Chronic stress: It’s killing you, but here’s how to stop it

Chronic stress: It’s killing you, but here’s how to stop it

Life. It’s always going to be a “stressy” business. Thing is, a little bit of stress is good for us. It’s what motivates us to meet our deadlines and keeps us alert when we’re navigating the rougher parts of town. Experiencing chronic stress, however, is never helpful. In fact, when people say things like “stress is a killer” this is the type they’re talking about.

Good stress vs killer stress

A stress response, at its most basic level, is a series of hormones – adrenalin and cortisol – that put our body into “fight or flight” mode. Your heart’s going to beat faster, your breathing will become more rapid, your muscles are going to tense and your blood pressure begins to rise. If you’re prepping to run away from a charging bull, this is great. It’s a prime example of how the stress response exists to protect us. However, if you’re in a chronic state of stress, the long-term activation of your stress hormones can cause a laundry list of health problems that range from depression and heart disease to gastrointestinal problems and skin issues such as acne, psoriasis and eczema. You could even start losing your hair!

So, what’s a stress ball to do?

Chronic stress affects both your body and mind so managing it will always involve a multi-pronged attack. You’ll have to ramp up on stress-quashing behaviours like exercise and meditation. You’ll want to prioritise sleep – the time when your body repairs itself from the damages of the day – and talking about your feelings with a support system. Just as importantly, you’ll want to take a look at your diet.

Many don’t realise it but chronic stress is one of the most rapid ways to deplete your body of its nutrients – ironically those it needs to recover from the stressors. To make things even trickier, when we’re feeling the pressure, our healthy diet tends to go out the window. Think about it. You’ve had the day from hell and are seeking comfort. Are you really going to whip up a “soothing” salad? Or are you going to reach for a sticky doughnut? The latter, while not ideal, makes perfect sense. Carbs boost our serotonin levels and research shows that the combination of fat and sugar also has a mood-boosting effect.

Get the nutrition you need

Clearly, you’re going to want to pay close attention to your diet when you’re in stress mode. It’s also a good idea to invest in high-quality supplements to ensure you’re getting everything you need, particularly the nutrients that chronic stress tends to deplete. Here are a few that should be on your shopping list:

Vitamin C

Studies have shown that vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, can reduce the levels of stress hormones in your blood. It can also help bolster your immune system, something that takes a knock during times of unbridled stress. No wonder it’s one of the main ingredients in chronic stress cocktails that can be taken intravenously.

Magnesium

During times of stress, our bodies excrete a lot of magnesium, so much so that low magnesium levels are associated with depression and anxiety. Ironically, it’s the mineral that helps our bodies better cope with both conditions. Fortunately, you can end the vicious cycle with a high-quality supplement.

The B vitamins

You’ll often hear that the B vitamins are the “stress vitamins” and that’s true. These help protect your nervous system. Vitamin B6 is especially important as it helps your body create serotonin and supports your adrenal function. If you’re taking a multivitamin, always ensure it contains a good mix of B vitamins.

Zinc

Prolonged exposure to stress will deplete your body’s stash of zinc so you’ll want to ensure you’ve got extra in the tank. Having an adequate supply can stabilise your cortisol levels as well as inhibit its secretions. It’s also been shown to have natural antidepressant properties.

The bottom line

If you’ve been struggling with chronic stress, you’ll want to get a handle on it fast. If not, your body and mind will end up paying the price. While making lifestyle changes and adopting stress-management techniques are a must, you’ll also want to pay attention to your nutrition. In this case, high-quality supplements are a great way to go.

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