If you are being chased by a bear, your flight-or-flight response kicks in. Your body releases adrenaline and cortisol to increase your chance of survival.
Whilst it's rare we need to run away from bears in our day-to-day life, our modern lifestyle is sabotaged by different stressors - from endless to-do lists to a variety of commitments.
We carry expectations from both work and everyday life that leads to chronic stress. Only 52% employees thinking their workplace is mentally healthy1. Chronic stress can manifest through a number of physical disorders including headaches, insomnia, stomach aches and muscle pains.
In order to manage chronic stress in the long-term, it is important to address the root cause. You can simultaneously combat the physical and psychological symptoms through nutrition and exercise.
How to combat stomach pain caused by stress?
Stomach pain may occur alongside abdominal bloating, reflux or cramps. Stick to a simple and clean diet by minimising added fat by cooking with the oven, grill or steam, or eating raw when safe. It’s beneficial to review your lifestyle: give adequate time and space to eat calmly during lunch.
If you can't eliminate entirely, try to limit your intake of alcoholic beverages, spices (pepper and chilli pepper), caffeine and ready-made foods where possible.
How to treat insomnia caused by stress?
Relax before bed by performing gentle exercises such as yoga, pilates or meditation. In addition, you can try a herbal tea brew with hawthorn, valerian, lemon balm, chamomile and bitter orange.
How to manage chronic stress through nutrition?
1. COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES. Eat whole grains (rice, spelt, barley, buckwheat, millet) and sweet potatoes which digest slower and regulate your blood sugar levels. On the other hand, refined carbohydrates cause rapid spikes and falls in blood sugar that increases stress and anxiety.
2. FISH AND WHITE MEAT. These are satiating protein sources that provide polyunsaturated fatty acids and stimulate the activity of the vagus nerve (regulates your heart rate and gastrointestinal tract function).
3. LEGUMES. Legumes are rich in fibre, proteins, minerals and vitamins, and can soothe nervousness and create a long-lasting feeling of satiety. This food group includes beans, chickpeas, peas, lentils, broad beans and lupins.
4. FRUIT. Red and yellow fruits are especially rich in fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, and contain antioxidants that protect against oxidative stress.
5. DAIRY. Natural yoghurt and nutritional yeast help strengthen your immune system as they are rich in live bacteria that support the microbiota in your stomach and intestine.
Nutrition plays a fundamental role in minimising the symptoms of stress. Add exercise into your day to combat stress as well as build your level of fitness.
What's causing the most stress in your life?
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1 BeyondBlue and TNS Social Research. “State of Workplace Mental Health in Australia”. (2014)