By Lauren Denos: 8/3/2014 (Concerns)

Stress is something we all know about and chances are you have been and felt the effects of stress yourself. 75-90% of people suffer from stress to some degree, which is a staggering number! The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has stated that stress costs American industry more than $300 billion per year in lost productivity! Therefore it is clear that this is a serious and chronic condition in our lives.

There are several types of stress; there is the kind that drives you crazy and is challenging to resolve; and then there is the kind that motivates you to do something that you have been putting off. But do you really understand what stress is doing to your health?

Many times stress is the underlying cause for adverse heath conditions, especially those we can not seem to find the answer to, or that never seem to subside.

These afflictions can range from:

  • Stomach irritation or digestion problems
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Intestinal issues such as leaky gut or irritable bowl syndrome
  • High blood pressure
  • Eating disorders
  • Weight issues
  • Muscle pain
  • Chest pains
  • Sleep difficulty
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Anxiety
  • Motivation issues
  • Irritability
  • Stimulant use (which compounds the problem)
  • Hypertension, heart attack and strokes can eventually develop

There are things that you can do to control the negative effects of stress. Lets take a look at them.

Your Diet

One thing we can control is what we put into our bodies and how often. You may not think that nutrition has much to do with your stress levels, but keep in mind that stress can affect pretty much everything in your body, so if you are eating garbage or not eating enough or eating too much it may just compound your stress issues. You need the proper nutrients to combat everything that your body goes through.

Of course the hard part is that when we are stressed, that is exactly the time we want to throw our healthy eating habits out the window; even I have a hard time with this one sometimes. What I find that helps is to find alternatives to the junk I would want to eat. If I am stressed and craving chips, I grab some dried crispy green beans or some bean and rice chips that are leaner and with more nutrients than normal chips. If I am craving something like chocolate, I'll make an avocado chocolate pudding with Stevia. It has a ton more nutrients and good fat in it that will satisfy the sweet and fatty food craving while being more useful to my body. You would no doubt have other alternatives that you would like; start by finding something better than your normal stress food and keep looking for healthier and healthier alternatives.

Make sure you are not gorging to a ridiculous point. Sometimes people eat too much when they are stressed, and while it is understandable; just do not make it a regular occurrence. When the body is flooded with way more food than it needs, it contributes to stress as much as anything else. Another issue is not eating enough. If you are not giving your body the fuel it needs, that itself can cause the stress you are dealing with. Our bodies need fuel and when you have deprived yourself, your body thinks it is starving and I am sure you could imagine that the prospect of starving could be a little bit stressful on the body.

Supplements

Supplements are another area of personal preference. Whenever dealing with supplements there are benefits and risks. Some people may have great results with a supplement but another person taking the exact same thing, in the exact same dosage has a reaction or it does not work at all. Whenever adding supplements into your programs start slow. Do one supplement at a time, this way you can see what it is doing for you before you add in another one. If you add too many supplements in at one time you will not know what is working or if you are having a reaction you will not know that either.

Some common supplements that people have had success with:

  • B Complex
    A combination formula for a variety of B vitamins. They can have a profound effect on our health including our energy levels, mood and stress-management. B vitamins are found in many of the foods we eat, but if your body is undergoing larger amount of stress you may need more.
  • Vitamin C
    Really is important all the way around. It in necessary for our system to function properly. A person who eats healthy usually does not have a problem with low levels of C, however smokers run a higher risk of being deficient.
  • Ashwaganda
    An adaptogen, it helps with stress, mental acuity and supports the nervous system.
  • Rhodiola Rosea
    A adaptogen, it helps combat stress and been called natures anti depressant. It is also said to help fight fatigue and help sports endurance.
  • Siberian Ginseng
    Also an adaptogen that has been used to help with stress-management, low energy and to help support the adrenal glands. You can often find this in conjunction with other supplements and other types of ginseng.
  • Lemon Balm
    A member of the mint family and has been used since the Middle Ages to help reduce stress, anxiety and promote sleep. Now days many times lemon balm is combined with other herbs in formulas meant to increase the effects.
  • Passion Flower
    Used for both anxiety and nervousness. More research needs to be done to know all the risks with this supplement. Germany found it effective enough that in the early 1900's it was approved by Germany's Federal Health Agency. They used it to treat nervous restlessness.
  • Valerian Root
    There have been studies that show a reduction in stress-management when taking this supplement and there have been other studies that were unable to prove that Valerian root did anything to help stress and anxiety. It has also been used to treat insomnia.
  • St. John's Wart
    Used to improve mood, ease anxiety and insomnia caused by depression.

Get Rid of Stimulants

Some of the things that can get in the way of dealing with your stress-management are stimulants like caffeine, sugar and nicotine. If you are addicted to any of these you are probably not going to give them up while you are in a stressed time. But if you are dealing with chronic stress you may want to start weaning yourself off of these. They may seem to help ease the stress but all they are doing is masking the issues going on underneath, plus they can compound the issue to create anxiety.

Exercise

Exercise can be a great way to let go of some of that pent up stress. It also can release endorphins, which can help affect your mood in a positive way. When you are feeling a sense of well being it helps to alleviate some of the stress. Exercise can also help you sleep better which is an issue for many people dealing with stress.

While exercise is good at helping cope with stress, too much of a good thing could work in the reverse for you, especially if you are doing the same exercises all the time, like running. Running for example can be great for your stress-management, but if you are running a few times a day, you may be stressing out your body in other ways. So vary your workouts. Be mindful if you are doing intense exercise all day how it is making you feel. You can always make some of your exercise mellower like a hike or a walk.



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-Lauren