Stress isn’t unusual in our society, but it will affect every one of our systems. It is estimated that stress may soon become the primary contributing cause to most diseases and their symptoms.
I find the biochemical-hormonal process of stress fascinating. It begins when our brain and pituitary gland release a hormone called ACTH. This stimulates our adrenal gland to produce three stress hormones: adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol. These hormones go on to produce a great deal of changes in our body:
- Our blood pressure and heart rate increase.
- Our blood sugar goes up.
- The bronchioles in our lungs dilate.
- Our pupils dilate.
- Our urinary sphincters contract, to decrease elimination.
- Certain blood vessels constrict to increase blood flow to our muscles and brain, while decreasing blood flood to our digestive tract and internal organs.
Essentially, our body is preparing to face a physical threat – it wants to either fight or run. Stress is a survival response. Except in most cases, the threats that trigger stress for us (like my exam) are not physical. So these physiological changes, instead of helping us survive, create havoc in our bodies as well as our emotions and our minds.
Stress suppresses our immune system and stimulates the production of free radicals (foreign invaders that damage the healthy cells our body). It inflames our organs and blood vessel linings, as well as consumes important nutrients that will then lead to deficiencies.
I work and study and train, so my stress levels could be much higher than they are, were it not for the following points.
MY PERSONAL STRESS-REDUCING TIPS
1. Exercise. I find that this is one of the best ways to combat stress. Even just getting out for a quick 10 minute sprint makes a huge difference. As I said, the body is already preparing itself to run. So actually running feels like a big relief and really gets the stress out of my system.
2. Eat healthfully. People under stress tend to do the opposite because of time constraints, but the body actually depletes a lot more nutrients during these times. It is said that to adequately replenish all the nutrients that we lose when stressed, we would have to spend eight hours a day shopping and preparing food and eating. This is not realistic, so it’s important that we try to consume more nutrient-rich foods.
3. Load up on antioxidants. These include the vitamins A, E, C, and B, as well as the minerals zinc, selenium, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, sulfur, and molybdenum. Doing this will support your suppressed immune system and help prevent you from becoming sick.
THE TOP ANTI-STRESS NUTRIENTS
VITAMIN C: This is the single most important antistress nutrient. It is the one that is most depleted and only minimally stored in the body. This vitamin offers cellular protection, as well as immune and adrenal support.
POTASSIUM: This mineral is essential for the most important physiological activities.
CALCIUM: Calcium is important for nerve transmissions. It regulates our heartbeat and boosts immune function. It also aids muscle relaxation and helps balance stomach acid.
MAGNESIUM: Magnesium is a tranquilizing mineral. It balances our nervous system and supports heart function. Epson salts (or magnesium sulfate) added to your bath can be extremely relaxing.
That’s it for now! Back to studying!