We encounter stress everyday, but sometimes stress can occur chronically. Chronic stress is extremely harmful to the body as it increases inflammation, affecting the cardiovascular system, the digestive system, the skeletal system and many additional organ systems. Cortisol is the chemical response for stress, and when cortisol levels increase cytokines inactivate, inflammation increases and immunity decreases (Kirsten, Galvão, Reis-Silva, Queiroz-Hazarbassanov& Bernardi, 2015). Chronic stress causes the body to continuously release cortisol, thus the cells become less receptive to the cortisol and the inflammation can cause many serious problems. Some conditions include heart disease, obesity, depression, anxiety and even telomeres damage which can shorted life span (Henriques, Keffer, Abrahamson, & Horst, 2011). Researches believe that “the impact of stress is more harmful to the immune system than the other organ systems in the body” (Kirsten et. al, 2015).
So what can we do?
1. Change your diet
Avoiding inflammatory foods and eating more anti-inflammatory foods can significantly help reduce the overall inflammation in your body. Broadly speaking, pro-inflammatory foods contain flour and high amounts of sugar and sweeter. Anti-inflammatory foods are anti-oxidant rich foods, minerals and essential fatty acids.
Overall, eating more fruits and vegetables, increasing variety and avoiding processed foods will help. More specifics include...
Consume: Green leafy vegetables, beets, garlic, olive oil, celery, broccoli, tomatoes, berries, pineapple, fresh squeezed orange juice, salmon, walnuts, almonds, coconut oil, soy, gluten free products, chia seeds/flax seed, turmeric, ginger and water.
Avoid or decrease your intake of: Bread, pastries, candy, cereal containing gluten, fast food, fruit juices, soda, alcohol, dairy, caffeine, fried foods, high fructose corn syrup, ice cream, pasta, potatoes and popcorn.
2. Manage your time
A great deal of stress can be avoided through proper time management. An easy way to organize is to create a daily schedule and allocate specific times of the day to work on each task. Organizing on a monthly calendar too can help to prepare for tasks that require several days of work.
7-9 hours of sleep is essential for your body to repair and prepare for you to live another healthy day. Sleep deprivation can affect judgment/mood, cause difficulties learning and retaining information and increase inflammation.
The American Heart Association and the CDC recommendation for exercise is 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. Immediately after exercising the body makes and uses more antioxidants.
To learn more about ways to begin exercising read this article below.
5. Meditate and relax
Meditation and other activities that promote relaxation significantly decrease the amount of cortisol, inflammation and overall stress in the body. Find your favorite was to relax and put it into practice. If you cannot find the time to relax, consider managing your time better. A biological method to handle stress is heart rate variability training, as it helps strengthen the heart and handle stress. Apps such as Camera HRV are convenient and are fairly inexpensive.
6. Make life changes
If the stress of your job is too high, consider leaving. If you need help around the house, consider hiring someone. If you are having problems seek the help of a mental health professional. Surround yourself with positive and happy people. Prioritize your health and make changes to your life if it seems you cannot avoid feeling stressed.
After making these changes chronic stress will diminish. Ultimately, when decreasing inflammation and reducing chronic stress the body will be more capable of handling acute stress.
Henriques, G., Keffer, S., Abrahamson, C., & Horst, S. J. (2011). Exploring the Effectiveness of a Computer-Based Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback Program in Reducing Anxiety in College Students. Applied Psychophysiology & Biofeedback, 36(2), 101-112. doi:10.1007/s10484-011-9151-4
Kirsten, T. B., Galvão, M. C., Reis-Silva, T. M., Queiroz-Hazarbassanov, N., & Bernardi, M. M. (2015). Zinc Prevents Sickness Behavior Induced by Lipopolysaccharides after a Stress Challenge in Rats. Plos ONE, 10(3), 1-12. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0120263