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Centurion, Gauteng
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Coping with Stress: Part 2

September 20, 2017

 

In Coping with Stress: Part 1 we looked at what is stress, what the causes are and the effects it has on our bodies.  During part two we take a look at the effects of stress and how they relate to the meridians of the body as well as various things you can do to reduce your stress and get back to living a healthy and less stressful life.

 

 

As we continue I would like you to remember the analogy of stress being compared to the weight of a glass of water, and the longer you hold it the heavier it gets.  Thus the longer we are exposed to the stressor the more serious the effects will be.

 

Effects of Stress and the Meridians.

It is interesting to note that stress affects various organs in the body.  These organs are put under strain and conditions result along the meridians, further evidence is provided when we also consider the Chinese 5 elements.

Below is a list of the common effects of stress as provided by the Mayo Clinic which appeared in Coping with Stress: Part 1 and I have divided them into the different meridians and elements affected:

Evidence of stress along the Stomach and the Spleen/Pancreas meridian:

  • Stomach & digestive upsets

  • Chest pain

  • Palpitation

This evidence is further supported when we look at the Earth element to which the Stomach and the Spleen/Pancreas meridians belong:

  • The need for stimulants like alcohol & tobacco (both products are loaded with sugars)

 

Evidence of stress along the Bladder & Kidney meridian:

  • Muscular tension in the neck & shoulders

  • Headaches (particularly forehead and crown headaches)

This evidence is further supported when looking at the Water element to which the Bladder & Kidney meridians belong:

  • The emotion; anxiety

 

Evidence of stress along the Liver and Gallbladder meridian:

  • Changes in libido

  • Sleep problems

  • Depression

  • Migraines, cluster/ temple headaches

This is further supported by evidence when we look at the wood element to which the Liver & Gallbladder meridians belong:

  • The emotion:  Anger  & Anger outburst

  • Irritability

 

All these meridians are known as the major meridians of the body and they are present in the feet.  Thus when you get a reflexology and or meridian treatment all these meridians are stimulated so toxic molecules are broken down and removed from the body, thus bring it back into balance.

 

Stress Reduction Techniques:

 

DIET

Whilst stressed we are tempted to reach for junk food. Junk foods will only give you a moment of reprieve. After the initial pleasure wears off, you may find yourself battling mood swings, irritability, and other unpleasant emotions on top of the stress, courtesy of the sugar, trans fats, artificial colours, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and whatever other synthetic ingredients you may have ingested.

 

By choosing healthy foods you can actually impact your mood on a positive note, helping to relieve tension, stabilize blood sugar, and send your stress packing.

 

Below is a list of foods you should consider adding to your diet if you are already stressed.

  • Dark leafy greens:  like spinach is full of folate. Folate helps your body produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine.  Research from the University of Otago found eating fruits and vegetables of any sort (except fruit juice and dried fruit) helped young adults calm their nerves [1]
     

  • Tryptophan:  found in turkey, pumpkin seeds, nuts, and free-range organic eggs significantly decreased quarrelsome behaviours and increased agreeable behaviours and perceptions of agreeableness.[2]
     

  • Fermented Foods:  preferably homemade kimchi, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut and yoghurt.  The secret to improving your mental health is in your gut, as unhealthy gut flora can have a detrimental impact on your brain health, leading to issues like anxiety and depression.   Beneficial bacteria have a direct effect on brain chemistry, transmitting mood- and behaviour-regulating signals to your brain via your Vagus nerve.

    Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, a medical doctor with a postgraduate degree in Neurology, explains that toxicity in your gut can flow throughout your body and into your brain, where it can cause symptoms of poor mood, autism, ADHD, depression, schizophrenia, and a whole host of other mental and behavioural disorders.

    With this in mind, it should be clear that nourishing your gut flora (by eating fermented foods and avoiding processed foods and sugar) is extremely important to support a positive mood.

     

  • Omega 3 fatty acids:  Found in salmon, sardines, and anchovies, or supplement form.  EPA and DHA found in omega 3's play a role in your emotional well-being, past research has shown omega-3 fats work just as well as antidepressants in preventing the signs of depression, but without any of the side effects.
     

  • Avocados: provide close to 20 essential health-boosting nutrients, including potassium, vitamin E, B vitamins, and folate, and, according to research published in the Nutrition Journal, eating just one-half of a fresh avocado with lunch may satiate you if you're overweight, which will help prevent unnecessary snacking later[3]
     

Foods to avoid whilst stressed:

  • Sugar
    Sugar contribute to insulin and leptin resistance and impaired signalling, which play a significant role in your mental health.  Sugar consumption also triggers a host of chemical reactions in your body that promote chronic inflammation. In the long term, inflammation disrupts the normal functioning of your immune system, which is linked to a greater risk of depression

     

  • Gluten
    Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley.  Gluten inhibits production of serotonin.  Neurotransmitters like serotonin can be found not just in your brain, but also in your intestines.  As a matter of fact, the greatest concentration of serotonin, which is involved in mood control, depression, and aggression, is found in your intestines, not your brain!

     

  • Processed Foods
    Apart from sugar and gluten, processed foods may also contain trans fats, artificial colours, monosodium glutamate (MSG), artificial sweeteners, and other synthetic ingredients linked to irritability and poor mood.

