Experiencing stress is an all too common thing in our modern world. Knowing what to do about it can be even more confusing and often add more overwhelm that in turn creates more stress. Here we’ll take a look at stress within the overarching umbrella of our wellness and see how we can remove ‘I’m just so stressed’ from the ongoing vocabulary, along with reducing stress in your life and body.
When we talk about wellness, we can closely relate it to the Māori concept of wellbeing - Hauora. This World Health Organisation-recognised concept encompasses the physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual dimensions of health. It's wide in breadth without prioritising one facet over another.
But, when we talk about stress, we tend to think of it as a feeling of being 'run off our feet', or 'overwhelmed' - a general sense of busyness.
In fact, stress is much more complex than this and we need some of the right kind of stress to survive. What we need to do is know what works for us, what doesn't, and how to manage feelings of anxiety and irritability that does more harm than good.
Not All Stress Is Bad
Historically, stress was a sign from our instincts that we needed to flee, or we needed to fight. For example, if a large lion was running at us! When we think of it that way, it's clear that it can be useful - even crucially necessary. We need a certain level of stress to get us going each day.
When It Becomes A Problem...
However, in our modern world prolonged stress has become increasingly common. The real kicker here is that no matter whether the stress we experience is a real or perceived threat to our life, for example we need to run away from real danger vs. we think our boss thinks badly of us, our body responds physiologically as if it’s real and life threatening.
The side effect of this is that we are left feeling emotionally drained, with depleted energy levels, and ultimately, stress at a chronic level can prevent us from having the energy we need to live our lives happily.
Today, we experience the same hormonal and physiological changes that accompany stress that our traditional ancestors did – only a lot more regularly and for longer periods of time. Considering our ancestors were under threat from predators or food famine several times a year, this isn't how we would hope to be in modern life. Today, our feelings of overwhelm, stress, exhaustion, or being overstretched and run-down affect us weekly, if not daily.
So, What Happens When We Are Stressed?
First of all, our body does not differentiate between real and perceived stress. This means no matter what kind of stress we experience, our body responds in the same way.
“No matter what kind of stress we experience, our body responds in the same way.”
Here’s some examples of stressors we are exposed to in the modern world:
- Toxins in our environment
- Eating more of the foods that do not serve us
- Intensive exercise – functional exercise that puts strain on the body
- Screen time – unnatural blue light over prolonged periods of time
- Expectations – 'needing' perfection
- Financial stress
- Work-related stress
When your body perceives stress, your nervous system responds by increasing your heart rate, blood sugar levels, muscle strength, and stamina. This is known as the 'fight or flight’ response.
However, because we are experiencing higher and more prolonged stress levels than ever before, it's becoming increasingly prevalent that our body’s natural, evolutionary response to stress might actually be at the root of many health issues including fatigue, weight gain and hormone imbalances.
What’s The Link Between Stress and Nutrients?
Stress, whether it’s outwardly obvious or not, has a significant physiological response within the body.
When your body engages in a ‘flight or fight’ response, it demands more energy production in an attempt to cope. This, in turn, requires more nutrients. And not only do you need more nutrients to fuel your increased energy demand, but you also need them to support the eventual detoxification of the extra hormones.
As your ‘flight or fight’ response kicks in, you get a rush of hormones released from your adrenal gland. These are known as our daytime hormones and are essential for keeping us awake and active. In some ways, we are built for these hormones! However, with increased daily stress, we are essentially burning out our resources to cope with all these hormones.
“With increased daily stress, we are essentially burning out our resources to cope with all these hormones.”
In the modern world, many people are exhausted. This is because firstly we experience real and perceived stress more often than our ancestors, and secondly we are lacking in nutrients to deal with it. When we don’t give our bodies the support they need, our bodies don’t cope well and take longer to recover.
Stress has an impact on all our systems in the body and it affects many people in different ways. Across the board, we see that stress significantly impacts energy.
Usually, you’ll notice exhaustion set in after the stressor has passed and you no longer need to be in ‘flight or fight’ mode. But unfortunately, this means the damage is already done.
So, What Can You Do? Three Tips.
1. Avoid The Stressors You Can Control
While it may seem that your stress levels are out of your control, there are ways to make positive changes for the better. As mentioned earlier, our bodies process all stress, whether it is real or perceived, in the same way. If you notice that you’re feeling overly anxious or stressed, it makes sense to avoid other forms where you can.
- Environmental Stress - Unfortunately, the modern world exposes our bodies to high levels of environmental toxins. As a result, we tend to turn to stimulants to get through the day, including alcohol, coffee, refined grains and sugars. However, these place stress on our gut and liver, so it’s best to avoid these where you can.
- Physical Stress - Exercise at the right intensity level for your lifestyle is a great example of exposing your body to positive levels of stress. Even by taking a daily walk you can make a healthy change!
However, on days when we are more stressed than normal, strenuous exercise actually becomes too much for the body. Many people will get more out of a walk or a gentle yoga session instead of high-intensity exercise.
2. Prioritise Quality Sleep
Sleep can help or mitigate our stress response by working with or against your natural circadian rhythm.
Our circadian rhythm (aka our internal body clock) is naturally regulated by light and dark; and by changes in body functions, including our body temperature, hormones, airways, and kidneys every 24 hours.
This means levels of hormones such as your thyroid hormone, and our sleep hormone melatonin are different during the day and night. Interrupted sleep can throw our hormone balance off and as a result your body requires more nutrients to maintain homeostasis.
Modern lifestyles are at play here, too. We are constantly exposed to the bright light from electronic devices like TVs, computers, and smartphones at all hours of the day and night. This disrupts the earth’s day-night cycle that naturally regulates our sleep – this stress on our body again requires our bodies to use more nutrients.
3. Nourish Your Body With Nutrients
When we’re under prolonged bouts of stress our body demands more nutrients from us to function. As such, we get depleted very fast if we’re not actively topping these up. For instance, B Vitamins are crucial for helping your body cope with the physiological and hormonal changes that accompany stress. The best dietary sources of B Vitamins are dark, leafy green vegetables.
Key nutrients to support with managing stress
- B Vitamins
- Vitamin C, recommended in high doses in times of chronic stress.
Try adding things like cacao, brazil nuts, cinnamon, coconut water and antioxidant-rich foods such as blueberries to your diet.
To support your body in one easy step to top up on these nourishing nutrients the BePure Everyday Wellness Pack is loaded with them all and supports your body and mind with managing the ebb and flow of stress we all experience..