How often do you feel that your heart races, your breath quickens, maybe your palms start to sweat, your muscles tense up, you feel nauseous, you loose appetite, you experience diarrhoea etc? These are stress hormones causing you feel this way. This stress response is natural mental and physical response and good, when you are in a fight or flight situation, like where you need to run for your life. But when you are experiencing stressful feeling on a day-to-day basis, it can put your health at great risk, especially over time.
Below I will highlight how stress can impact your body, so you are aware and can mindfully take action to reduce stress and counteract it with calming activities. I will also highlight some foods that are specifically good for stress relief.
Stress makes your heart pump faster so that blood can reach your limbs and vital organs faster.
Stress makes your muscles that help with breathing tense up leaving you out of breath
High blood pressure
Stress hormones also tighten your blood vessels which can lead to higher blood pressure
Higher risk of heart attack
If you have an increased heart rate and high blood pressure for longer period of time, it damages your arteries, makes your heart work harder, leading to a heart attack.
Stress very often triggers and intensifies tension headaches.
Increased chances of depression
If you are chronically stressed, it wears you down emotionally and can lead to depression
Racing thoughts and pounding heart makes it harder to fall asleep and also stay soundly asleep leading to insomnia
Stress increases the production of stomach acid in your stomach and causing heartburn. And no, acid blockers are not the solution here, as they lower the stomach acid, but allow other symptoms like small intestine bacterial overgrowth to develop due to undigested food if there is not enough stomach acid in the stomach to break down the food.
Stomach pains and digestive issues
Stress often influences digestive system causing nausea, stomach ache and other digestive issues. Overeating and not eating are often the responses to stressful situations, days, weeks. Your liver also produces extra blood sugar under stress, which over time makes your body not handle this surge of constant glycose, increasing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Weaker immune system
If you are experiencing stress during a long period of time, it weakens your immune system, leaving your body more vulnerable to catch colds, viruses and infections.
Negative effect on your libido
Stress and the exhaustion that comes with it often causes low sex drive. In men stress also causes erectile dysfunction.
As stress influences hormones, it can throw off your menstrual cycle or in case of severe stress period can stop altogether.
Issues with fertility
In a stressful period, your body does not even think of making a baby. Stress interferes with the reproductive system both in women and in men, making it harder to conceive.
When you are stressed you will feel the tension-related backaches, neck pains, tension in your shoulders. Stress tenses your muscles, which is supposed to happen only for a short period of time, so you can quickly deal with the stressful situation. Long-term stress causes long-term tension and pain in the muscles.
As you can see stress really influences your whole body and if nothing done about managing the stress, it can break down your body piece by piece.
What are the actions you can take to manage stress?
Identify the triggers and see how you can avoid at least some of them
Maintain a healthy diet filled with whole foods and avoiding processed foods
Minimise or eliminate the use of caffeine and alcohol
Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night
Exercise on a regular basis- walking in nature, a combination of cardio, weight and relaxing physical movements
Stay socially connected to receive and provide support when and where needed
Practice active breathing and meditation- try to find 5-10 minutes in your day for these activities
Make time for self-care, relaxation and rest
What foods to incorporate more in your diet to help calm the stress?
Green leafy vegetables- high in vitamin C, magnesium and folate
Avocados- high in B vitamins, potassium
Asparagus- high in folate
Garlic- helps to reduce the amount of stress hormones body produces and protects against diseases
Dried apricots- high in magnesium, vitamin C and fibre
Bananas- high in potassium, contain B vitamins and tryptophan
Broccoli- high in vitamin C
Blueberries- high in vitamin C and antioxidants
Fermented foods- gut is the number 1 place to start when you feel stressed or anxious. Beneficial bacteria you get from fermented foods have a direct impact on your gut and on your mood.
Fish- specifically salmon, because of it's high Omega-3 fatty acid content
Plain Yoghurt- apart from having a good impact on your gut, yoghurt also helps to calm the brain. Add some blueberries, chia seeds, almonds to it to create a healthy breakfast.
If you feel your stress is becoming totally overwhelmed, seek help from a therapist. Talking with someone and getting them to help you see the bigger picture can get you to have a different perspective on your situation and life.
If you are looking to gain more balance in your life in different areas that influence your health, don't hesitate to contact me for health coaching at email@example.com. Learn more about my health coaching services under Services menu.