stress management

Burnout. A state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged stress, often stemming from work or personal life pressures.

Symptoms of burnout can include fatigue, irritability, lack of motivation, and even physical ailments such as headaches and muscle tension.

Whether you’re juggling multiple responsibilities at work, managing a hectic schedule, or dealing with personal challenges, burnout can sneak up on you when you least expect it.

Stress hormones

Stress can be a real or a perceived threat. The threat triggers a “fight or flight” response which triggers a cascade of hormones (including adrenalin) resulting in a quickened heart rate and increased mental alertness.

Cortisol is another hormone that is triggered by stress. It stimulates the release of glucose into the blood to fuel the “fight or flight” response.

Humans can deal with adrenalin and cortisol in brief episodes, it’s when stress becomes chronic and leads to burnout that it becomes a problem.

Here’s how making small dietary choices can help combat burnout and reclaim your vitality.

While stress is a major contributor to burnout, the foods we eat can either exacerbate or alleviate its effects. When we’re stressed, we release hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which can cause havoc on our health if not properly managed. Poor dietary choices, such as consuming excessive amounts of caffeine, sugar, and processed foods, can further disrupt our body’s stress response system and contribute to burnout. On the other hand, a balanced diet rich in nutrient-dense foods can provide the essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants needed to support our body’s resilience to stress and promote overall wellbeing.

When stress becomes too much

Chronic stress can lead to a greater risk of health problems:

  • Anxiety, depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Lowered immunity
  • Headaches
  • Weight gain
  • IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
  • Overeating, drinking, smoking

There’s a greater utilisation and excretion of nutrients during stress but this is often compounded by not eating well which exaggerates the problem. Ultra-processed foods appear more attractive – their speed of cooking and limited preparation – but many are devoid of nutrients and fibre and they are high in fat, sugar and salt.

Is stress disrupting your sleep?

Lack of sleep also impacts your food selection. Less sleep results in 28% increase in ghrelin (appetite stimulant hormone) and 18% reduction in leptin (appetitive suppressant hormone). It’s not surprising you may be actively seeking out high-energy foods to compensate for the lack of sleep. It is hard to resist. You’re fighting against biology.

And then there’s poor quality sleep which in itself may indeed be a stressor!

One fact holds true. Consistent sleep/wake time seven days a week will not only improve your sleep, it will also help you keep a healthier weight, and improve resilience.

Prioritise your sleep where you can.

Stress specific nutrients

There is reason to believe that reserves of some nutrients reduce more dramatically during chronic stress:

  • B vitamins – Feeling irritable, on edge? The B vitamins work together to support the nervous system’s response to “fight and flight”, balance neurotransmitters, and also enhance energy to fuel the stress response. Sources of B vitamins include eggs, meat, fish, chickpeas, grains, and leafy green vegetables.
  • Magnesium – Find it difficult to relax? Magnesium is known as a relaxing mineral and is excreted in urine during stress. A good source of magnesium is Epsom salts which can be added to water so you can soak your hands/feet/body. It is absorbed through the skin. Magnesium sprays and creams are also available.
  • Vitamin C – Catching more colds? Vitamin C is water soluble and means the body can’t store it particularly well, so eating vegetables (peppers, broccoli) and fruit (orange, strawberry, grapefruit) regularly will help. Vitamin C is utilised in greater quantities during stress.
  • Omega-3 – Low mood getting you down? Omega-3 is thought to be a transporter of neurotransmitters. Where you can eat omega-3-containing foods; oily fish (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring) or algal oil. If you are taking medication, please check with your Doctor before taking any supplements.

One more thing!

Protein is essential to reduce the glucose highs and lows, it helps boost resilience. Sugar highs and lows exacerbate the stress response. Try to include a source of protein with each meal. This will keep you fuller for longer and maintain a healthier weight.

I haven’t mentioned caffeine here. Caffeine will trigger the stress response but rather than eliminate it, perhaps moderation is the key. Find out more about caffeine and the stress response, and how stress can impact your immunity in Improving Resilience webinar. Contact info@natural-alternative.co.uk to inquire about boosting your employees’/colleagues’ resilience and improving their stress management. Details about the webinars can be found here.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25455067/

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/stress-and-health/#:~:text=A%20balanced%20diet%20can%20support,help%20to%20regulate%20cortisol%20levels.

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