How to manage stress

Stress is the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. Net photo

Sometimes, there could be a lot happening in one’s life. When you add that to daily routine, for example, work, and a poor diet, chances are that stress might occur.

For Vivian Abatesi, losing her husband three years back in a car accident was the genesis of her stress. Her happiness was short-lived, how was she supposed to give birth to a child with no father? Her husband never got the chance to experience the joy of being a father.

Regardless of all the support and counselling she received from family, friends and church members, she was filled with pain, anger, loneliness, grief and a lot more.

Everyone is experiences stress differently. To some, it could be due to loss of a job, weight gain or weight loss, injury, divorce, sickness, negativity, financial problems, loneliness, anxiety and so forth.

WHEN TO TELL IF IT IS STRESS?

Dr Gerald Luzindana, a wellness expert at Amazon Wellness Centre Gasabo, notes that stress is the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional responses. Stress is a normal part of life. A feeling of emotional or physical tension coming from events that make someone frustrated, angry, nervous and challenged — this could be positive or negative.

That includes, depression or anxiety, anger, irritability, or restlessness, feeling overwhelmed, unmotivated, or unfocused, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, racing thoughts or constant worry, problems with your memory or concentration, making poor decisions.

HOW DOES STRESS AFFECT HEALTH?

Luzindana explains that the human body is designed to experience stress and react to it. Stress can be positive, keeping us alert, motivated, and ready to avoid danger. However, stress becomes negative when a person faces continuous challenges without relief or relaxation between stressors. As a result, the person becomes overworked, and tension builds.

“The body responds to stress by releasing adrenal hormones, such as cortisol, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) and other hormones and neural chemicals into the bloodstream, these “stress hormones” are powerful chemicals. This stress response, also known as the “fight or flight response”, which is activated in case of an emergency,” he says.

The wellness expert carries on that a problem comes when these chemicals stay for too long in the body system, ultimately the body losses it’s equilibrium, (balance) leading to physical symptoms such as, headache, stomach upset, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, sexual dysfunction and problems like sleeping (insomnia). Research indicates that there is a close relationship between stress and autoimmune diseases and metabolic disorders like diabetes and certain cancers.

STRESS CAN BE MANAGED

Luzindana says that the most advance effect of stress on the body comes when the “stressors” are prolonged, or have become persistent, from this point, our bodies fail or cannot continue operating in such circumstances.

He urges everyone to avoid prolonging the “stressors” which calls for a clear understanding of what is causing the stress.

“We suggest some stress reduction techniques, which can help lessen the effects of stress on your body. For public interest, we highly recommend that anyone opting for these should first consult their health providers for advice,” Luzindana says.

Luzindana advises that proper breathing is key in reducing the effects of stress and improving someone’s energy and concentration levels. Numerous studies have shown that deep breathing relaxes the mind, calms the nervous system, improves mental focus and increases energy.

He also says, exercise is one of the simplest and the most underrated ways to reduce the effects of stress on the body as it releases tension and calms the body for rejuvenation. Not forgetting laughter, prayer, visualisation, music therapy and much more.

STRESS AND FOOD, WHAT YOU NEED TO EAT

Emmy Ntamanga, a Kigali-based nutrition consultant, is of the view that stress can lead to headaches, stomach cramps, weight gain, and more about colds and flu, chronic. Constant stress impacts every part of the body, from the digestive and reproductive systems, to the immune system.

He says that stress can affect healthy eating, which is why it is necessary to consider healthy eating plans. These include, a balanced diet — rich in protein, fruits, vegetables, and minimal fats or carbohydrates. Diet choices can make or break stress levels.

Ntamanga adds that carbohydrates can increase levels of serotonin, a chemical in the body that helps boost mood and reduce stress.

Bananas are a rich source of certain B vitamins, such as vitamin B6, which helps the nervous system run correctly, and can decrease stress and fatigue, as well as yellow bananas, which contain potassium that assists in mood-boosting, along with magnesium, that help during stressful times.

According to Ntamanga, Omega-3 fatty acids found in whole fish like tuna, salmon, and sardines help to boost mood. But also, water can support in decreasing stress because mild dehydration can increase cortisol levels, which contributes to increased stress.

He adds that milk and other dairy products with calcium, added with vitamin D, can comfort muscles, thus relaxing and stabilising mood.

“Nuts also contribute to lowering blood pressure and contain vitamin B, which has been shown to help lower stress levels. Vitamin C is a slow-release formula each day and cortisol levels of stress decreases. Also eating citrus fruits, including oranges and strawberries are a good start, but need a supplement to reach such high levels of nutrients,” he explains.

The leafy greens are a rich source of magnesium, as they contain folate that helps in regulating cortisol and blood pressure levels, it plays a key role in the production of the feel-good chemical dopamine, Ntamanga adds.

Dieudonné Bukaba, a nutritionist at Avega clinic Remera, says avocados contain monounsaturated fats, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, and fibre, which makes it perfect in fighting stress.

He notes that Vitamin C is a stress buster, as food including broccoli, cauliflower, oranges and orange juice, red, green or yellow pepper, sweet potato, strawberries, and tomatoes, assist to reduce stress because it allows the body to rapidly clear out cortisol, a primary stress hormone that increases sugars in the bloodstream.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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