Is stress sabotaging your health?

20 April 2017 by
First published: 24 July 2016

It’s time to discover: is stress sabotaging your health?

Stress. How many times do we hear this word or use it to describe how we feel. It’s such a normal part of life and almost natural to experience. But it shouldn’t be. Being chronically under stress is not healthy for the body or mind. Stress can impact the immune system, nervous system, skin and hormonal health – basically every cell of our body gets affected. There are many common stressors in our modern lives that are not easily seen and can secretly sabotage our health. Let’s take a look at some of the main stress culprits and see what we can do to combat them.


Stress from sugar

Refined sugar and artificial sweeteners cause spikes in blood sugar – and raised blood sugar levels stimulate the release of cortisol, the main stress hormone in the body. These fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin levels, and the constant state of elevated cortisol contribute to chronic stress and can lead to irritability and poor concentration.

Avoid adding sugar to your daily cuppa and swap processed biscuits and cakes for some made with wholesome sweeteners like coconut sugar and brown rice syrup. They have a lower glycemic index and won’t spike blood sugar so much. Or simply snack on fruit, fresh or dried and some good quality dark chocolate to carb cravings.


Stress from caffeine

Caffeine stimulates your nervous system and too much can lead to a rapid heartbeat and increase in blood pressure, which causes the release of cortisol as well. Additionally, excess caffeine can interfere with sleep and trigger dehydration, which can deplete you of energy and cause headaches and fatigue – even if it initially gives you an instant boost.

Reduce to one cup a day in the morning and experiment with herbal teas or roasted chicory and dandelion coffees. Also try out matcha lattes. Matcha still contains a bit of caffeine, but a slower release, giving you steady energy plus an injection of powerful antioxidants.


Stress from alcohol

Alcohol stimulates the production of the same hormones the body produces when under stress. Alcohol can actually prolong feelings of tension brought on by stress, and stress can reduce the pleasant effects of alcohol and spike cravings for more. Like caffeine, alcohol is also dehydrating and can interfere with your sleep.

Try having a glass of wine or a cocktail only a couple of days a week and stick to one drink. That way your will enjoy the relaxing effects of a glass of red and not overdo it, so that it actually starts having a negative effect.


Stress from sitting down

When sitting, the spine is under a lot of pressure. Desk jobs and long hours in the office often result in herniated discs, nerve problems, painful joints and chronic pain, putting a huge mental and physical stress on our bodies. To combat this stress, stand at least every hour at your desk, do simple stretches throughout the day – such as placing your hands on your lower back and stretching backwards. Make phone calls on your feet, walk up and down the hall, or get up every now and then to grab a cup of tea or a glass of water.


Stress from sleeplessness

After a sleepless night, you may be more irritable, tired, and vulnerable to stress. While once you sleep well, your mood often returns to normal. It’s a vicious circle, as stress also affects sleep by making the body more awake and alert. And people who are under constant stress or who have abnormally exaggerated responses to stress tend to have sleep problems.

In order to break it, be sure to create a bedtime routine to allow your body and mind to relax and prepare to sleep. Switch off electronics half an hour to an hour before bed, read or listen to music, drink a cup of herbal tea (like chamomile) and take a relaxing bath. You can also try some guided relaxation or mediation to wind down and ensure a restful sleep and a stress-free wakening.