Archive for March, 2013

March 19, 2013

Life’s Big Stresses

by lrmetcalfe

In 1967, psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe created an experiment to determine whether stressful events might cause illnesses. They created a list of 43 stressful life and patients had to score which they would find most stressful, their medical records were studied and a positive correlation was found between their life events and their illnesses.

In the last few months I have experienced several of the events on the list and it got me thinking about the best remedies and lifestyle changes we can make to help us get through these difficult times, to ultimately keep our health in the best possible condition.

There is no escaping stress and in the modern world, many of us feel we are always under pressure and our stresses start to feel overwhelming.  However stress can also be a motivator and it is important to remember many stressful events will eventually have a positive effect on our lives; such as sitting exams, job interviews or your wedding day.

So here are some tips to help you deal with some of those scarier moments in life:

B Vitamins and Vitamin C

The adrenal glands are located above the kidneys, they are critical to the body’s regulation of homeostasis and particularly support energy and circulation during times of stress. The water soluble vitamins- Vitamin C and B Vitamins are essential for the production of adrenal hormones and in times of severe stress can become depleted.

Try taking a high strength B Complex and 1000mg of Vitamin C daily, look for a timed release formula to ensure the nutrients are properly absorbed.

Alternatively a bowl of porridge every morning will give you a good daily hit of B vitamins. To increase your Vitamin C intake, consume more fruit and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower).

Lavender Oil

I never underestimate the power of lavender oil. The most flexible of all the essential oils, it is essential in times of stress! Look for lavender oil in a rollerball bottle, and rub a little on the temples, nape of the neck and wrists, to relieve headaches and restore calm. Add a drop or two to your evening bath and onto your pillow to aid relaxation and sleep.

Sleep

Eight hours of sleep is essential for your body to function properly, when you are stressed, sleep is even more important. However sleep can become much more elusive when you feel stressed. Many of us lie awake staring at the ceiling and thinking of all the things we need to do. So here are my top tips for those sleepless nights:

  • Don’t eat after 6pm, and don’t drink any caffeinated beverages. No midnight snacks if you can’t sleep!
  • Avoid watching TV, going on a computer or looking at your mobile phone for 2 hours before bedtime. These will all stimulate the brain.
  • Keep a notebook my your bedside table- if you wake up and can’t sleep, terrified you will forget something you need to do tomorrow, just note it down and take it off your mind.
  • If you really can’t sleep, get out of bed, stop tossing and turning. Do something relaxing and non-stimulating in a different room, for instance go downstairs and read a book. Return to bed when you start to feel sleepy.
  • If you feel you need to take a sleeping remedy, avoid tablets. After 6pm the digestive system starts to close down, this means any pills taken late at night will not be digested until the next morning when you have breakfast. Try a liquid formula such as ‘A.Vogel Dormeasan’ which contains the calming herbs- Valerian and Hops.

The importance of a healthy diet

In times of stress a healthy diet is your best weapon. Ensuring you get all the nutrients you need will ensure your immune, digestive and adrenal systems are all in good condition, helping you to cope with the demands you are placing on your body. This is probably the hardest thing to do and many of us just turn to stimulants such as chocolate and coffee to give us energy throughout the day and take-aways at night, as we are too tired to cook.

Make sure you stock up on healthy things to snack on like fruit, yoghurts, nuts and dried fruit and look into quick, easy and healthy meals you can knock up for dinner.

Exercise

When we exercise we release feel-good hormones called endorphins. Many people who suffer from stress find exercise to be an effective remedy. However it can be difficult to fit exercise in to a hectic schedule; try and do a little bit every day, go for a walk on your lunch break, or do some gentle yoga stretches in the morning, you will soon see and feel the benefits.

Breathe!

Breathing exercises are a fantastic remedy for stress; they can be both energising and relaxing. There are many different breathing techniques you can try. Buy a Yoga dvd or book and it will detail various effect breathing exercises, or you could try this basic one:

Make sure you breathe in and out through your nose. Inhale deeply and slowly, as you do this, try and stick out your tummy, ribcage and chest, breathe out gently and slowly. Try counting whilst you inhale and exhale, you could start off by inhaling for a count of four and exhaling for a count of 8. As you become more practised, try and increase the number you count to.

Breathing exercises are a great relaxation technique however if you suffer from panic attacks or you find your breathing changes when you feel stressed, do not try and breathe deeply. Contrary to popular belief, this can make you feel worse; instead sit down and take steady, short, shallow breaths.

Depression and stress are not to be confused, it is important to speak to your doctor if you are unsure as to exactly what you are suffering from or you are experiencing physical symptoms.