April is National Stress Awareness Month, a time when medical professionals in the United States speak out to increase public awareness about the causes and cures of stress. With our lives being busier than ever, it is important to take some time to reflect whether stress is affecting our lives, and its serious effects on our health.
The American Institute of Stress writes that back in 1983, Time magazine wrote an article about stress, calling it “The Epidemic of the Eighties.” Back then, 55 percent of respondents indicated they felt great stress weekly. In 1996, Prevention magazine conducted a survey, where now 75 percent of people who responded stated that they are greatly stressed out at least one day per week. Nowadays, the source says, about 75 to 90 percent of all people who see a doctor do so because of stress. It is clear that in recent decades stress has affected most of our lives. In this article, we will explore how to make positive changes to relieve the symptoms of stress.
What Causes Stress?
One of the biggest sources of stress is work as our jobs are more demanding than ever. A 2014 poll by National Public Radio (NPR) and the Harvard School of Public Health reported that 25% of all American workers were really stressed out at work in the past month. However, Princeton University psychologist Eldar Shafir, believes the numbers in that survey are grossly underestimated because people are often unaware of their own stress. In addition to work, other responsibilities can wreak havoc on our nerves, such as dependents, elderly parents, reaching an ideal weight, saving for retirement, etc.
What are the Effects of Stress?
Stress wreaks havoc on our entire body – our heart starts beating fast, we sweat, we can’t think straight and we have an uncomfortable feeling in our stomach. However, stress also has serious, long-lasting effects on our bodies and minds. “Leaving the stress response on continuously creates a dangerous and potentially life-threatening condition for the body,” states an article on Livestrong.com. “This process floods the body with excess hormones, raises blood pressure and elevates blood sugar levels, creating a host physical and psychological problems.” Furthermore, stress causes
- Lack of focus
- Muscle tension
- Problems sleeping and eating
- Sexual problems
- Substance abuse
Ways to Live a Stress-Free Life
Big Life Changes
While it is normal to feel stressed once in awhile, individuals who are stressed out constantly should re-evaluate their life choices and see what changes they can make. If work is the main culprit, consider delegating some of your responsibilities to others, or discuss a change in your schedule with your boss. If those options are not available, and you are truly affected by work-related stress, it may be time to consider switching jobs in order to preserve your health.
If your stress is family-related, caused by your children not behaving well or constant fighting with your spouse, find ways to improve those relationships. Talk to a family therapist, or read self-help books, to find useful strategies to dealing with your family members.
Have you ever noticed how fast your heart races after a strong cup of coffee? Food plays a big role in regulating our stress hormones. Eating the following staples will help to lower your stress levels:
- Green, leafy vegetables have folate, a vitamin that releases dopamine and serotonin, brain chemicals that control our moods.
- Turkey breast produces tryptophan, an amino acid that produces dopamine. A 2006 study found that people who ate food that had tryptophan reduced quarrelsome behavior, especially men.
- Oatmeal aids in the production of serotonin; choosing old fashion oats instead of instant oatmeal leads to a longer calming effect as it takes longer for your body to digest it.
Many people know the positive effects of an evening jog to clear the mind. In fact, any way of staying active helps to reduce stress. Exercising releases endorphins, which are brain chemicals that make us feel euphoric and less stressed. Yoga is an excellent form of exercise to keep your nerves calm, as the mindful breathing it teaches helps with your mind, body and spirit.
Vitamins/ Natural Remedies
Another great tip to help treat stress is to take vitamins and other natural solutions. These remedies work with your body to help calm your nerves. Some choices to consider are:
Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that is known as an antioxidant. It is believed to have many positive effects on the body, such as curing and preventing colds and the flu, improving the immune system, and even helping to keep our skin looking young. A study found that Vitamin C may also lower the amount of stress hormones, cortisol and corticosterone, helping to alleviate stress symptoms.
B-Complex vitamins include virtually all water-soluble vitamins, with the exception of vitamin C. These are thiamin, biotin, folic acid, riboflavin, etc. The combination of these vitamins can help with heart disease, eye conditions, and possibly Alzheimer’s disease. It was also found that these vitamins may “lower personal strain and a reduction in confusion and depressed/dejected mood,” as reported on Dr.Whitaker.com.
Water-soluble vitamins, such as Vitamin B-Complex and Vitamin C, pass from our bodies through our urine, leaving behind important nutrients we need to maintain our health. However, our bodies do not absorb all of the nutrients these vitamins have to offer. To help increase absorbability, purchase natural vitamins versus synthetic alternatives made in labs, which our bodies may not recognize.
Also, drinking Willard Water helps our bodies absorb a much larger percentage of the beneficial nutrients in water-soluble vitamins. In fact, Integrative Health Systems, LLC, conducted a 30-day study on Vitamin B usage in conjunction with Willard Water, finding that Willard Water played a role in more nutrients being absorbed by the body.
Don’t let stress ruin your life! Make both small and big changes today to live a peaceful and happy life.