Got Stress?

Stress is what you feel when you have to handle more than you are used to. When you are stressed, your body responds as though you are in danger. It makes hormones that speed up your heart, make you breathe faster, and give you a burst of energy. This is called the fight-or-flight stress response.

Some stress is normal and even useful. Stress can help if you need to work hard or react quickly. For example, it can help you win a race or finish an important job on time. Many of us feel stressed by problems that relate to our job, family and/or health, but if stress happens too often or lasts too long, it can have bad effects. It can be linked to headaches, an upset stomach, back pain, and trouble sleeping. It can weaken your immune system, making it harder to fight off disease. If you already have a health problem, stress may make it worse. It can make you moody, tense, or depressed.

When we worry, cortisol levels spike, along with other adrenal hormones which increases inflammatory responses. When our body pumps more cortisol and other adrenal hormones around, the body moves into a state of alert.

This alert response decreases mucosal secretions, which reduces the ability to digest food and fight infections. It also stimulates the heart rate and decreases many neurotransmitters such as serotonin, important for maintaining equilibrium throughout our metabolism.

Mental or psychological stress is linked with oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when free radicals are rampant within the bloodstream, lymph and cell fluids. Unchecked, this can produce tissue and cell damage because free radicals are in need of electrons.

The stress response also tends to increase blood pressure due to the vagus nerve that runs from the limbic system through the heart and through the digestive tract. High blood pressure has been linked to a variety of cardiovascular problems.

Free radical damage has been shown to be at the root of practically every ailment, from heart disease to Alzheimer’s disease. While intruders certainly play a part, toxins and microorganisms also produce free radicals.

Stress not only produces free radicals as our metabolism burns excess energy; it also distracts our body’s resources from neutralizing those free radicals running rampant in the body.

So it is imperative to decrease the body’s fight or flight response when possible. Luckily, nature supplies a number of natural strategies that can reduce the body’s proclivity to respond to something with stress.

Altering our activities is the easiest means for reducing stress. Activities that have been proven to reduce stress include the following:

Deep breathing has been shown to reduce oxidative stress. A study found that diaphragmatic breathing reduces oxidative stress and helps normalize insulin and blood sugar levels.

Researchers conducting the study found that the group who conducted the diaphragm breathing had significantly lower heart rates, their blood had higher insulin levels and more normal levels of blood sugar. They also had lower levels of free radicals and higher antioxidant levels than the non-diaphragm breathing group.

Nature walks have been shown to reduce blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease. It has also been shown to increase sleep quality. The average heart rate during a forest walk was 87 bpm while an urban walk average was nearly 92 bpm.

Systolic blood pressure during the forest walk averaged 114 mmHg and averaged 116 mmHg during the urban walk.

Music has been found to not only reduce stress, it can produce greater nerve-brain connections.

Complex carbohydrates are precursors to serotonin and dopamine neurotransmitters. Increasing the consumption of carbohydrates such as whole baked potatoes, brown rice and other whole grains often makes a big difference in a person’s stress levels.

Probiotics have been proven to change brain activity and emotional response. A study found that those who drank milk containing fermented probiotics had fewer mood issues than did the control group.

Magnesium is needed for nerve impulse transmission and is helpful for REM sleep.

This was shown in a study where researchers found that magnesium supplementation resulted in better sleep and lower chronic inflammation. Foods high in magnesium include: pumpkin seeds, almonds, leafy greens, beans, avocados and bananas.

Orange oil calms and relaxes. This was found in a study of children while undergoing dental appointments. The orange oil aromatherapy significantly calmed the subjects down in comparison. The oil lowered pulse rate an average of 6.7 bpm, and salivary cortisol levels went down.

Lavender essential oil, along with lavender herb, has been shown to reduce stress significantly. Researchers found from heart rate variability tests and mood index questionnaires that inhaling lavender oil improved moods and reduced stress. Dried lavender herb may also be put into pillows and sleep masks for good sleep.

So next time you are feeling stressed, use these natural remedies to reduce stress and fatigue and avoid the negative ramifications.

Resource: OnFitness Magazine

 

 

Michelle’s ability to wear many hats has made her a valuable asset to the Y.E.S. Fitness team.

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