Stress is a very common problem we all suffer from. Children are stressed due to the pressure of studies; adults are stressed in the run for successful career. The constant pressure to stay ahead of everyone else, our life is constantly under stress. Coping up with stress also leads to stress.
When people talk about stress, they actually mean tension or emotional distress. However, stress in medical language is defined as any condition or situation that places undue strain on the body. While physical stress is occasional, emotional stress is a part of our daily life. This is not something new. Even our ancestors used to get stress with the pressure of constant hunting or protection from wild animals. So our body can actually respond to stress. This mechanism is called fight response. In this mechanism, body gets flooded with adrenaline and other hormones that raise the blood pressure, increase the heart beat and tense the muscles. Digestion slows down as blood flow gets diverted to the muscles.
Nutrition plays very important role while coping up with stress. Food provides energy, vitamins and minerals which not only helps in coping up with stress but also boost our immune system which helps to counter the negative effects of stress on the body.
When under stress, some feel hungry all the time, while others force themselves to eat. Studies show that people who take diet in higher in carbohydrates and lower in protein, have less stress-induced depression. However, everyone has a favourite food that helps them in coping up with stress. Some like milk, while some crave for chocolates when they are under stress. Chocolates increase the production of serotonin, a chemical produced in brain which helps in calming down. For some people soups and caffeinated drinks act as comfort foods.
Common symptoms of Stress
- Indigestion, heart burn, constipation or diarrhoea
- Headaches, backaches and neck pain
- Palpitations, high blood pressure, chest pain, sudden increase in heart eat, shortness of breath.
- Giddiness or dizziness
- Weakness in the limbs.
- Chronic fatigue
- Increased or decreased appetite
- Sudden weight loss or weight gain
It is very difficult to figure out the exact reason of any of the above symptoms. Doctor may suggest different medical tests to find out the actual reason. In some extreme cases both medical advice and psychological counselling is required. If you have most of the above symptoms and the medical reports are normal, the actual cause can be stress.
Following these simple tips, coping up with stress can be relatively easier than seeking medical help
- Meditation: Try to spare few minutes from your stressful schedule and meditate. This will help the brain to relax and reduce stress.
- Small frequent meals: Nutrition is very important while coping up with stress. Small frequent healthy meals do not cause indigestion and provide essential nutrients to the body to deal with stress.
- Good Nutrition: Eat lots of citrus fruits and green vegetables which help your immune system to get stronger. Whole grains, low fat dairy products and nuts too boost your immunity. Increased immunity will help you in coping up with stress. Chew your food properly and eat slowly.
- Avoid Caffeine: Caffeine does help in calming down but high amounts of intake can increase acidity, dehydration and other digestive problems. However decaffeinated coffee and herbal teas can be helpful.
- Do not starve: During stress, body needs extra energy. So never starve yourself or skip any of your meals. If you don’t feel hungry, try to have five-six smaller meals in a day.
- Enjoy soothing music: Tune on your favourite song and listen to it quietly. This will help you to relax.
- Avoid alcohol: Alcohol is no solution for any of your problems. It doesn’t help in coping up with stress but also causes other health problems.
- Counselling: If you are unable to share your problems with any of your family members, seek counsellor’s help.
- Pets: Try to have a pet. They are great stress busters.
- Exercise: Go for jogging, walking, swimming or cycling. Choose any exercise which you enjoy doing. It increases blood circulation and provides fresh oxygen to the brain. This will help you to reduce stress.
- Avoid Electronic Gadgets: Avoid using gadgets too much especially while eating and before going to sleep.
- Get sound sleep: Keep your mobile or laptop away from bed while going to sleep. Darken your room and sleep. Sound sleep of 7- hours at night is very important. After waking you will actually feel fresh the whole day. If you will feel tired in the day, you can have a power nap of 15-20 minutes in the afternoon. A small nap and good sleep distracts you from the worldly tensions.
Consultant Nutritionist, DietVita