We all encounter stress in our lives. It comes from all areas of our life, including work, family and finances.
So what exactly is stress? There are various forms of stress, all of which have either positive or negative effects on the mind and body.
Types of Stress
- Eustress: This is often considered ‘good’. It is usually only for a very short period of time and can push us to face challenges and improve our performance in certain areas of work or social activity
- Distress: Usually ‘bad’ stress. This type of stress can be caused by our feelings of being out-of-control
- Acute Stress: The most common form of stress we encounter. The body and mind experiences an immediate reaction to any kind of threat, challenge or scare. We are often fully aware of what is happening and can manage it quite well
- Chronic Stress: This is also considered a bad stress. Our ability to cope reduces and we are more prone to colds and infections, psychological and mental disorders and illness, sadness, and often feel there is ‘no end’ in sight
Chronic stress, from either good or bad stressors, can lead to a myriad of psychological and physiological health conditions, in turn leading to a vicious cycle of our inability to cope with small things that come our way in daily life that we would otherwise be able to handle. Chronic stress also comes from things we ingest and put onto our bodies such as high caffeine and alcohol intake, body lotions high in un-natural ingredients and environmental factors including exposure to molds, allergens, pollutants, fluoride, mercury and heavy metals, and household cleaning products.
The seemingly constant barrage of attacks from stress can lead to anxiety and panic disorders, as well as depression. We become so overwhelmed that we cannot function normally, putting the body into overdrive on every level. This affects a number of organs including the adrenal glands, kidneys, heart, brain, lungs, blood, liver, bowel, muscles and skin.
Essentially, the body becomes so overwhelmed that hormones which help us to function and regulate ourselves under normal circumstances are sent into hyperactivity or hypoactivity. This then results in several changes. These changes include hormone dysregulation, increased muscle pain, insomnia, diarrhea and constipation, increased or decreased appetite, feling ‘tired but wired’, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, addictive and destructive behaviors, social withdrawal and altered nutrient status. It is at this point we are considered to have anxiety and/or panic disorder or depression. Or a combination of these.
There is no denying that all these hormones our bodies need to help us function normally are in fact so out of balance we feel there is something seriously wrong and we seek help. We have come too far to ever find a way out and act accordingly.
It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorders in order to get the help needed to heal the body and return to balance in both internal and external lives. The signs and symptoms of anxiety, panic and depression are often intertwined and difficult to set apart as just one or the other.
Signs and Symptoms
- Increased heart rate/palpitations
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Sweating, hot and cold flashes
- Obsessive thoughts (sometimes morbid) and behaviors (OCD)
- Irritability/mood swings/on edge
- Substance abuse (including caffeine, illicit drugs, alcohol, cigarettes)
- Skin conditions including eczema, psoriasis, hives and acne
- Difficulty concentrating
- Altered menstrual cycle/low libido
- Increased or decreased appetite
- Weight gain or loss
- Muscle wasting
- Hair falling out
- Increased urination
- Constipation and/or diarrhea
- Muscle aches and pains
- Easily tired from little exertion
- Frequent colds and infections
- Avoidance behaviors including withdrawal from family and social activity and excess sleeping
- Easily startled
- Irrational fears
- Systemic inflammation
- Poor nutritional status
- Thyroid gland disorders and general hormone dysunction
From a nutritional perspective, stress can lead to severe and chronic nutrient depletions due to the increased work the body has to carry out in order to maintain homeostasis. The following nutrients are essential for normal cell and bodily functions, and especially important in restoring health and well-being. Along with relaxation techniques and body-awareness, they can help bring us back into balance. It is also important to remember that this takes time, and there is no ‘quick-fix’. Eliminating and reducing the things that cause stress and our methods for dealing with them are equally as important as restoring nutrients.
