National Stress awareness day, Wednesday 6th November 2019
Millions of us worldwide are suffering from high levels of prolonged stress, this could be damaging to our overall health. Stress can be described as the feeling of being under too much emotional or mental pressure and can arise from a variety of factors such as work, home, illness, finance, loneliness and relationships. We all experience a degree of stress from time to time, however prolonged stress can be of detriment to our general health. Stress symptoms can vary, manifesting as physical, behavioural and emotional symptoms such as fatigue, depression, anxiety, mood swings, confusion, anger, erratic sleep, altered bowel habits, headaches, migraines, chronic pain, insomnia and aches and pains.
Stress is inflammatory, inflammation is the body’s response to stress. Short term this inflammation is beneficial, long term chronic stress can be detrimental and lead to the impairment of the immune system. Chronic stress can result in an impaired communication between the immune system and the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Rui (2014) et al explains that continued stress further increases the pro-inflammatory cytokines and ultimately cause inflammation. Thus explaining why inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis may be worsened during prolonged periods of stress.
Inflammation isn’t the only side effect from stress we must consider, The World Heart Organisation (2015) illustrates that '…being stressed itself can alter the way the body behaves and this can bring about changes to the blood and nervous system, which can have negative effects on your heart health…’ The British Heart foundation (2019) suggests that stress leads to unhealthy habits such as smoking, comfort eating, increased alcohol intake and reduced physical activity. These unhealthy habits can lead to hypertension and increased cholesterol which may contribute to an increased heart disease risk.
Top tips to reduce your stress levels today:
Enjoy a healthy diet
A healthy diet can help to counter the impact of stress, reduce blood pressure and support the immune system.
There is now hard evidence that meditation reduce stress levels. With classes, apps, books and videos of so many styles available that you are sure to come across a meditation that suits you.
Try yoga or tai chi
If you are local to Blaby, I recommend tai chi classes at Mindfulness Leicester, ran by the wonderful Claire and Lance at https://www.mindfulnessleicester.co.uk
Spend time in nature
Spending time in nature can relieve stress and anxiety improve your mood and boost feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Whether you call it forest bathing, ecotherapy, green time or mindfulness in nature; get outside. With so many stimulating devices such as televisions, mobile phones, computers and gadgets its great to put them down and get out into your natural environment.
Try earthing/ grounding, get bare footed on the earth/grass. Sinatra et al (2017) explains that direct physical contact with the surface of the planet generates a kind of electric nutrition with surprisingly potent and rapid anti inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Duncan Ford Lic.ac (2019) shares ‘The current body of research has demonstrated the potential of grounding to be a simple, natural, and accessible clinical strategy against the global epidemic of degenerative, inflammatory-related diseases.’
Build Supportive relationships
Visit friends and family, they may be able to offer support during a stressful time. By joining a club, starting a new activity, volunteering; you are able to expand your social network and this could have a beneficial impact on your wellbeing.
Avoid caffeine and nicotine
Caffeine and Nicotine are stimulants, and may increase levels of stress and anxiety.
Exercise produces stress busting ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters called endorphins. Exercise also increases your overall health.
Acupuncture activates the parasympathetic nervous system responsible for ‘rest and digest’ the opposite to the sympathetic ‘fight or flight’ response. Acupuncture is generally a relaxing experience, regardless of the main complaint many float out of my clinic feeling relaxed and calm. Acupuncture isn’t able to control the stressful conditions that initiated the stress response, but it can help you to manage your response to these issues and reduce the negative impact stress places on the body.
Acupuncture with a qualified acupuncturist is a safe and effective method for managing stress. Research has shown that acupuncture stimulates the nervous system, deactivates the analytical brain (responsible for stress and worry), regulates neurotransmitters and their modulators, improves stress induced memory impairment, reduces levels of corticosterone, stimulates the production of endogenous opioids, activates the parasympathetic nervous system, reduces inflammation and promotes relaxation and wellbeing. Initial weekly sessions are usually recommended, graduating gradually to monthly sessions. You can locate a qualified British Acupuncture council practitioner by visiting acupuncture.org.uk today.
Duncan Ford (2019) Stress. Available at https://www.dfordacupuncture.co.uk
Rui Tian, Gonglin Hou, Dan Li, and Ti-Fei Yuan, “A Possible Change Process of Inflammatory Cytokines in the Prolonged Chronic Stress and Its Ultimate Implications for Health,” The Scientific World Journal, vol. 2014, Article ID 780616, 8 pages, 2014. https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/780616.
Sinatra ST, Oschman JL, Chevalier G, Sinatra D.
Electric Nutrition: The Surprising Health and Healing Benefits of Biological Grounding (Earthing).Altern Ther Health Med. 2017 Sep;23(5):8-16. Review.
The American psychological assosiation (2019) Stress effects on the body. Available at https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-body
The British Heart Foundation (2019) Stress. Available at https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/risk-factors/stress
The World Heart Organisation (2015) Stress available at http://www.world-heart-federation.org/cardiovascular-health/cardiovascular-disease-risk-factors/stress/