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  • Writer's pictureHeather

3 Nutrient Helpers for Stressful Situations…

The American Institute of Stress has some pretty shocking statistics about this subtle (but oh-so-dangerous) condition that drastically affects your long-term health.

  • 44% of Americans feel more stressed out than they did 5 years ago

  • 1-in-5 Americans experience symptoms of extreme stress (shaking, depression, and heart palpitations)

  • Work stress causes 10% of strokes (American workers are now working 60% harder for the same money, which certainly doesn’t help)

  • Approximately 75% of all visits to the doctor are due to symptoms caused by stress

  • Stress causes loss of sleep in 44% of American adults

  • You’re 40% more likely to overeat (or eat poorly) if you’re stressed out

  • Chronic stress raises your risk of heart attack by 25% and your risk of stroke by 50%

We live in a stressful world and it’s clearly worsening.

A recent article in Time reported that 13% of Americans (age 12 and older) are currently on prescription antidepressants. That number is a 65% increase since 2002 and researchers agree the numbers will continue to grow.

What Are Your Personal Triggers?

Stress triggers could be financial, illness (yours or a loved one), relationships, loss of a loved one, politics, career, or from any number of sources. As major as a pending divorce or as minor as your morning commute.

Being stressed out is the mental and physiological reaction to perceived demands of daily life that exceed one’s ability to cope or respond to the situation(s) in a reasonable manner.

The symptoms may include anxiety, depression, insomnia, and fatigue. The inflammation caused by stress has been linked to multiple diseases and conditions ranging from the minor to the catastrophic.

Stress is killing all of us (and not slowly anymore).

The health of your body affects your mind and the reverse is also true. The power of your brain to stimulate physical changes inside you is well-documented by countless studies.

Negative psychological states such as stress, depression, and anxiety can result in the overproduction of dangerous proinflammatory proteins called cytokines and down-regulating overall immune response. This can lead to greater risk of disease, prolonged infection, and premature death.

Being Stressed Out Isn’t “Normal”

If you exist in a chronic state of stress, you begin to accept it as a normal aspect of your life. “Normal” is an incredibly hazardous way to think about this insidious disease.

Acute stress is a natural, normal part of your body’s “fight or flight” response. It’s short-term stress that lasts minutes (for instance, during a car accident), hours (preparing for a test or interview), or a couple of days or weeks (following surgery, rushing toward completing a deadline, or awaiting a court proceeding).

Experts agree that acute stress helps you focus, keeps you motivated, and assists in “urgent response” when needed.

Chronic stress is not a natural or normal part of your system function. This is long-term stress that doesn’t get resolved. It typically stems from big events such as childhood abuse or trauma, war (post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD), grief that doesn’t fade, relationship dysfunction, or an illness that is chronic or terminal. This form of stressed is deadly and significantly increases your risk of cancer, heart disease, digestive disorders, or other forms of mental illness.

3 First Steps to Managing Long-Term Stress

  1. Identifying triggers – the source of your chronic stress – is crucial to resolving it. Ignoring the cause or pretending it isn’t elevating your unhappiness and dissatisfaction with life is a recipe for disaster.

  2. Regaining control over your own life is vital to getting better. While you aren’t likely to get rid of all your stress, you can take steps to ease specific areas at a time. For example, addressing problems within your work or home life that can be fixed.

  3. Choose yourself and your health every time. If you know dealing with a neighbor or family member always makes you stressed out, then you need to evaluate their place in your life and make choices to protect your mental, physical, and emotional health.

3 Top Nutrient Helpers for Coping with Stress

  1. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that’s required by your body (and your brain) but cannot be produced. You can only get it through your diet. Tryptophan is used to manufacture serotonin. Dietary sources include beans, chocolate, oats, yogurt, eggs, meat, poultry, almonds, bananas, and seafood. If you don’t get enough in your diet, supplementation is recommended.

  2. Omega-3 fatty acid is another essential compound that’s similar to amino acids – your body needs it but is incapable of making it. You have to eat what you need! About 60% of human brain weight is fat (it’s the most fat-rich organ of the body). Of that, 30% is composed of essential fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are critical to brain health. Dietary sources include fatty fish (salmon, tuna, halibut, sardines), fish oils, walnuts, flax seeds, eggs, chia seeds, and spinach.

  3. Gamma Amino Butyric Acid (GABA) is another amino acid found in 40-50% of all brain synapses. It’s the most common neurotransmitter you have, in the highest concentration. In fact, it’s present in concentrations 200-1000 times greater than other well-known neurotransmitters serotonin, acetylcholine, and norepinephrine. Again, your body can’t produce it so you need to eat it. Good dietary sources are almonds, walnuts, bananas, broccoli, brown rice, fatty fish, lentils, spinach, and citrus.

The foods mentioned are readily available, inexpensive, and effective.

They operate on the cellular level – providing the building blocks to produce mood-calming hormones – and have the potential to be more effective than pharmaceutical options.

To help you escape constant feelings of being stressed out, depressed, or anxious, you have to look at every area of your diet and lifestyle. Providing your cells the basic ingredients they need to help you feel better is a good place to start.

Now, you’re going to need to do a bit more than that. Stress is likely affecting many areas of your life and overall happiness.

Developing a few coping mechanisms to deal with spikes in stress may be helpful.

  • Practice deep breathing and/or meditation

  • Talk to a friend or loved one you trust who may offer a different perspective

  • Exercise (even low-impact) for 30 minutes every day

  • Limit or eliminate tobacco, alcohol, and highly processed foods

  • Return to hobbies or activities you once enjoyed

  • Make sure you get 8 hours of sleep each night (melatonin may help)

  • Hydrate with plenty of plain or infused water daily

Experts agree that simply writing about the stress you experience is helpful in regaining control over negative situations. Journaling is an excellent way to identify your personal stressors.

Sometimes, you might be so close to a situation that it’s difficult to see your way clear of it. It can feel overwhelming or exhausting.

Don’t lose hope.

You are not alone and there are many natural, safe options for coping with feelings of being stressed out, anxious, or depressed. Things you can do right now to help yourself feel better and think more clearly.

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