Diet And Stress Relief – By Ayo Oyoze Baje
What is stress all about?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) stress is “the reaction people may have when presented with demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities and which challenge their ability to cope.” Stress can be defined as any type of change that causes physical, emotional, or psychological strain. Stress is your body’s response to anything that requires attention or action. Everyone experiences stress to some degree. The way you respond to stress, however, makes a big difference to your overall well-being.
Viewed from the medical or biological context stress is a physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension. Stresses can be external (from the environment, psychological, or social situations) or internal (illness, or from a medical procedure). Stress can initiate the “fight or flight” response, a complex reaction of neurologic and endocrinologic systems. That is according to Dr. Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
How to avoid stress
Recent researches have shown that many urban workers in Nigeria are stressed up. They work from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays without annual leave. Stress killed Ikenna Ohanwe in 2008 at Ibadan due to overwork.“Stress is an under-estimated rick factor in health” Dr. Michael Miller (Medical Director, Centre for Preventive Cardiology, University of Maryland, US.) According to Dr. Professor Avijit Lahiri, a cardiologist, cortisol the stress hormone is produced when the body comes under physical or mental strain. And stress leads to coronary artery disease.
But good nutrition is essential during the period of stress because nutritious diet keeps your immune and nervous systems working effectively. Under stress, the body relies on the digestive system. The stress hormone, epinephrine is released from the adrenal glands. The consequences are grave. Generally, stress reduces the body’s immune system, making it vulnerable to debilitating diseases.
Digestion shuts down. Fats and sugars are released from where they are stored in the body. Cholesterol levels rise. Nerves are frayed. Muscles are cramped. Danger looms. This leads to fight-or-flight response. More importantly, know that what you eat could either worsen or relieve you of stress. So what should you do?
DO NOT SKIP MEALS because stress depletes you of energy when you skip meals, you lack the energy to combat stress. Generally, low-fat pop corn, whole wheat bread all increase the production of serotonin in the brain. It helps you to relax, says Judith Wurtman, director Women’s Health, MIT.
EAT FOR ENERGY: According to Georgia Kostas, the nutrition director at Copper Clinic, Dallas, eat regular meals, (breakfast, lunch, dinner and fruits/vegetable-rich snacks in between), even if you are not hungry.
EAT ENOUGH: Those engaged in energy-sapping work in the morning should eat carbohydrate-rich food (bread, Quaker oats) along with low-fat milk. Eat enough for all the meals to provide adequate energy. If not, one would suffer mood swings.
HAVE A LUNCH BREAK: Move away from your place of work. Eat outside the stress-filled environment. Unwind for at least 30 minutes.
DO NOT OVER EAT: There is the tendency to over eat or drink when under stress. Avoid it. Go for fresh fruits, yoghurt, herbal tea.
PASTA WITH CHEESE, GROUND TURKEY OR CHILLED CHICKENS. Pure carbohydrate (spaghetti rice) triggers an increase in the brain chemical, serotonin that makes you feel relaxed. But add the afore-stated to add some protein.
AVOID SUGAR, ALCOHOL and COFFEE when under stress, instead, drink lots of fluids as dehydration causes fatigue.
It is equally important that we live and work in a clean, spacious, airy and noiseless environment if we want to enjoy a long, healthy life.
HEALTH TIPS FOR WOMEN IN THEIR ‘20s
“A lot of women in their 20s make the mistake of putting off establishing good eating and fitness habits, but this is the best time to create a foundation of healthy living,” says Elizabeth Battaglino Cahill, RN, executive director of NWHRC.
Here are five key health tips from the NWHRC for women in their 20s:
- Establish an exercise routine (that you enjoy!)
Staying active will help you develop a strong body that looks and feels good as you age. It can lower your risk for disease, reduce stress and protect your bones and joints. So it’s important to take part in physical activities that are not only challenging, but also fun and motivating. Keep things interesting by mixing it up; whether it’s a dance class or a kayaking trip, don’t be afraid to try something new.
CBS’s NCIS co-star Cote de Pablo stays in shape by doing a combination of core training and yoga four or five times a week. “I try to find time either in the morning before work or after. I definitely work out on the weekend, because it’s the only time I’m sure I won’t be working.
- Maintain healthy eating habits
Stop worrying about your weight, and start thinking about your health. Eating mostly whole foods, including lots of veggies, fruits and whole grains, is the key to feeling and looking your best. Start by adding an additional serving of fruits and vegetables to every meal.
Lower your chance of osteoporosis later by consuming more calcium now. Calcium can be found in dairy products including milk, yogurt and cheese, and also in other foods, such as leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale, broccoli and tofu. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium so it’s important to take a supplement, eat foods fortified with vitamin D or take a walk outdoors in the sunshine.
De Pablo shares an eating habit secret that works for her, “If you’re going to have a really big meal, make it breakfast and then progressively eat less throughout the day. Do not eat heavy, heavy meals at night. Drink lots of water and lead an active lifestyle.”
- Protect your skin
You’re never too young to start taking care of your skin. Healthy habits today will pay off in later years. The key to healthy skin lies beyond which soap you use. It depends on what you eat, whether you exercise, how much stress you’re under and even the kind of environment in which you live and work. Eating a diet rich in vitamins and minerals, wearing sunscreen and getting regular body scans by a dermatologist can keep you looking young and feeling good as you age.
- Get a good night’s sleep
Not getting enough sleep can interfere with your memory and ability to reason and concentrate, make you more susceptible to injury, increase stress levels and reduce your body’s ability to fight infection or heal. If you have trouble getting a good night’s rest, try going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day or taking a hot shower before bed.
- Manage stress
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with balancing a new job, friends and everything else happening in your life. Breathe; slow, deep, diaphragmatic breaths can trigger a relaxation response in your whole body.
Finally, note that your health is in your heart and hands. Think and act right and eat the right type of food combined with regular exercise to stay hale and hearty.
– Baje is a public commentator and analyst