Stress and anxiety are part of life, but don't let it overwhelm you. Here are some strategies to take the initiative before it affects your health and well being.
To be alive is to invite and to know stress and anxiety. These emotions can run the gamut as to how they affect our lives — from the mild forms that can be easily remedied to small lifestyle changes to more severe forms for which medical intervention is advised.
Again, we are all going to know stress, we are all going to know anxiety. You can no more avoid stress and anxiety in life than you can walking through the rain without getting wet.
In many circumstances, stress is natural and even welcomed. When we are in a competitive situation, or faced with an important task, or are called on to protect and defend someone for whom we care, or if there is a high-priority cause in which we are engaged, the physical and emotional manifestations of stress and anxiety — spiking of adrenaline, rise in heart rate, cold sweat, focusing of attention and building of discomfort — help and enable us to confront and overcome the challenge.
There are, of course, events that bring with them mountains of stress — such as losing a job, conflicts at work, illness, death of a loved one, money problems and marital and other relationship discord.
Drugs — such as asthma inhalers, cold medicine, diet pills, caffeine and thyroid medication — have the potential to increase nervousness.
Stress can result in unsettled sleep, a rise in blood pressure and cholesterol (which contributes to heart disease), weight problems, binge eating, sexual dysfunction, autoimmune diseases and digestive issues.
Depending on how we manage and work through stress, we can either get through it with short-lived and minor unease, or we can allow it to paralyze us or to cause us to act out angrily or unsafely, or to manufacture hurt in other ways.
This is why it is vital to take the initiative in controlling stress and anxiety.
Lifestyle and healthy activity and the right choices can have a dramatic healing impact on all types of stress, whether it is mild or severe. Yet in cases of severe anxiety, when one is beset with deep panic and fright, professional medical help should be immediately sought.
So what can we do, how can we live, to be best conditioned and prepared so that we are less susceptible to stress and anxiety disrupting our lives? Here are some ideas:
Eat healthy:It only makes sense. Eat a balanced and nutritious diet that is high in fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, monounsaturated fats (e.g. olive oil, nuts, canola oil) and polyunsaturated fats (e.g. fish oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil). Polyunsaturated fats are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that have been medically proven to support and strengthen the nervous system and the brain. There is a reason that fish is called “brain food.” Stay away from processed sugar and processed flour. Drink plenty of water. Drink alcohol in moderation. We are what we eat.
Page 2 of 3 - Exercise: Absolutely one of the best life choices all around is for us to engage in regular physical exercise. When we are exercising, we aren’t stewing in our anxiety and letting it fester; we access a new perspective and adjust our focus and experience out-and-out fun. Plus, all sorts of good things happen to us physically when we exercise, all of which support anxiety reduction: stimulation of “feel good” brain chemicals, boosting of energy, burning of fat, promotion of better sleep and strengthening of the immune system. Even moderate exercise — walking for 20 minutes, biking for an hour, doing a low-intensity yoga or Zumba class or ballroom dancing — can tamp down stress.
Friendship and personal support network:True friends and a network of people who are there for us, who will listen to us, who will support us, can soothe even tremendous hurt and relieve even deep-set anxiety. Clinical study after clinical study has borne out and certified the health benefits of friendship and strong family. Among the studies that show that a supportive social network relieves stress and anxiety is one that the National Medical Association published in 2009. In the 1950s, a team of researchers went to the town of Roseto, Pa., (almost of all of whose residents were from or first-generation descendants of the village of Roseto in Italy) to determine why the people in the community were remarkably disease free and living long lives, despite eating a not particularly healthy diet and smoking and not exercising. Researchers concluded that a main factor allowing these people to live long lives and stay healthy was that Roseto was an unusually tight-knit community with several strong civic organizations. (Imagine if the residents of Roseto had also eaten better, not smoked, and exercised.)
Supplements:The proper regimen of supplementation enhances and helps optimize dietary nutrients necessary for physical and emotional health. Mentioned above is the value of omega-3s consumed through fish and certain plant oils. Further value and benefits can be gained by taking high quality fish oil supplements, and also high quality herbal, vitamin and mineral supplements. It can’t be emphasized enough that quality and purity of supplements vary immensely from one manufacturer and producer to another — and that ingesting low-quality and impure supplements provides little to no health support, and is also a waste of money. Some natural remedies can greatly aid in easing stress and anxiety; including Relexagen, a synthesis of herbs first used in Asia during the third century that more recently has been proven to alleviate anxiety and induce calm.
Stress and anxiety come with life. Yet there is much we can do about handling it; we remain masters in this respect.
Staying out in front of stress and anxiety, remaining educated and aware of the options available to us in combatting both, and taking the right action and making the right choices will pave the way for happiness and health.
Page 3 of 3 - Steve Bernardi is a compounding pharmacist and Dr. Gary Kracoff is a registered pharmacist and a naturopathic doctor at Johnson Compounding and Wellness Center in Waltham (www.naturalcompounder.com). Readers with questions about natural or homeopathic medicine, compounded medications, or health in general can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 781-893-3870.