Tip: Make stress management a high priority so you can to enjoy life more and decrease your risk of chronic disease.
By the Chef Marshall O’Brien Group
Stress has been called “America’s number one health problem.” By some estimates, up to 90 percent of visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related problems. You probably know that stress takes a toll on your energy and mental health – but did you know that prolonged stress is actually harmful to your body? Unchecked stress is associated with chronic disease and shortened lifespan. In honor of Stress Awareness Month, we highlight the importance of effective stress management, and offer tips to reduce and manage the stress in your life.
The Stress Response
Stress evokes a number of physiological changes that prepare you for fight or flight, including:
- Increased heart rate to pump blood to muscles
- Increased blood pressure to deliver blood to muscles
- Increased blood sugar for metabolism
- Increased coagulation and decrease in blood clotting times in case of bleeding
- Decreased digestion as blood is directed away from digestive tract
An Evolved Response Misdirected
Your body’s stress response evolved to keep you alive under attack. While this fight-or-flight response is useful for fighting a saber-toothed tiger, it is less helpful for completing that project on deadline. In modern times, most of our stressors are long-term, such as work-related or financial stress. When the fight or flight response is continually activated in response to these chronic stressors, it becomes destructive rather than helpful.
Health Impacts of Chronic Stress
In the short term, chronic stress may lead to irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches, insomnia, overeating or not eating enough, and alcohol or drug abuse. In the long term, increased demands on the cardiovascular system, increased blood sugar and other physiological changes resulting from chronic stress are associated with higher risk of hypertension, stroke or heart attack, development of type 2 diabetes, acid reflux, digestive issues, compromised immunity and longer recovery time from illness or injury.
Nourishing Eating Can Help
Did you know the right foods can help you manage stress? See our blog Getting Stress Out of Our Lives, which highlights nourishing, stress-busting foods. Our Savory Turkey Wraps are a quick, tasty way to get stress-relieving tryptophan into your diet. Preparing weekly dinners should not add to the stress in your life, so refer to Getting the Meal on the Table for tips to make home-cooked weeknight dinners quick, nourishing and stress-free.
Manage Your Stress
Don’t feel stressed out over the stress in your life! While it is impossible to entirely rid your life of stress, you can take steps to reduce and effectively manage it.
- Mindfulness or calming activities like yoga, tai chi and meditation are particularly effective at calming the stress response and promoting relaxation.
- Regular exercise makes you more resilient stress.
- Prioritize sleep – everything feels more manageable on a full night’s sleep.
- Learn how to say “no” when you have reached your limits.
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths any time you feel stressed.
Stress management is an individual process. Find what works for you and make it a priority.
You will love the way you feel!
The Chef Marshall O’Brien Group is a dedicated assembly of professionals based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, committed to the goal of using nutrition to get kids and families to lead happier, healthier lives.