So you think you know stress?
Stress! Stress! Stress! It's such a common word these days, we all use it so flippantly “Don’t stress me out!” “You are so stressy!” “Did you have a stressful day darling?” etc.
The thing we all need to remember is stress is actually a physiological response to a brain signal.
The receptors sense trouble e.g. our eyes see the traffic jam, read our bank statement, credit card statement or school report etc. and our brain interprets this as a threat, releasing our stress hormones from our adrenal glands. Our flight or fight response. In primitive times this surge of hormones would have saved our lives, as we escaped from saber-tooth tigers etc. But in this day and age, the day-to-day stress activating situations are chronic, causing our adrenal glands to work overtime.
Our adrenal glands are responsible for the release of over 50 hormones that drive almost every bodily function. The adrenal medulla releases adrenaline that in stressful situations service our brain and muscles (including our heart muscle) to aid us in a quick escape. The corticosteroids are released from the adrenal cortex to dampen down digestion, immune response and sexual arousal, all activities we do not need to be participating in when faced with an immediate grasp for survival.
With our lives today, the problem is we don’t have a huge stress… a run, an escape and then peace and tranquility again. What we do have is: the alarm in the morning, the bills in the post, the child who doesn’t want to go to school on the day you have a vitally important meeting at work, the traffic jam, the arguments, the iPhone sending demanding messages that need to be dealt with then and there, the lack of sleep, the pollution, the alcohol, that poor diet, the flights, timetables, schedules etc... you get the picture! Oh yes and did I mention that a lack of nutrients, being overweight and taking any unnatural substance from artificial sweetener to pharmaceutical drugs are also seen by the body as stress?
So what can we do to support our adrenals?
Take this seriously, as these glands are vitally important for our health.
Look after yourself as you would care for your loved one, for your child. Do not drive your energy levels until you drop at the end of each day. Schedule into your week half hour slots, when that is your time, take it! Force yourself to relax, this is your wind down time. Go for a walk in nature, join a yoga class, lose yourself in a book, do some knitting, paint a painting... you choose your activity, but it needs to be away from technology and you need to focus on that activity and not on what you need to return to after it. Take that advice as you would take the medicine prescribed by the doctor. By doing those activities you are allowing your body to slip from the sympathetic nervous state to the para sympathetic state, it is only in this state that healing can occur.
Nutritionally you need to ensure you are taking enough B vitamins, through food if you can, or you could supplement as well.
Magnesium is hugely important - don’t get me talking about how many people are deficient in this mineral!
Fish oil EPA/DHA is essential… think SMASH!
S = salmon
M = mackerel
A = anchovies
S = sardines
H = herring
Eat at least three portions a week, but you could take with a good quality supplement too. Be careful as cheap fish oils go rancid and offer more of an anti-nutrient in that condition.
Vitamin D! get out there in the sun, at least 20 mins in the middle of the day, make sure your shadow is shorter than your body and you will know that the sun is strong enough for your body to receive sufficient rays to produce its own vitamin D.
Zinc is another essential mineral lacking in so many diets, add pumpkin and sunflower seeds to your breakfast and find a good supplement… or ask a nutritionist!
Look after yourself first… so you can always be there to look after your loved ones.
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About Clelia Gwynne-Evans
Clelia Gwynne-Evans is a fully qualified nutritional therapist registered with BANT and CNHC practising in St Ives Cambridgeshire.