Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and accredited Positive Psychology practitioner Smaranda Maier discusses the detrimental effects of daily stress on our lives .

Stress comes in many shapes and forms, and one common denominator of all of them is that stress occurs daily in our lives. If you are a bit puzzled by the association of stress and your blood results, I am here to tell you that our body reacts to stress by releasing certain chemicals to signal the brain about ‘the danger’ that you are in.

These chemicals trigger the liver to release cholesterol to deal with the stress. This is only one example.
Last month was one of the most challenging periods in my life as a business owner, coinciding with my son’s graduation from Secondary School and his preparations for the Leaving Cert exams. While my diet and lifestyle are pretty good, the stress levels exceeded my capacity to deal with unexpected, challenging news in my business.

Trying to juggle everything as a single parent and solopreneur took a toll on my physical health. It was a silent attack on my body until I had a severe headache and took an Ibuprofen.
Within the next 30 minutes, an ambulance was on the way to take me to the hospital to ensure I was not having a heart attack.

The Ibuprofen landed on a stressed, raw-like digestive tract, and what I felt was the sensation of swallowing acid. My old friend ‘gastritis’ was re-activated by all the stress I had experienced in the last month. A silent effect only became seriously loud when the damage was done.

Thankfully, it was reversible but not without having further effects on my daily life and activities.Lesson learned: prioritising rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation is as important as dealing with stress factors. It is, in fact, part of dealing with stress factors.
Here are two definitions of stress:

‘The technical definition of stress is the body’s nonspecific response to any demand – pleasant or unpleasant.’ (The American Institute of Stress)

‘Stress can be defined as a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation. Stress is a natural human response that prompts us to address challenges and threats in our lives. Everyone experiences stress to some degree.’ (World Health Organisation)

When you look at those two definitions, one aspect is clear: there are two types of stress. One moves us forward and contributes to our evolution as human beings, while the other keeps us stuck, unhealthy, and prevents us from reaching our potential.

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. Your personal level of response to a trigger determines whether the stress is toxic to your health or beneficial to your life.

You may ask, “How do I know if I am dealing with bearable stress or not? And how can I increase my resilience when I can’t do anything about what stresses me because it is completely out of my control?” These are very valid questions, and I will answer them for you here.

How do you know if you are dealing with positive and bearable stress? The simple answer is: it motivates you, keeps you on your toes, and doesn’t create a distressing state that affects your physical and mental well-being or keeps you awake at night.

Here are a few common physical signs that your stress is out of the bearable range if you experience any of them: changes in mood, clammy or sweaty palms, decreased sex drive, diarrhoea, difficulty sleeping, digestive symptoms, dizziness, feeling anxious, frequent sickness, grinding teeth, headaches, low energy, muscle tension (especially in the neck and shoulders), unexplained physical pain, racing heartbeat, and trembling.
How do you increase your capacity for dealing with stress?

That is called resilience. The first line of defence is to look inside and see if your body has the right conditions: healthy, wholesome food, eight hours of sleep per night, and a minimum of 30 minutes daily for walking or exercising, preferably outdoors.

Then, look at the stressors and see what you can eliminate or reduce. Prioritise creating or having a safe space where you can share, vent, and learn how to be more mindful. Your nervous system deserves that therapy session because it is the system that keeps you alive and healthy.
Stay tuned and breathe deeply until next time when I will take you a little deeper into heart health as a means of managing stress.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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