Work Stress? 4 Ways To Support Your Body (P.S. You’re Not Running From Bears)
A staggering 70 to 90 percent of medical visits made by employees are linked to stress in the US according to The National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health, so it’s no wonder that stress is such an important topic.
Whilst stress in some form or another is largely unavoidable in today’s modern world, the negative impact it can have on your body can be avoided, at least in part.
I like to think of stress and managing its effect on your health in 3 parts:
PART 1 of stress:
The first part is the actual stress itself e.g. what we get stressed about. Working on our own negative thoughts/ internal beliefs makes an enormous difference on whether we find ‘something’ stressful. This is often where hypnotherapy and similar modalities are the most powerful.
PART 2 of stress:
The second part is our actual stress response e.g. you find something stressful and then you react. For some of us this may mean increase in heart rate, shallower breathing and a knot in the stomach. For others this may result in a full scale panic attack.
Again, by identifying your own pattern, the triggers, and the beliefs behind the triggers, you can directly control what does/does not affect you.
PART 3 of stress:
The third part, and the focus of this post, is how your body manages your stress response and how you can ensure you’re supporting your body each time it releases stress hormones into your blood stream (adrenaline and cortisol).
Sometimes we can’t control what is going on around us, but we can control how we respond to it, and we can support our body when it needs us.
Your adrenals and dealing with stress
First off, if you’ve not heard about your adrenal glands before, just know that they are pretty damn awesome! What do your adrenals do exactly? So pleased you asked! They are the size of a walnut and their ‘job’ is to produce many of the hormones that regulate your body’s functioning including cortisol. And if you're wondering where they are, you can find them just above your kidneys.
What is Cortisol? Cortisol is a hormone which is triggered when stress levels rise, signalling to your body that you’re in a heightened state of emergency. This emergency could be caused by a bear chasing you out in the wilderness (perhaps unlikely to happen in a typical Monday-Friday..?) or a really awkward email you need to send. Work stress is big contributor due to the rising ‘do more with less’ trend, and the blurring lines between personal and work life.
Unlike the bear scenario which would last for a relatively short amount of time, sending awkward emails and getting through a mountain of paperwork lasts for much longer, and so your cortisol levels not only spike, but remain high for a really long time. If this is you, you're most likely spending your waking hours in a heightened state of stress.
This is not good (obviously!)
Your body is not designed to cope well with high cortisol levels all the time.
And when we constantly feel in a state of stress, the elevated levels of this hormone can wreak havoc on your health. It can affect everything from sleep, digestion, blood pressure, weight (gain or loss) and cause inflammation in the body…which can cause a whole array of other issues…
So it’s clear we need to find a way to help with stress at work, and not just reduce stress, but also support our body in times of stress.
How to support your body when you're stressed
I’m not going to focus too much on how to reduce stress levels in this post, but more on how to support your body, specifically your adrenals in times of stress. As a side note if you are constantly stressed out with ‘life’ I would strongly encourage you to seek support and take back control.
Life is not meant to be one big stress cave, you’re here to experience, to love, to create and become your truest self, not a stressed out shell of a person.
Loving and supporting your body are absolutely key to health, and food can play such a big role!
If you’re undergoing a stressful time in your life here are four ways you can use food and nutrition to support your adrenals and help prevent adrenal fatigue.
You may have heard and read these many times before, so perhaps if you're reading this and thinking 'yes, I know but....' then maybe it's time that this time you really do make a change!
The 4 ways you can support your body in times of stress:
1. Increase your intake of Vitamin C
It’s interesting to know that the highest concentration of vitamin C in your body is found in your adrenals. It’s a key component in the production of many hormones, including cortisol. If your adrenals are low in vitamin C they can ‘panic’ and actually produce more cortisol, so get involved with a good vitamin C supplement.
2. Avoid the sugaR
When you’re feeling exhausted and overwhelmed it’s incredibly easy to reach for the sugar fix (hello emotional eating….) but trust me it’s not a good idea. As your blood sugar spikes, your poor adrenaline’s have to work even harder, and it just makes the issue worse. The most obvious sources of sugar are from soft drinks, chocolate and sweet treats. But pay attention to hidden sugars in fruit juice, breakfast cereals, yoghurt and savoury goods - always check the food labels. Unfortunately sugar is found everywhere nowadays.
3. Skip the coffee
Reduce your intake of caffeine (which is a stimulant to your body) and restore your adrenals with herbal teas including chamomile, passionflower and valerian. There are some amazing relaxation tea blends on the market, and very easy to find in health food stores and supermarkets.
4. Skip the alcohol
I know I’m being a massive killjoy… but similar to sugar, the spike in blood sugar from alcohol can add further pressure to your already struggling system. Alcohol is also a stimulant and you really want to be calming your body down, not the other way around!
There is always going to be ‘stress’ around us, but through food, meditation, exercise, and seeking support we can all find a better way.