By CCI Team
Did you know that nearly a quarter of all Americans are under varying amounts of extreme stress? According to the American Psychological Association, approximately 85,605,500 people rated their stress levels at a level eight, nine or 10 on a 10-point scale in 2011. While the other three quarters of Americans say, they deal with fluctuating levels of stress on a daily basis, a disturbing trend has been observed. The stress most adults face on a regular basis is not going away. More and more American adults are reporting increasing levels of stress as time goes on. Although we cannot always control the sources of stress in our lives, we can change how we react to them.
What Are the Main Causes of High Stress Levels?
Chronic stressors such as job trouble and relationship problems are linked to serious emotional and physical effects such as depression, high blood pressure, obesity and heart disease. While most adults believe that stress can contribute to major illness, only 29 percent report being proactive about reducing their stress levels.
The American Psychological Association created a chart based on the regular stressors reported by surveyed American adults. Money and work remain as the top two main stress sources followed by economy, relationships, family responsibilities, family health problems, personal health concerns, job stability, rising housing costs and personal safety.
How Stress Affects Your Physical Health and Well-being
Extreme and unexpected stress such as the sudden loss of a loved one can have immediate effects on your health. Grief can really and truly break your heart. After losing someone close to you, your risk of suffering from a heart attack goes up 21 times for the first week and decreases to six times for the following week. The risk for heart attack will usually continue to decline further after a month or so.
Even everyday stressors can cause detrimental effects on your health if they are not successfully dealt with. If your body is allowed to remain in a “fight or flight” mode for longer than necessary, you will burn out your adrenal glands. Adrenal fatigue can lead to a constant feeling of tiredness, skin problems and more. High stress levels have also been linked to cancer and may contribute to the growth of cancer tumors.
Common Stress Symptoms
Keeping your stress levels under control is an ongoing commitment and requires daily attention. Unfortunately, many people fall into a vicious cycle with their coping mechanisms and perform unhealthy activities such as bingeing on TV/movies, eating junk foods and consuming alcohol and drugs.
The most common stress symptoms are listed below in order of acuteness:
- Lack of energy, motivation or interest
- Stomach upsets
- Appetite changes
- Changes in sex drive
How to Deal With Stress Naturally
Unhealthy coping mechanisms are only distractions and may even intensify your stress levels. This, in turn, will cause greater problems such as sleeplessness and overeating, thereby trapping you in a vicious cycle. The best thing to do to protect yourself is to focus on health strategies for dealing with stress.
One very good tool for stress management is EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). EFT is similar to acupuncture but works without needles. It is a free and simple way to help release emotional baggage quickly. Even children can learn and benefit from it.
Exercise is one of the best natural stress relievers in the world. It has been used as a natural remedy for anxiety due its powerful ability to cause the release of endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are the “feel good” hormones and act as the body’s natural painkillers and antidepressants. The negative effects of stress are increased in those who fail to exercise regularly. Yoga or yoga alternatives can produce some of the same benefits as exercise by reinforcing the mind-body connection, improving self-esteem and controlling anxiety.
Acupuncture has been used more and more regularly to treat stress-related disorders. These include psychiatric disorders, autoimmune diseases, infertility and depression. Acupuncture can initiate changes in the cardiovascular/immune systems such as increasing protective T-cell growth and encouraging healthy cellular immuno-responses. Because of its ability to regulate the nervous system, acupuncture is one of the best treatments for patients who are recovering from heart disease.
#4 A Healthy Diet
One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to feed your body well. A nutrient-dense diet that includes trace minerals, healthy fats, vitamins, amino acids and antioxidants is critical to ensuring that your brain and body can handle stress the most efficient way possible.
Foods high in B vitamins — raw or cultured dairy products, grass-feed beef, poultry, green leafy vegetables, brewer’s yeast and nutritional yeast
Foods high in protein — bone broth powder, lentils, wild-caught fish, natto, black beans and raw cheese
Foods high in calcium and magnesium — cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage,
Brussels sprouts, beans/legumes and organic yogurt
Foods high in healthy fats — coconut oil, avocado, olive oil, fish oil, nuts and seeds
Try to avoid the following foods as they can increase stress levels:
- Processed/refined foods
- High levels of alcohol and caffeine
- Refined vegetable oils
- Foods high in sugar
#5 Adaptogens and Essential Oils
Adaptogenic herbs such as ashwaganda, tulsi (holy basil), ginsing, astralagus root, licorice, rhodiola and cordyceps mushrooms (reishi, shiitake and maitake) help restore balance to the systems of the body. Adaptogens work by helping your overall bodily functions respond in healthy, balanced ways are are commonly used to help decrease the effects of cancer and other serious illnesses.
You could also consider essential oils. Myrrh, lavender, frankincense and bergamot can help reduce inflammation, improve immunity and balance hormones. Consider purchasing a diffuser to allow the oils to disperse through the air in your home or office space.
Stress is unavoidable in the day-to-day lives of the functioning American adult. However, with the right techniques, stress can be managed to prevent it from taking over your life and making you ill.