Causes of Stress
Everyone experiences stress to some degree. And some stress can be healthy! This is true when stress motivates us to act decisively and make decisions and changes we might not otherwise do.
Too much stress is unhealthy, and can lead to diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Stress may be the result of catastrophic life experiences or just the effect of having ‘too much on our plate.’
That nagging headache may be caused by stress. Stress may be to blame for your stomach ache, sleep problems, lack of sex drive, and muscle tension and pains. It can affect your mood, causing irritability, anger, frustration, depression and restlessness.
Stress can also cause overeating, lethargy, loss of interest in doing what we love, a disinterest in companionship or social withdrawal as well as alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse.
Can changing our lifestyles help with stress? Absolutely! One marker of stress is a lack of physical energy, so taking a brisk walk, doing Pilates or yoga at home, or going to the gym can make a big difference in our ability to cope with stress.
What we eat can also make a great difference in our stress.
Top Nutrients to Reduce Stress
Eating foods rich in potassium are particularly helpful for reducing stress. A lack of potassium, or depletion, can lead to a number of physiological changes in our systems, such as heightened anxiety, fear, anger, fatigue and tension. Potassium is our first line of defense against stress!
Another stress reliever is the B-complex group of vitamins. B-1 acts to help improve mood, B-3 helps regulate sleep, B-6 increases production of serotonin and B-12 manages energy and mood. B-5 is also an important vitamin for coping with stress because it is necessary for the healthy function of the adrenal glands. These are another line of defense in the fight against stress due to their large role in how we respond to stress and stressful events.
Vitamin A is essential for helping us cope with stress by helping to elevated our energy and create an overall sense of well-being.
Low levels of vitamin C leads to irritability and anxiety and is another essential vitamin to include in your stress reduction strategy.
Finally, vitamin E helps us avoid and cope with stress by removing certain toxins. A lack of vitamin E can lead to premature aging and cellular damage, and cause us to lack the ability to fight stress due to fatigue and a diminished ability to function at our best.
Top Stress-Busting Fruits and Vegetables
- Bananas provide an instant shot of potassium. Just two a day gives us all the potassium we need! Bananas are low in fat and sodium with no cholesterol, and are a good source of vitamins C and A, as well as B-6.
- Avocados are another resource of potassium, B-1, B-2, B-3, B-5 and B-6, as well as vitamins C, A and E.
- Citrus fruits are abundant in vitamin C, as well as B-1 and B-5 and the mineral potassium. Oranges also contain phytonutrients citrus flavanones, specific types of flavonoids that have recently received a great deal of attention for their ability to strengthen heart health and lower inflammation – a major result of heightened stress.
- Green leafy veggies, such as beet greens, spinach and Swiss chard, contain a wealth of stress-reducing nutrients such as vitamins A, C, E and K, B-complex compounds B-1, B-2, B-5 and B-6. Swiss chard is particularly rich in betalains which are phytonutrients that act as anti-inflammatories, anti-carcinogens and detoxifiers, all of which are necessary to our well-being, particularly when we’re experiencing high and/or chronic stress. Spinach provides an abundance of stress-reducing nutrients including a high amount of potassium and selenium has been shown to help fight depression, one of the main symptoms of chronic stress.
- Carrots are low in calories and high in fiber with no fat, and provide a wide range of vitamins and minerals, as well as phytonutrients such as carotenoids that reduce the effects of stress.