By Christine Carey
The term stress was first used in the 1930s and represented biological trauma, which is described as an incident causing physical harm. Recently though, we have come to more commonly talk about stress in psychological terms. Its context changed to include daily events of modern life and not just physical strain. While “modern life stress” often originates with worry, or a feeling of being overwhelmed, it is still displayed through physical symptoms.
The number of stress-related illness is steadily escalating. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, stress has been shown to be a catalyst for numerous diseases. Before disease is manifested, our bodies give us warning signals that show up as health problems. Most of us ignore these signs, or worse, treat them as though they are the whole problem and don’t address the source of the illness.
Fatigue, digestion issues, irritability, sleep deprivation, mental fog, weight gain, sugar, starch or caffeine cravings are all symptoms of a problem. They are issues that ought to alert us that our overall stress level is beyond a healthy range.
The reality is that life is much faster than it was decades ago. The pace of innovation and globalisation is moving rapidly. To some extent, the extra stress and pressure will be a permanent part of our reality. There are many different ways to create balance and maintain health by making small changes. Taking small steps to improve your diet, using relaxation techniques and eliminating sources of stress are all great starting points.
Choosing healthy foods when you are stressed can impact your mood positively, helping to relieve tension and stabilise blood sugar. An example of some foods to eat for stress are dark leafy greens, wild-caught Alaskan salmon, fermented foods, seeds, blueberries and avocados.
Many of us sit in an office most of the day, leave after its dark or when the sun is setting and rarely get sufficient outdoor time in the sunlight. As the pace of our lives increases, some of the best lifestyle adjustments we can make is to eat a primarily plant-based diet, get out into the sun for some essential Vitamin D, move your body so you’re sweating for 20 minutes a day, and touch the sand and ocean water with your bare feet. We often neglect our connection to the earth and the balance and nourishment we receive from being in it.
Attaining health in our modern life will require that we take time out to consciously select foods that may not immediately satisfy cravings but will provide our bodies with the nutrients needed to regulate stress hormones and cleanse. We will also have to schedule time in our busy schedules to do activities that may be in opposition to what we really want to do - like go home and sit on the couch. When you create a new healthy habit, stress levels decrease, your mood improves, productivity is enhanced and life can become more enjoyable.
• All health content in this article is provided for general information only and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional.
Christine is a certified holistic health and life coach (www.christine-carey.com), partner at Liquid Nutrition (www.liquidnutrition.com) and director of Corporate Wellness at 242 Consulting (www.242consulting.com). With over ten years of coaching experience, Ms Carey works with individuals and groups to assess and define their diet and lifestyle goals. She focuses on increasing knowledge, implementing new habits and creating personalized tools for success.