America is under high stress and our health is paying the price.
75-90% of visits to health care professionals are stress-related.
Stress lowers immune responseand affects the production of interferon, a natural antiviral agent.
Stress increases risk for colds, flu, and a score of other illnesses. It’s estimated that over 20 million Americans suffer from health problems linked to stress.
Here are 5 of the top stress related problems and what you can do about them.
Short-term stress causes your heart to beat faster and your blood vessels to narrow, raising blood pressure.
Long-term stress leads to destructive behaviors, like drinking alcohol, smoking, using drugs, or overeating, which also raise blood pressure.
If this sounds like you, mindfulness meditation is an excellent tool to bring the body back into balance. A 2013 study reveals mindfulness meditation decreased high blood pressure.
Previous research shows the effectiveness of transcendental meditation for lowering blood pressure.
Note: Severe high blood pressure may require a medical approach, but natural therapies like meditation can offer important support.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) affects between 25-45 million people in the U.S. The GI tract is more sensitive to stress in people with IBS.
While IBS is not caused by stress, stress worsens symptoms like digestive spasms, gas, and diarrhea.
Furthermore, there is an immune component to IBS that is aggravated by a stressful lifestyle. Counseling and support groups are options to consider, especially if IBS has not responded to diet changes.
For acute symptoms, catnip or chamomile tea work fast to relax tension, calm colon spasms, and relieve painful gas.
80% of Americans suffer from tension headaches. Muscle tension in the back, neck, and shoulders caused by stress is a huge trigger.
Furthermore, stress contributes to migraines, a type of headache characterized by severe pain, sensitivity to light, sound, and nausea.
During high stress, chemicals released in the brain cause vascular changes that trigger or worsen migraines.
While over-the-counter pain relievers can ease symptoms, over the long term, they lead to gastrointestinal problems or can affect the liver.
Massage therapy and chiropractic treatments fight stress reactions and are extremely effective for headache relief. Migraines require an aggressive approach, but can be controlled or reduced by natural therapies, too.
Stress and weight problems go hand in hand for a lot of people. High stress triggers a cascade of reactions that cause weight gain and difficulty losing weight. Increased cortisol from stress causes your appetite to surge.
Being under stress is also a trigger for emotional eating. Stress even causes fat to accumulate around the stomach.
To work on weight issues, address stress and control your appetite. To avoid overeating, don’t skip meals. If you’re an emotional eater, ask yourself if you’re really hungry or if you’re just stressed and upset before eating.
I find calming herbs like St. John’s wort help control appetite and overeating binges. Regular exercise is also critical to keep your metabolism high and has the benefit of relieving stress.
People with job-related stress have an 80% higher risk of depression than people with low stress.
Stress depletes the endocrine system, leads to adrenal exhaustion, and can imbalance production of “feel good” brain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin.
Depression affects sleep and causes lethargy and irritability. Mild depression can be improved by eating more Omega-3 fatty acids from seafood, dark leafy vegetables, or flax seed.
Getting more early morning sunlight for vitamin D and art therapy are other good options.
While you can’t get rid of all stress in your life, you can manage daily stress and change the way you react to it. Try natural therapies like meditation, massage, or calming herbs to address your stress.
Change your perspective. Think about why you’re stressed and make a decision not to overreact to things you have no control over or that are unimportant in your life.
As you make changes, observe how you feel. Stress-related problems often subside as you feel more relaxed and at peace in your life.