This month our theme is stress relief. We have asked two of Green Farm’s good friends, nutrition expert Alice Yeates and Yoga leader Caelia Butcher, to provide us with their thoughts on stress relief through diet and exercise.
Alice Yeates tells us more about stress relief through diet...
Stress impacts our body in many ways and has been shown to:
Impact your body with headaches, muscle tension or pain, chest pain, fatigue, depleted sex drive, sleep issues and of course digestive problems.
Impact your mood by causing anxiety, restlessness, lack of motivation and focus, overwhelm, irritability, sadness and depression.
Impact your behaviour by eating either too much or too little, drinking too much alcohol, smoking or drug use, causing outbursts of anger, social withdrawal and exercising less.
All these things are very significant to your health so have a think for a moment about the way stress affects you. Are you aware of the impact it has on your body? Listen to how you respond so that you become aware, then you will be able to use the techniques we have been discussing to bring your body and mind back into balance. Awareness is key.
Stress and sugar
Of course, the impact stress has on sugar levels is really important – stress doesn’t cause diabetes, but it can affect your blood sugar levels and how you look after yourself in relation to its development. If you’re feeling stressed, your body releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Cortisol provides the body with glucose by tapping into protein stores which should give you an energy boost for a ‘fight or flight’ response. Over long periods of time, elevated cortisol levels consistently produce glucose, leading to increased blood sugar levels.
What happens with stress?
Designed for you to run away from danger, your body produces sugar to give you energy. If you run away, you use up that sugar. If you have an argument, miss a train or get anxious about a meeting, the sugar stays in your bloodstream.
Each time you get stressed, which for many people is ALL the time, you produce sugar. This is bad news for diabetics and anyone with issues managing sugar, it’s just like you having a sugary snack.
So how do you stop this from happening?
You eat good food that keeps your blood sugar stable. That’s basically protein, fibre and vegetables. Even for breakfast, actually, especially for breakfast. The more you eat good food, the less you want sugar.
You eat every 3½ to 4 hours to stop your blood sugar dropping and just drink water in between. Even that cappuccino between breakfast and lunch can play havoc with your blood sugar. So, if you want one then have it with a meal.
Stress and circulation
Stress causes your blood vessels to constrict, which means it leads to a rise in your blood pressure. You can reduce the impact of this by using breathing techniques, drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep.
Stress and digestion
When stress activates the fight-or-flight response in your central nervous system it can affect your digestive system by:
Causing your oesophagus to go into spasm and making it harder to swallow
Increasing the acid in your stomach, potentially giving you acid reflux or indigestion
Making you feel a bit sick
Giving you diarrhoea or even constipation
Changing the chemicals in your brain which will affect your mood
Altering the supply of blood and oxygen to the gut potentially causing inflammation and imbalance of gut bacteria.
Make sure you always sit down to eat. Taking a few deep breaths before you start eating is a great way to reduce the negative impact on your digestion. Have a glass of water before your meal to balance the acid and support the enzymes for digestion.
Make stress your friend – WHY?
Because studies show that if you believe stress is harmful you are more likely to die because of it! Changing how you think about stress can change the way the body responds.
Normally you interpret the physical changes as signs of anxiety indicating that you are not coping well with pressure.
What if you viewed them in a different way? What if you were to rethink your stress response as helpful, the pounding heart preparing you for action, the faster breathing getting more oxygen to your brain.
Learning to view the response as helpful for your performance caused the body to respond differently. In a typical stress response, your blood vessels constrict, when you view the changes as helpful your blood vessels stay relaxed! How amazing is that?
How you think about stress matters so the next time you feel your body responding think to yourself “this is my body rising to the challenge” and go with it.
Managing stress with the methods discussed can really help all the systems in the body to work more efficiently and it only has to take a short time every day.
It’s never easy to start a new habit but WOW it’s worth it every single time.
Caelia tells us more about stress relief through our mind and body connection...
Mind, body and soul connection
When you think of healthy, do you just think of the physical aspect?
Our minds and bodies are intrinsically linked via pathways containing neurotransmitters, hormones and chemicals. These send signals between the brain and body that control everyday functions.
Everything from breathing, digestion, pain, movement and even the way you think and feel are influenced by the brain and body.
The best ways to get a healthy brain and body are as follows:
Get out in nature
Eat seasonally and locally produced food (this is good for the environment as well as reducing stress levels).
These are all easy steps we can take to help take control of our own health.
Our wellbeing is a balancing act and here at Green Farm we do our best to inspire and facilitate positive change.
Why not try some of the nourishing recipes available in our blog articles?
If you'd like to join us for a yoga class, you can find out more and book HERE.
And remember, whenever you visit us at Green Farm, feel free to borrow a map, wellies, a bike – and why not bring a picnic? – and enjoy exploring our ancient woodland and extensive farm grounds. Move your body, live mindfully, eat well and live very well indeed.