- Magnesium. It is required by all cells throughout the entire body. It is relaxing and calming, and helps restore electrolytes lost, reduces inflammation and pain, helps restore focus and sleep, and regulate hormones
- Amino Acids. The building blocks of protein. Without protein, the body cannot function appropriately, Again, it is needed for every cell in the body that helps to build us, including muscles, lungs, heart and digestive system
- Vitamin C. This is one of the most powerful antioxidants known. It helps to restore the adrenal glands and replenish the losses of this water-soluble vitamin that occurs through increased urination and bowel motions. It helps restore and regulate colonic motility in times of constipation, and is required by cells for energy and metabolism. It helps us stay focused and can reduce the length and frequency of colds and infections. It is important in skin health and renewal and assists in the healing of mucus membranes including that of the mouth, digestive tract and bowel.
- Essential Fatty Acids. Important to help reduce inflammation throughout the body and regulate hormones. They are also required for the brain and gut in restoring neurotransmitter function for clear thinking, improved bowel habits and nutrient absorption. Equally as important for the skin as vitamin C in maintaining elastin and collagen synthesis
- B Vitamins. All B vitamins are essentially depleted in chronic stress disorders. They are required for appropriate liver functioning, blood flow to the brain and other organs, help restore hormone regulation, provide energy to cells so we have more energy to function normally and cope with stress. They act synergistically with other nutrients in the body to help maintain and regulate bowel habits and can effectively reduce symptoms and signs of anxiety and depression
- Zinc. Zinc is essential for all bodily functions and a deficiency can exacerbate signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression. It has an important role in acting as a precursor to neurons and neurotransmitters
- Selenium. An important antioxidant to help the body remove toxins and heavy metals. It is essential in appropriate functioning of the thyroid gland, which helps to regulate hormone secretions and reduce oxidative damage caused by the inflammatory state that stress induces throughout the body. Those with anxiety and depression often experience improvements in mood and symptoms following supplementation with selenium
- Iron. A deficiency in iron is often seen in people who experience chronic stress, and often times diagnosed as anemic. Iron is required for adequate and appropriate development and generation of new red blood cells and their ability to carry oxygen to tissues such as the heart, muscles and brain. Iron also improves symptoms of anxiety, due to its role in hemoglobin synthesis and transport of red blood cells throughout the body
All of these nutrients, along with important diet and lifestyle changes can help in the recovery from chronic stress, and alleviate anxiety and depression.
It is essential to speak to your holistic health care provider, who can work with you in restoring balance and reduce the effects of chronic stress.
The following techniques have proven to be effective in reducing the symptoms of panic, anxiety and depression when used consciously and repeatedly. They are lifestyle techniques we can use to eliminate and l’let go’ of the small and big things that contribute to feelings of overwhelm and pain.
- Art therapy
- Music therapy
- Exercise (any kind)
- Sleep hygiene
- Diet changes
- Connecting with others (talking, cuddling, kissing)
- Belly breathing
With the help and guidance from a holistic practitioner, and other resources for counseling and support, it is possible to restore balance, health and vitality, and lead a fulfilling and happy life.
- 000 – Call this number in emergency situations and you feel you or a loved one requires immediate and urgent medical assistance
- 1300 22 46 36 beyondblue.org.au
- 13 11 14 lifeline.org.au
- 1800 55 1800 kidshelp.com.au
- 1300 78 99 78 mensline.org.au
- 911 – Call this number in emergency situations and you feel you or a loved one requires immediate and urgent medical assistance
- 1800 273 TALK (8255) suicidepreventionlifeline.org
- 1888 205 2775 mentalhealthcenter.org
- 1800 SUICIDE (7842433)
- 1800 273 8255 (Press 1) Veterans Crisis Line
- 1877 YOUTH LINE (96884 5463)
- 1866 488 7386 The Trevor Project
- 1877 VET 2 VET (838 2838)
- 1800 PPD MOMS (773 6667)
- 1877 727 4747 (CA) didihirsch.org
- 212 673 3000 (NY) samaritansnyc.org