Stress is a worldwide health problem. We all have to cope with it everyday, the problem is that a lot of people do not know how to do that effectively. When our body is under pressure due to work situations, emotional problems, etc, our body depletes its energy reserves and, as a consequence, our vitamin B reserve, which makes us prone to suffer from depression, insomnia or irritability.
The most common symptoms of stress are:
- Inability to sleep properly.
- Poor concentration and irritability.
- Excessive coffee, alcohol or cigarette consumption.
- Inability to take a decision and frustration with this regard.
- Heart palpitations, a lump in one's throat, a tight knote in the stomach, dry mouth, and slightly shaky hands.
- The continuous feeling that something has to be done and that you cannot simply sit down and relax.
Nevertheless, other symptoms are signs of more serious stress: chest pain, inability to swallow, weight loss, accelerated pulse, accelerated or irregular heart rate, etc. Whenever you have one of these symptoms you must see your doctor.
We offer you some practical advice that will help you fight stress.
FOOD AND STRESS
It is essential to eat healthy in order to keep a balanced mind and body and prevent stress from affecting your stomach, your defences and nervous system. Our physical and emotional stability depends to a large extent on what we eat.
More than eating certain types of foods, eating well and following a varied diet is the best strategy against stress and it strengthens our body defences.
Nutrients that strengthen our body and therefore fight stress are:
Vitamins. Vitamin A, C and E directly fight the formation of free radicals. Vitamin A is found in carrots, melon, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, spinach and sweet potatoes. Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits, broccoli, pepper, melon and tomato. In order to take vitamin E we have to eat nuts and vegetable oils. B-group vitamins strengthen the central nervous system and have a sedative effect. They are found in brewer's yeast, dairy products, meat, cereals, avocado, cabbage and green beans.
Minerals. Potassium, magnesium, calcium and zinc are absolutely necessary because they stimulate the organic reaction against stress hormones. On the other part, they have relaxing properties and modulate heart rate. Fruit, vegetables, wholemeal cereals and meat are rich in potassium. Vegetables are rich in magnesium (which can disappear when cooking. For this reason it is advisable to consume this water in form of soups and sauces). Nuts, cereals and seeds also have magnesium, but you have to eat them whole because magnesium is destroyed when food is crushed. Magnesium is known as "the natural tranquilizer" and indeed, few things are as relaxing as drinking a glass of warm milk before going to bed. A lot of immune functions that have been altered through stress can be stimulated with zinc. An insufficient zinc level causes a lot of disorders and stress symptoms such as irritability, depression, impotence and weakened immune system.
Hydrolyzed milk proteins. Research carried out in France have found out that the reason for babies sleeping so placidly after taking their mother's milk was due to a peptide found in human milk. Analysis of the different fractions of hydrolyzed milk using the same enzymes present in the stomach of babies led to isolation of the active fraction of the hydrolyzed milk protein, which has antistress properties in comparison to placebo and to a comparable extent to that of reference chemical substances. Hydrolyzed milk proteins do not contain lactose and therefore it does not cause intolerance to milk.
Relaxing foods. Some foods stimulate the functioning of nerve cells, helping the body stay relaxed, while others favour irritability. Among the relaxing foods we should mention bananas, wheat germ, almonds, brewer's yeast and sunflower seeds. A trick to fight stress and calories: Have always within hand's reach a piece of liquorice if you get hungry between meals. Apart from appeasing hunger and providing only very few calories, it has a powerful antistress effect.
FIGHTING STRESS WITH A LITTLE EXERCISE
Sports do not only relieve stress but make you feel better, which boosts your self-esteem and this, in its turn, also relieves stress. For this to work it is necessary to exercise three or four times a week, increasing your heart beat up to appropriate levels. Taking the dog for a walk, going swimming or getting togheter with people to take a walk can be effective in getting rid of tension.
There are other means to relieve stress like aromatherapy, inhalation of concentrated plant oils, chromotherapy, which is based on old believes about the properties of colours, flower remedies, liquid "medicines" made out of flowers that counter emotionally negative states and stress, etc..
CHILDREN GET ALSO STRESSED
Stress is a feelling of discomfort experienced differently by adults and children. and by each person in particular. Among those situations that cause stress to children, we can mention their parents' divorce, child abuse or neglection, poverty, school failure, diseases ...
Stress symptoms in children may be difficult to differentiate from those of minor illnesses. Watch out for symptoms like irritability, somnolence, eating problems or problems going to the toilet, fears, difficulties in adapting to routine changes or attachment to people, or even key words like "sad" or "fear". While children are growing, their response to stress may include behaviour like seeking people's attention, character changes, avoiding certain activities, isolation from others (like adolescents who increasingly withdraw into their rooms), rejection to school or changes in the quality of school activities, sleeping disorders and complaints about physical problems (headache, stomachache) ...
How can you help your children?
- Do not have too high expectations of your children: we all want our children to be successful and we must have expectations with regard to their behaviour.But when stress comes up, it could be the time to ask ourselves if our expectations may be too high.
- Listen to your child when he/she is describing stressing events or situations.
- Teach your children good problem-solving abilities.
- Change stressing situations.
- Watch out for "irrational thinking patterns". If you are conscious of harmful beliefs, help your child see life and himself / herself more positively and reallistically.
- Relaxation/Visualization. A frequently used visualization technique consists of relaxing (as indicated above) and then imagining oneself in a favourite place - a place that is warm, inviting, comfortable and beautiful.
12 PRACTICAL TIPS TO COPE WITH STRESS
1. Be realistic in what you can and cannot do. Ambitious objectives are a frequent source of stress.
2. Get enough rest, set up a regular sleeping time.
3. Avoid getting worried.
4. Control your emotions, decide whether or not the situation is worthy of becoming anxious.
5. Do not turn to alcohol, drugs or self-medication.
6. Do not let your feelings build up inside, identify the mistakes and try to talk to a friend.
7. Take a decision and do not postpone what you have to do or say.
8. Try to stick to a routine , avoid disorganization.
9. Develop a sense of humor when things are not going well.
10. If you feel under pressure, use a relaxing technique like deep breathing, stop for a moment and look up into the sky, etc.
11. Follow a balanced diet and sleep 8 hours a day.
12. Take time for yourself and do things you enjoy doing like walking, talking to somebody you love, going to the cinema or out for dinner with friends, etc.