In 2007, a study showed that about a third of workers experience chronic work stress and were often or very often burned out or stressed and identified work as a major source of stress and anxiety.
The initial reaction to a stressful situation is the fight or flight response; this allows the body to quickly release energy in order to run away or stand and fight. If a person is exposed to continuing or ongoing stressful situations, it can lead to fatigue, weight gain, skin and digestive problems. When we are continually stressed, our digestive function is compromised.
This can lead to digestive issues, resulting in inflammation and symptoms such as indigestion, bloating and discomfort. A diet high in sugary and refined foods can also contribute to heightened stress levels, due to blood sugar imbalance.
If stress continues over an extended period, it can be linked with a variety of conditions including anxiety, insomnia, IBS, depression, fatigue and high blood pressure.
Making time to manage your stress will not only help your energy levels but can also be an integral part of longevity.
Small changes, such as allowing sufficient time to rest and recuperate, can make a big impact on our stress response. Other steps that you can do include; walking, listening to music, dancing, journaling and deep breathing. It’s also important to take time out to do things that you love, such as spending time with friend and family, finding a hobby that you enjoy, getting a massage or spending time in nature. This can all help you to take time to get out of the rat race that many of us in.
Nutrition can play a significant role in how stressed we are. A study in 2010 showed that those who consumed more than half a litre of soft drinks per day had approximately 60% greater risk of having stress-related problems, compared with those not consuming soft drinks.
Research shows that in only 8 weeks, an exercise regime was shown to improve mild to moderate depression and was associated with reductions in 24 h urinary cortisol levels.
Sleep is also important for managing stress and chronic sleep deprivation has been reported to increase cortisol levels. Setting a regular bedtime routine, getting natural daylight daily, spending time away from bright lights from the TV and computer, sleeping in a dark quiet room and avoiding caffeine after midday can all help improve sleep duration and quality. Natural supplements that can support you during periods of extended stress include magnesium, Theanine, Lemon balm and B Vitamins
Good quality, nutrient dense foods such as Omega 3 fats found in oily fish, nuts, seeds and avocado, dark berries, green leafy vegetables and eggs all help combat stress.
Healthy gut bacteria are also important in the regulation of a balanced response to stress.
Factors contributing to unhealthy gut flora:
• Overuse of antibiotics
• Diets high in refined carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods
• Diets low in fibers such as fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds
• Food intolerances
• Chronic stress
• Chronic infections
Ways to restore your gut flora include:
• Cultured or fermented foods such as raw sauerkraut, pickles and plain live yoghurt.
• A high-quality, multi-strain probiotic
• Take steps to manage your stress
If you are struggling to manage your stress, seek help from a professional who can provide you with tools to address the underlying causes.