Nutrition, Fitness & Stress Management

Stress Management Leave a comment

The levels of stress may vary over the span of a year, increasing gradually at some points and plateauing or decreasing at other points. This may be due to stressful work situations, stockpiling of information, assignment due dates, midterm and final exams among a variety of other reasons. To alleviate these distressful situations, incorporating a balanced lifestyle can help in the long run while good nutrition, supplementation, drinking plenty of water, exercising and sleeping well can help both in the short-run and long-run.

Individuals might be more susceptible to catching a cold when under stress due to the immune system not functioning at its optimal level, being forgetful, and not having a well-nourished and proper nutritional diet. Experts believe that stress causes the body to excrete more of a hormone called Cortisol, which is known to suppress the body’s immune system if high levels of the hormone are present in the bloodstream for prolonged periods of time. When and individual is under stress he or she may have their mind perturbed preventing them to stay on task and focus on what is going on in their immediate environment. This may lead to certain situations that potentially increase the chances of improper sanitation among a variety of other things. When under stress, the hormones released by the adrenal glands during the “fight or flight” response suppress the proper functioning of the digestive system and direct the body to utilize energy for other functions. This, along with some other factors may suppress appetite and can therefore lead to malnutrition. Without the proper essential amino acids as well as vitamins and minerals, the immune system is unable to function at its optimal level preventing it to defend against foreign invaders and leading an individual to develop an illness (such as a cold).

Physical activity is thought to be an effective stress management tool for a variety of reasons, some of the most important reasons being: excretion of endorphins, distraction from everyday life, looking and feeling good (increasing self-confidence and lowering anxiety), improvement of rest and sleep, as well as increasing blood flow to the brain and thereby eliminating toxic waste in the process. Endorphins are released by the pituitary gland during exercise causing a heightened sense of well being. Physical activity can also manage stress by giving an individual a temporary escape from everyday stressors. A temporary distraction from everyday life can give that individual some time to reflect and release any built up emotion that can contribute to stress. Depending on the cause, looking and feeling good can give an individual the self-confidence and self-esteem he or she may need to manage a stressful situation. Having confidence in oneself can allow an individual to trust his or her own judgement, and in-doing so rational solutions can be sought to certain stressful situations. Physical activity is known to improve sleep as well as reset one’s “sleep wake” schedule, which in turn can defeat the negative effects that poor quality sleep can have. These negative effects, which include decreased concentration, effectiveness and energy levels, can be considered secondary inducers of stress because of their indirect line of attack so to speak. Finally, physical activity increases blood flow to the brain, which can decrease levels of lethargy and sluggishness, allowing an individual to work at his or her optimal level. Another interesting point I would like to make is that while the Adrenal Glands excrete the hormones related to the “fight or flight” response such as Epinephrine and Cortisol during stressful situations, these hormones remain in the blood stream for periods well beyond the point of initial release and exercise can allow the body to carry out these responses thereby restoring homeostasis quicker.

Without proper nutrition and supplementation, physical activity can negate the power of it being used as a method of stress reduction. 

The progressive muscle relaxation technique is another effective way to battle stress. After practicing the muscle relaxation technique one may experience calm and soothing effects. A fast heart rate may slow down, allowing one to feel more tranquil and think more rationally. Other techniques such as meditation and listening to music such as Viva La Vida by Coldplay may also do the trick.

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