jasmine, neroli, rose, vetiver
Insomnia: chamomile, lavender, melissa, sandalwood, thyme
Nervous Exhaustion: Basil, cinnamon, hyssop, lemongrass, peppermint, rosemary,
Nervous Tension: cedarwood, frankincense, geranium, lavender, vetiver, ylang-ylang
5. Drink Herbal Teas
Brewing up a soothing cup of tea is a calming, peace-inducing ritual in itself. If you can, find organic, loose leaves, but ready-made tea bags in various blends of the herbs listed here are just fine.
Mint: Herbs in the mint family, especially spearmint and peppermint, add a refreshing flavor and mild sedative action to herbal teas. They are especially soothing to an upset stomach caused by stress.
Skullcap: The whole plant can be used as tea to help relieve a variety of symptoms. Skullcap is a relaxing herb that you can use for insomnia, headache, nervous exhaustion, and muscle spasms.
Chamomile: The delicate apple-like scented flowers of chamomile are useful for hyperactivity, indigestion, insomnia, and nausea.
Lemon verbena: is used to help alleviate indigestion, insomnia, and nausea.
Passionflower vine: is utilized in teas for anxiety, insomnia, irritability, nervous tension and tension headaches.
Valerian: useful in relieving anxiety, insomnia, and tension. Actual clinical trials show that valerian can help users fall asleep faster and have a deeper, more refreshing night’s sleep.
6. Take These Vitamins And Minerals
Magnesium – 200 to 400 milligrams blocks damaging effects of excess adrenaline
B- Complex vitamins =10 to 100 milligrams
Vitamin C: 500 to 3,000 milligrams – studies have shown the physical damage caused by stress to organs, the skin, and the immune system is minimized with B-complex and Vitamin C.
7. Try These Other Ideas to Cope with Sress:
Yoga – try a very easy beginner’s classes to really understand why this 3000-year-old system of health and wellbeing is so relevant to our modern age.
Mindfulness Meditation – stress and anxiety come from either dwelling in the past or projecting into the future. The mind that is in the present moment is much more peaceful.
Deep Breathing – flooding the brain with oxygen is a known stress alleviator
Guided Imagery – many, many audio cds exist to help you visualize peaceful journeys.
Massage Therapy – lowers blood pressure, soothes nervous system, balances organ function.
Exercise In Nature – long walks, biking, hiking, swimming in the ocean
Laughter – Finally, here is one of my favorite remedies for stress. You may laugh at this, but it really works. A good laugh has great short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain. Laughter can also ease digestion and stimulate circulation, which helps reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.
Laughter isn’t just a quick pick-me-up, though. It’s also good for you over the long haul. It improves your immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can impact your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. In ontrast, positive thoughts actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses. Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers. Laughter can also make difficult situations feel a little bit easier. While we are all works in progress, and the most certain thing about life it that it will be filled with uncertainties, there is only one life that we are given. Use it wisely and don’t stress out about it!
Read more from Randi Ragan in her book, “A Year of Living Mindfully.”