Facing stress is inevitable. But how we handle dealing with stress determines our peace and well-being.
How do exercise, nutrition, and social/emotional factors build resilience against dealing with avoidable stress?
What is Stress?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, stress is “The body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional responses.”
If this stress perpetuates, this can have devastating effects on our wellness. The good news is we can learn (or relearn) how to return the body to the state of rest and repair.
What Stress Does to the Body
The Adrenal Glands are the major players in our fight or flight response. The fight or flight response is the body’s response to any threat – real or perceived. It can be physical (being chased by a lion) or emotional (a demanding job).
These physical responses are automatic and designed by the awesome intelligence of nature. “Fight or flight” is a primitive instinct leftover from a time when stress meant, “Run for your life!” In modern life, this response is rarely due to a physical threat.
We are left to deal with the aftermath of the fight or flight response. This includes an exhausted vascular system and excess sugar likely to get stored as excess belly fat.
If not, these glands wear out, lowering our immunity, leading to chronic fatigue and chronic disease. We either learn to disrupt the cycle or have our lifestyles plagued by chronic illness.
How Exercise Impacts Stress
Our bodies are designed to move. Sedentary lifestyles induce unwanted stress on the body. Exercise and movement keep the blood circulating (delivering key nutrients to your cells). They keep lymph flowing (helping us detox).
We do not recommend intense exercise while going through acute stress. This can have an adverse effect. Otherwise, regular movement practices do build up resilience.
How Nutrition Impacts Stress
Energy regulation by our bodies has a huge impact on how we deal with stress. Balancing blood sugars is key to maintaining a calm outlook in stressful times. Each person’s needs – for protein, fat and carbohydrate – differs according to metabolic type and age. A general rule is 40/30/30; 40% of your daily calories from carbohydrates, 30% each from healthy fats and proteins.
Healthy fats (Avocados, seeds, nuts, grass fed butter or ghee) along with healthy plant proteins (lentils, quinoa, beans) or animal proteins (pasture raised poultry or wild caught fish, not farmed fish) help build neurotransmitters and hormones required by our body’s “fight or flight” systems. A healthy balance of minerals (especially sufficient magnesium) can help reduce heart palpitations and anxiety.
The Impact of Attitude
When it comes to dealing with stress, attitude is gold. Perception is reality, especially for the body’s stress relief mechanisms. No matter how powerful the stress trigger, reframing can help our immune and Adrenal systems cope better. The worst thing we can do in any situation is to get locked in panic and/or “victim mode.”
This has detrimental effects on the Adrenal function. If a situation is overwhelming, it is best to call for help from a friend, compassionate family member, counselor, or therapist. It is imperative to find ways to return to a healthier perspective and feel a sense of control over the situation.
Using our energy to “solve” the issue at hand and not expend it in feelings of worry and helplessness.
Impact of Lifestyle
Are you happy? This doesn’t mean every minute of every day is a blast. But rather, are you living a meaningful life that supports your sense of peace and well-being?
Making a List for Good
How to Deal with Stress: Practices to Consider
- Slow down, act intentionally, and take responsibility for your actions.
- Develop self-awareness, make better choices, and support intentional behavior.
- Practice healthy habits: Eat a healthy diet of whole foods. Reduce sugar intake. Keep a gratitude journal and spend time each day communing with yourself (meditation, prayer).
- Spend time in nature daily to help find perspective. Nature’s energy is soothing to us.
- Build good, positive relationships in all areas of your life.
- Move more.
- Practice deep breathing in and out for a few minutes throughout the day. Pace your breath (inhale and exhale for 4, 5 counts – a comfortable pace for you).
- Do not forget to ask for support.
- Do more activities that lift your mood/energy.
- Identify financial, nutritional, physical and emotional imbalances and address them.
About the Authors:
Pooja Chilukuri is a resident of North Carolina-her home for over two decades. Pooja holds a BS and an MS degree with a background in scientific research. She is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Health Coach and Author with a passion for creating awareness around health and well-being through education, coaching, and counseling. Her mission is to empower individuals to take charge of their health in order to prevent chronic illnesses from taking a toll.