 

EXERCISE

Exercise increases your overall health and your sense of well-being.  Exercise increase endorphins released by the brain, regular exercise can also increase self-confidence, it can relax you, and it can lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. 

 

Exercises mostly recommended for those who suffer from stress and fatigue include

  • Meditation

  • Tai-Chi

  • Yoga

  • Hiking

 

LIFESTYLE

  • Sleep Hygiene
    Sleep hygiene is a term describing good sleep habits.   Before reaching for sleeping tablets try

    the following:

           Environment:  The Bedroom

    • The bedroom should be well ventilated, optimal temperature ranges between 15 - 19°C.

    • Plants which improve the quality of the air in your bedroom are, Garden Mum, Spider plant, Dracaena, Ficus/Weeping Fig, Peace Lily, Boston Fern, Snake Plant/Mother-in-Law’s Tongue and Bamboo Palm

    • Ensure that your bedroom is dark and that there are no lights shining in the room.  You might need to invest in blackout curtains if street or security lights are lighting up your room.

    • Invest in a good quality bed and pillows.  Ensure that your mattress supports your back and that your pillows provide proper neck support. 

    • Bedding should be clean and changed on a weekly basis.

    • No TV or Wi-Fi routers.  Should you have any of these in your room it is advised to remove these as they transmit electronic waves which affects our normal brain waves during sleep.  If it is not possible to remove these items, unplug these 1 hour prior to bedtime.

    • Turn your cell phone’s mobile data and Wi-Fi off when retiring for the night this reduces the number of times your sleep gets disrupted during the night and you will still be able to receive a phone call should there be an emergency.

      Sleep Routine

    • It is best to avoid taking naps during the day, to ensure that you are tired at bedtime. If you can’t make it through the day without a nap, make sure it is no longer than 20 – 40 minutes and before 3pm.

    • The optimum amount of sleep needed for adults are between 6 – 8 hours.  It is therefore paramount to establish a specific bedtime that allows for the correct amount of sleep. One of the best ways to train your body to sleep well is to go to bed and get up at more or less the same time every day, even on weekends and days off!  This regular rhythm will make you feel better and will give your body something to work from.

    • It is best to avoid consuming any caffeine (in coffee, tea, cola drinks, chocolate, and some medications), nicotine (cigarettes) and alcohol for at least 4-6 hours before going to bed.  These substances act as stimulants and interfere with the ability to fall asleep.

    • Regular exercise is a good idea to help with good sleep however, do not engage in vigorous exercise 4 hour prior to bedtime.

    • Having a hot bath 1-2 hours before bedtime can be useful, as it will raise your body temperature, causing you to feel sleepy as your body temperature drops again. Research shows that sleepiness is associated with a drop in body temperature.

    • Avoid hitting the snooze button.  Snoozing the alarm is one of the worst things you can do.  By snoozing you are disrupting your sleep cycle.  If you are prone to snoozing move your alarm clock / phone if you use your phone for an alarm away from the bedside table.  Thus you will be forced to get up in order to turn it off.

     

  • Blue Light Filters
    As we are living in an age of technology we are constantly exposed to blue light from our TV, smart devices as well as laptops not to mention the exposure to florescent lighting at the office and even sometimes at home.

    Blue light destroys our melatonin which is a hormone regulating our sleep cycles and increase cortisol which is a stress inducing hormone. Melatonin production is influenced by the detection of light and dark by the retina of the eye.

    To reduce the amount of blue light you are exposed to you can install a blue light filter application for your smart devices as well as your laptop from the app store.

     

  • Sunshine and Vitamin D
    A daily dose of sunshine might help stabilize your mood as more serotonin is produced.  Low vitamin D levels are also associated with an increased risk of panic disorders.  While you can get some vitamin D in foods like salmon, egg yolks, and mushrooms, your best solution for optimizing your levels is through sensible sun exposure.

     

  • Guilt Free Downtime
    This could be anything you enjoy doing but most importantly it should be guilt free.  Set time aside to do the things you love and take your mind off of those things which might be causing you stress.

     

  • Time Management
    Ever heard the saying “the more you do, the more you get done…” The most important factor to reducing your stress is to manage your time wisely.
     

    Below is a list of tips to manage your time wisely.
     

    • Create an 8 day meal plan.
      Not only does a meal planner reduce the amount of time you spend at the supermarket but it also addresses your nutritional needs, buying seasonal fruits & vegetables, which in turn saves you money and answer the dreaded question of what’s for dinner? 

       

    • Pre-preparing Meals
      Most of us have a busy work life and the demands seem to increase by the day.By taking some time on an off day to prepare two or more additional healthy meals which can be frozen and reheated will save you time and give you that much needed nutrition during hectic days.

       

    • Schedule time for exercise and down time
      Pick a time which will suite you best to exercises and fit into your daily schedule and diarise it.The same goes for down time.

       

       

    • Get into a routine
      For some people having a routine sounds boring, however getting yourself into a routine can save you a lot of time and reduce a lot of stress.  You can determine how many aspects of your life you would like to set a routine to, the sky's the limit when it comes to daily routines.

       

 

ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES

Reflexology, massage therapy, aroma therapy and auricular therapy are all therapies which are effective in helping reducing stress, depression and anxiety in a natural and non-invasive way.

 

REFERENCES

 

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23347122

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1488902/

[3] https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2891-12-155

 

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