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How to Beat Stress?

Updated on June 11, 2009

What Is Stress?

Stress situations that occur in our daily life may cause people to feel irritated, threatened or anxious- a set of emotions that are collectively referred to as stress. Many people become stressed when they are involved in conflicts, worried about problems or pressed for time. The body interprets these pressures as a threat to our life. The body interprets these pressures as a threat to life. In response, the pituitary gland signals the adrenal glands to release adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol-hormones that prepare the body to fight or flee. As a result, muscles tense, alertness increases and heartbeat, respiration and blood pressure escalate. Though these effects enable the body to react quickly when faced with true danger, a body in a constant state of stress begins to lose its capacity for defense. Lack of sleep and exposure to excessive noise make coping with stress more difficult.

The Fight-Or-Flight Factor

When stress strikes, the body perceives a threat and gets ready for action. Blood flow is diverted to the muscles, preventing the rest of the body from properly absorbng vitamins, minerals, and water. With no physical attacker to fight or flee from, this physical "pumping up" has no outlet, which compromises normal body function and, over time, may adversely affect your health. Stress can cause fatigue, lower immunity, and raise blood pressure, making it a risk factor for a variety of problems, including infections, constipation, sexual dysfunction, depression, and heart disease.

Stress-Fighting Foods

  • Apples, oranges, strawberries
  • Eggs
  • Fresh vegetables: asparagus, brocoli, brussels sprouts
  • Herbals teas: ginseng, chamomile
  • Lean ,eats
  • Low-or nonfat dairy products
  • Whole-grain breads


The Anti-Stress Diet

Eating the right foods can help counteract the effects of tension and strain. Simple, whole foods can minimize tension and help you weather life's storms. Start by getting ample amounts of vitamin C, an immune-booster whose levels drop when you're under pressure. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, especially oranges, strawberries, brussels sprouts, asparagus, and broccoli. Vitamin B12, which aids in blood cell formation and helps improve nervous system function, can help fight stress-induced fatigue. Get it from fish, eggs lean meats, and milk. Another vitamin, B6, also helps to bolster immunity by increasing the levels of disease-fighting antibodies. But B6, in bananas, prunes, and potatoes, goes even further by raising levels of dopamine, a mood-enchancing chemical in the brain that takes the edge off of anxiety and irritability.

Comfort Foods

Stress puts the body in an extremely agitated state, but the right foods can soothe jangled nerves by evoking feelings of comfort and security. Often, the comfort foods we're most likely to reach for are sweet, creamy, or rich treats. Although they can trigger the release of calming brain chemicals like opioids and serotonin, this is quickly followed by a crash in energy and mood. You're better off with soothing foods that won't leave you lagging later:

Soup Because soup is served hot and takes time to eat, it's a meal you simply can't eat quickly, which forces you to shift into a slower, calmer state of mind. Choose a soup that's rich in vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, and peas, and you'll help shore up your nutrient reserves. A good bet: chicken noodle soup, which is packed with nutrients and conjures comforting emotions. Warm, savory beef broth is another soothing choice.

Whole-Grain Toast Eating a warm snack like toast topped with marmalade is not only soothing, it also provides fiber, which is important for proper digestion in times of stress, when blood flow is diverted from organs, which can interfere with regularity.

Yogurt Yogurt is satisfying to the sweet tooth, and it's also smooth and easy to diggest, even for people who have trouble processing milk products. It also offers the B vitamin riboflavin, which helps distribute oxygen in the body and aids in tissue growth and repair, minimizing the negative effects of tension and strain. Nonfat yogurt contains about 15 percent of the daily riboflavin requirement and provides slightly more of this nutrient than low-fat or whole-milk varieties. Frozen, nonfat yogurt contains a worthy 10 percent, making it a wise and guilt-free treat in stressful times.

Hearbal Tea A hot cup of ginseng, chamomile, or other herb-based tea induces relaxation quicly and pleasantly. Ginseng helps bolster disease resistance and buffer the body's fight-or flight response. Herbalist call ginseng an adaptogen, meaning it may help normalize body functions such as increased blood pressure and a racing heart, bringing them to lower levels and more relaxed rates. Chamomile and peppermint help quit stomach upset in addition to producing a calming effect. What's more, just sitting down and savoring a cup of tea of any flavor provides a relaxing time-out from the stress of daily life.

Foods to Avoid

A cup of coffee may seem to help you get through a stressful day, but it can actually heighten the tension you feel: Caffeine boosts production of cortisol, a stress hormone that raises blood pressure and heart rate. It can also increase adrenaline, making you feel even edgier and more irritable. Instead, take a break with a cup of decaffeinated herbal tea.


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