When faced with threatening situations, we all tend to experience anxiety and stress. In fact, it seems as if stress has become very much part of our lives. In times of crisis, stress hormones, particularly adrenaline are released, which make us feel stimulated and excited. According to the World Health Organisation, stress-related disorders affect about 450 million people throughout the world, with severe health effects, including a risk of depression, heart attack, high blood pressure and cholesterol, asthma and chronic fatigue.
Stress can be detrimental to your well-being due to the following reasons:
- Physical stress can be in the form of impaired sleep, waking problems, deep fatigue, poor appetite, indigestion and upset bowel, rise in the incidence of minor infections, greater reliance on cigarettes or alcohol and aggravation of chronic conditions.
- Emotional stress can be in the form of sudden mood changes, aggressive behaviour, irritability, crying for no reason, out-of-character outbursts, over-reaction to problems, criticism of others, relationship problems and family difficulties.
- Stress at work may be in the form of a loss of enthusiasm, inability to concentrate, inconsistent performance, reluctance to offer support, late arrival, frequent absenteeism, extended lunches and poor relationships with other employees.
People who are stressed may:
- Be unable to concentrate
- Feel worried all the time
- Feel irritable
- Feel tired
- Sleep badly
- Have heart palpitations
- Aching muscles and pain
- Sweat heavily
- Heavy breathing
During anxiety, your body reacts in a certain way that helps you in dealing with the cause of the problem. Your mind gets the impression that you are in danger, which triggers a response as a result of production of certain chemicals in your body that prepare you to face the danger. It can produce strong and overwhelming effects. If the danger is not real, these chemicals continue to circulate in the body, which results in physical sensations.
Nutrient deficiency puts stress on the body. So if you don't eat a balanced diet, you may be more susceptible to stress and anxiety.
- Stick to regular meal times, as skipping meals may cause you bingeing on high-sugar or fat foods.
- Reduce intake of caffeine and intoxicants, such as alcohol and cigarettes, which can provide instant highs and increase stress.
- Drink plenty of water to alleviate chances of dehydration. Research reveals that even 2% dehydration may impact concentration or performance.
- Include oily fish, like mackerel and salmon in your diet to supply omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, to your body in order to protect against stress.
- Add vitamin and mineral supplements, such as zinc, magnesium, B-complex, in your diet. During stress, magnesium and zinc levels in the body are depleted, so you need these minerals to alleviate stress levels. B-complex vitamins help in maintaining the nervous system, thus reducing chances of depression and irritability. According to a University of Alabama study, vitamin C helps in reducing the production of stress hormones and suppressing the immune system response.