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Stress - it affects more than just mood

12 Jun 2013

Stress is a major problem for many New Zealanders, and it affects more than just our mood. It is something we cannot avoid. The stress reaction initiates an important physiological response designed to keep us alert, motivated and safe. However, sometimes we become “over sensitised” to stress and our nervous systems become over engaged in the response. Fortunately there are factors such as exercise, diet and others that can provide relief

Typically normal stress levels are essential for you to perform and stay interested in life and your daily activities. However, too much stress can lead you to feel overwhelmed and result it reduction in performance.

One of the biggest stressors for many people is around their work or careers. Finances follows close behind. Thinking about the future, health and relationships follow close behind. Family get-togethers at Christmas time are also not the magical moments that television likes to portray. Ironically at this time you often see a lot of “the not ok” advertisements depicting domestic violence.

Nutritionist Alison Martin who is doing her PhD in mental health and diet, says: “Stress can also arise as a consequence to the way you treat your body and not having what it takes to recover”

A lack of exercise, sleep or fresh air, a busy lifestyle, as well as what your’re putting into your body – such as an unhealthy diet, alcohol and drugs – can also result in stress. Left unchecked, stress can escalate and have more serious consequences for your physical and mental health.

Stress and weight gain

Prolonged stress can result in cortisol (the fight flight hormone) increasing according to studies published in the journal Obesity found that increased stress, and the production of cortisol, can cause hunger and ultimately weight gain. The other hormone that contributes to weight gain in stressful times is ghrelin. It is the hormone that tells us we are hungry and, according to research published in Neuropsychopharmacology, it also increases cortisol levels which makes us even hungrier. This is concerning when it comes to stress, as eating is a common coping mechanism.

Common mistakes people do when stressed:

  • Trying to be perfect at everything
  • Committing to too many things - not being able to say no
  • Not being able to prioritise their time and becoming overwhelmed
  • Not allowing any down time
  • Not sleeping enough

So what can we do about it?

  • Prioritise your responsibilities - Work out what is the most important and start working on that first.
  • Ask for support if you need it - In general people love to help out so let them know.
  • Breathe - If you feel yourself starting to get stressed, stop for a minute or two and take slow deep breaths
  • Get outside everyday - So important! Fresh air clears the mind and the lungs.
  • Keep fit - Exercise increases serotonin as well as combats cortisol.
  • Don't overdo the coffee - Puts pressure on the adrenal glands

Tags: Diet, Exercise, Health, Lifestyle, Mood, Stress

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