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Stress, Anxiety & Panic

Young Woman

It seems that everyone is stressed these days- Stress has become such a way of life, most of us consider it to be a normal state of being. Stress hormones such as adrenaline are released in times of crisis and are designed to give us increased strength and speed to react to an emergency.

But if your life has become one long emergency, a constant flow of these crisis- management hormones is definitely not good for long-term health. The World Health Organisation believes that anxiety and stress-related disorders affect nearly 450 million people worldwide, with serious health effects including an increased risk of heart attack, depression, raised blood pressure and cholesterol levels, chronic fatigue and asthma.

‘Stress is inevitable at some point in everybody’s life and is essential to help us feel stimulated and excited,’ says wellness and performance coach Midgie Thompson of Bright Futures Coaching. ‘On the positive side, it can promote action, creativity, problem solving and even fuel your performance. On the negative side, it can be detrimental to your physical and mental well-being. The good news is that you can do something about the negative side of things.’

  • Are you stressed?

    When does stimulating and challenging become stressful and damaging?

    • Physically: deep fatigue, impaired sleep or difficulty waking; poor appetite, increase in minor infections, indigestion and bowel upsets; aggravation of chronic conditions like eczema, increased reliance on alcohol or cigarettes to keep you going.
    • Emotionally: crying and out-of-character outbursts; aggressive behaviour, over-reaction to problems, sudden mood changes and irritability; criticism of others; relationship problems including marital, sexual or family difficulties.
    • At work: an inability to concentrate, loss of enthusiasm, declining or inconsistent performance, failing to take annual leave; reluctance to offer support, arriving late and leaving early; extended lunches and absenteeism; poor relationship with other employees.

  • Pinpoint what or who is causing the problem

    The important thing to recognise is that stress is a symptom, not a cause. To find that cause and deal with it, most of us need look no further than work - recent research by Investors in People shows that 59% of Britons dread returning to work, only a quarter of us feel refreshed by a break and 51% of those returning to work were determined to make sure they spent less time on the job.

  • Stress-proof your lifestyle

    ‘People tend not to eat so well during times of stress, yet nutrient deficiency in itself puts stress on the body,’ says Dr Hannah Theobald from the British Nutrition Foundation. ‘Stick to regular meal times even if you don’t feel hungry, as skipping meals often leads to bingeing on high-fat or high-sugar foods later. And cut down on caffeine, cigarettes and alcohol which can provide all-too-short highs and add to stress. Drinking plenty of water is also a good idea, as studies show that just 2% dehydration affects performance and concentration.’

    If preparing wholesome meals is just one more task which you don’t have time for, all major supermarkets now offer regular delivery to your home at reasonable prices, leaving you with no excuses and all you need to eat well every week. Make sure oily fish such as salmon or mackerel are on the list as they are rich in the omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, believed to protect against stress. It’s also found in fish oil supplements, omega-3 enriched eggs and some algae supplements.

    A good-quality vitamin and mineral supplement will also ensure you don’t miss out. Magnesium and zinc are depleted in times of stress, while B-complex vitamins help maintain the nervous system and prevent depression and irritability. A study conducted at the University of Alabama suggests that vitamin C reduces the production of stress hormones, which can suppress the immune system, and co-enzyme Q10 balances energy levels.

    Meanwhile, get moving. Exercise releases the body’s ‘feel good’ hormones called endorphins into the blood stream. If a sweaty gym workout is too much to face after a tough day, try something with a more gentle ‘mind-body’ focus such as t’ai-chi, yoga or pilates. You could also use a life coach to help you to identify and deal with the root causes of stress and make sure you also notice the positive things that are happening in your life.

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Nutrition Expert sources the latest information and advice from a range of qualified doctors, nutritionists and coaches. We always endeavour to have the most up to date information possible and publish new content weekly. However with the constant research in this field sometimes some of our older articles can become out of date. If you see anything that you believe needs to be updated please let us know via our Contact Us page