Which Stress Suit Do You Wear?

Stress is a heightening of all our body responses and happens across all body systems. If we do push the envelope, knowing how our bodies express stress helps us to support our personal needs for best health, coping and adaptability.

If you look through the signs, symptoms and habits listed beneath each Stress Suit from Charlotte Watts’ book The De-Stress Effect, if you regularly see 3-4 of these occurring, read on to help support those predispositions. Most of us see more than one pop up, but there is often a predominant pattern, so start there and add in as you can.

Stressed and Wired

Symptoms and signs

• being on ‘constant alert’
• quick reactions to stressful situations
• little relaxation time or an inability to relax
• feeling the need to constantly ‘do’
• long-term life demands and/or emotional stressors
• feeling less ‘able to cope’
• mood swings, irritability, thin on patience
• light-, sound- or crowd-sensitive

Constant stimulation from sounds, sights, lights, information from our 24/7 hyper-connectivity, can make us stressed and wired without realizing it – with a heightened, jangly state feeling ‘normal’. Ultimately this is exhausting and if not addressed, a Wired Suit can quickly turn to a Tired one (below).

Three key Stressed & Wired priorities are:
1. Take breaks, sleep more, slow down, start the day mindfully and step away from the need to ‘do’ as much as possible.
2. Walk to naturally move stresses through your body without adding to its load.
3. Eat calming magnesium-rich green, leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish, carrots, sweet potato, avocado, cauliflower, tahini, parsley, lentils.

Stressed and Tired

Symptoms and signs

• feeling tired or unrefreshed on waking
• increasing reliance on sugar and/or stimulants for energy
• energy dips
• feeling fuzzy-headed or having ‘daytime fog’
• exhaustion in evening
• feeling cold and sluggish
• sleep disturbances
• fluid retention

Years of being Wired without rest and recovery can tip over into Tired where energy drops, metabolism slows, weight gain becomes more likely and weight loss harder. Years of high stress hormones can result in crashes that leave you unable to create energy without sugar or stimulants.

Three key Stressed & Tired priorities:
1. Reduce energy quick fixes like stress itself, sugar and/or stimulants like coffee, alcohol or cigarettes.
2. Start the day with a protein breakfast to support your adrenals eg eggs, smoked salmon, nuts, Greek yoghurt and feta cheese.
3. