This month, the Dubai-based founder of Health Nag shares how we can optimally deal with high levels of stress during this most testing of times...
Stressed? I bet. Who isn’t these days? Even the calmest and most rational of people might be on the edge right now due to the latest COVID-19 pandemic which has lead to health worries, cancelled plans, unfulfilled travel, lost money, closure of gyms and lastly, social distancing; all building up to fear and panic.
Life is now pushing our buttons like never before, but we humans are a resilient breed, and we can certainly be socially distant yet still connected. I believe instead of curling up miserable on the couch and binge- watching Netflix, we should take this time to learn how to manage heightened stress and prevent our body from any future damage.
We’ve heard doctors claim that stress kills. In my opinion, you can’t pin every health mystery on that, but I do believe, however, if you’re feeling anxious that you’re playing havoc with your immunity. Why? Because you will speed through key nutrients to keep up with your pressurised body, more than it would, say, on a relaxed day. This can lead to chronic deficiencies resulting in a cocktail of health issues which becomes a vicious, anxious circle.
Let me release my inner nerd here... Epinephrine, more commonly called adrenaline, is that heart-racing, blood- pumping feeling when you’re faced with a highly stressful situation. Your digestion freezes up, as well as many other crucial bodily functions, as an automatic response to save more energy. It’s like the body’s power-saving mode. A message is also sent to your liver to spike your blood sugar, giving you all the tools you need to run faster than you have ever before. Norepinephrine, otherwise known as noradrenaline, works with epinephrine to bring your body back to a calm state after thestressful event.
A constant release of the stress hormone cortisol can be destructive on all essential organs, including the thyroid. High levels of cortisol can cause high blood sugar, increased belly fat, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and muscle loss. It can age you and mess up your digestion. Of course, it’s impossible to completely rid yourself of tension, especially in our current situation. But it’s a good idea to find healthy and regular ways to release it so that it doesn’t stay in your body and negatively start to impact your health.
Mild exercise, like yoga, jogging or Pilates would be one of the easiest ways to release stress, but with all gyms closed in the UAE for the foreseeable future, what options do we have? The good news is that most fitness studios are offering live work out sessions online. The ideal place to do a class is on your balcony or garden as fresh air is a great bonus, and if there’s sunshine as well, you’ll get an immunity boost as well as a solid dose of vitamin D. Our body tends to burn this sunshine vitamin quickly when we’re stressed and ironically, even though this region gets lots of sun, there are large numbers of people who are chronically deficient in it. If sunshine isn’t an option, then I recommend adding a supplement of vitamin D3 to your diet.
Receiving a massage is a more laid-back way to reduce stress as it increases the ‘happiness chemicals’ endorphins, serotonin and dopamine in your body and also can make you feel connected to your partner.
Meditation and deep pranayama breathing is also a sure-fire way to bliss-out your body. I believe there’s nothing as powerful and as effective for releasing negativity than meditation and deep breathing techniques. Online there are tons of tutorials along with guided meditations – all a fantastic way to bring some calmness.
Another amazing option is a 20-minute soak in a hot bath with Epsom salts, half a cup of baking soda and 10 drops of lavender oil. Lavender oil is a popular remedy to lower cortisol levels and help to balance the whole hormonal system, while Epsom salts are rich in magnesium which can help keep your energy up during the day and aid relaxation and sleep during the night.
You can also boost your stress resilience with amino acids. They can act like little vaccines against the stress and will over time naturally build your resistance to it. Theanine – found in green tea – is an amino acid that helps you stay more relaxed without making you drowsy and DL-Phenylalanine is another supplement that is said to counteract panic attacks, anxiety and depression.
There are a collection of wonderful herbal medicines called adaptogens that can also potentially help your body adapt to stress. Try adding a special blend of these herbs to your daily supplement routine to help balance out adrenals and aid your stress response: Siberian ginseng, liquorice, holy basil or rhodiola.
Sadly, stress over a pandemic such as a global virus can lead to further health problems. Our body is designed to manage stress but only for the short-term, so taking these tips into consideration should certainly help assuage some feelings of anxiety and keep us on the right path of positive thinking and relaxation.”
De-stress via diet...
• Eat a whole food, anti-inflammatory diet, including wild fish and other sources of omega-3 fats, red and purple berries, dark-green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes and whole nuts
• Eliminate inflammatory foods such as refined omega-6 vegetable oils like corn, soy and sunflower iterations
• Avoid sugars and caffeine as these can cause your blood-sugar level to skyrocket, meaning your adrenal glands will have to work extra hard to level it out
Lead image courtesy of Unsplash/JaredRice