Much Ado About Stress
You’ve got it, I’ve got, your neighbor, your sister and your best friend have it too – stress – there seems to be no way around it and just about everyone over a certain age is dealing with stress in one form or another and it is seriously affecting your health. That is why I tell my patients that to truly achieve good health, you have to learn to rid yourself of stress. Most patients look at me like I’ve asked them to explain the basics of quantum physics, “Doc, are you serious? There is just no way I can eliminate all my stress.”
There are many different types of stress and while it is true that you cannot eliminate all your stress, you can minimize sources of stress and add relaxation techniques to your weekly routine to inhibit the disruption of your normal, peaceful state. If you feel as though you have never experienced a “normal, peaceful” state – don’t worry – you can benefit from these tips and discover a whole new sense of self!
When developing a strategy to help my patients minimize the impact of stress on their health, the first place I look is at their dietary habits. Whether you know it or not, the foods you choose to eat tax your body in different ways – too many simple carbohydrates and sugary sweets induce a stress response – if your body has no need for all that glucose, it has to divert to other biological pathways. Ultimately, this leads to excess fat storage, particularly in the abdomen. Not a good place for it to collect, especially because too much of this type of belly fat is a sure sign of heart disease. Food allergies, sensitivities and the undeniably massive number of mysterious chemicals lurking in processed foods also contribute to stress – foods that disagree with your body or are unnatural do not optimize the operation of your body’s systems. Making changes to your diet can have a significant impact on reducing your stress levels.
After careful analysis of your diet, you may want to put some thought into your sleep habits. This is another cornerstone of good health and stress reduction that I emphasize to every patient. When times get tough the first thing that people sacrifice is often sleep, but in all honesty, you should be doing your best to get more, not less. Lack of sleep definitely raises stress levels, but even if you regularly clock eight hours of sleep every night, poor quality sleep is as useless as too little sleep. If your shut eye is lacking in quality or quantity, you may want to consider making some lifestyle changes – tobacco use, alcohol, illicit drugs and excessive physical activity could be to blame. If these activities are not part of your lifestyle, it is time to seek some expert advice, hormone imbalances can be an underlying cause of poor sleep and symptoms will not be alleviated until your balanced.
Finally, take a look at your lifestyle – do have a regimen for relaxation. If you do not, make a plan to claim some time to yourself. Participate in activities that ease your mind and allow you to be temporarily freed of all that is disturbing your peace. Some individuals find Yoga a useful practice, others may prefer just some quiet time with a good book – whatever you choose, just make sure you make time for it on a regular basis – it is imperative to your good health.