The term ‘stress’ can be described as the reaction of the body and mind to every day’s tensions and pressures. Too much stress can make a person prone to various physical and mental problems. Stress occurs whenever there is a major change in one’s life, be it a death of a dear one, separation from a partner, during pregnancy, financial problems, retirement or loss of a job. It can be dealt with if managed well using diet, exercise and relaxation.
There are some common signs of stress that can be easily spotted. If one feels exhausted most of the time, bites nails, feels close to tears and shouts at those around him at work or at home, not able to concentrate, one’s normal eating pattern is disturbed, sweats excessively, suffers from poor sleep, the person is stressed for sure. Prolonged periods of stress affect body, mind and behavior of a person immensely. Among the most common is a persistent headache, stammering, poor concentration, frequent cough and colds, infections, flu, nausea, loss of appetite, neck and back pain, muscle spasms and reduced drive and desire. Other manifestations of stress are high blood pressure, strokes and heart problems, indigestion, stomach ulcers, migraine, insomnia, anxiety, depression and lethargy.
Apart from these ailments, stress also brings havoc by undermining the body’s immunity. Due to disturbed normal eating patterns, the person suffers from inadequate nutrition and loss of weight. When under stress, the body rapidly consumes certain nutrients so as to resist the body from infection and boost up with energy. There is evidence that during stressful conditions, loss of vital nutrients particularly, vitamin B6, vitamin C, zinc, magnesium and carbohydrates lead to fatigue and accelerate anxiety.
To help replenish these lost nutrients, it is crucial to eat a balanced diet. Eat a meal high in carbohydrates (such as wheat, rice, pasta, bread, potatoes and pulses). It would trigger serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter, which is known to calm the mind. Eat more fibrous food to ease cramps and constipation, which is a common problem during stressful condition. Experts suggest that those suffering from stress would benefit from an increased intake of B vitamins as these help to maintain a healthy central nervous system. These groups of vitamins are a great source of energy and are found in whole grain cereals, dairy products, curd, eggs, green vegetables, fruits, potatoes, seafood, nuts, pulses and dry fruits. Diet rich in vitamin C improves body’s defence mechanism and wound healing. Good sources of Vitamin C include citrus fruits, blackcurrants, fresh vegetables and fruit juices are a great source of vitamin C.
Including food rich in zinc boosts immune response and promotes wound healing. Dairy products, egg yolk, whole grain cereals, liver and seafood are a rich source of this nutrient. Magnesium, a tranquillizing mineral, is found in green vegetables, wheat germ, whole grain cereals, sesame seeds, nuts, pulses and dried figs. This mineral assists muscle contraction and transmission of the nerve impulse. To overcome stress, we need to incorporate dietary stress-relievers in our daily routine.
The person under stress should set aside a peaceful time for eating. Also, food should be eaten in small amounts at regular intervals in order to aid digestion and prevent acidity. Cut down on excessive intake of dark chocolates, coffee, tea, alcohol and tobacco as these stimulate the feeling of anxiety and rob the body of essential nutrients. Also, avoid the consumption of food high in sugar, sugar and fat.
Other than diet, factors such as regular exercise, yoga and meditation, deep breathing exercise help reduce stress. Learn to relax and overcome physical, intellectual and social challenges. Try to nurture a positive attitude towards stress and anxiety. Do something that takes your mind off your worries, such as gardening, walking, sports, listening to music, watching your favorite TV show. Taking regular holidays and talking your problems over with a friend or a professional counsellor can also be of great help.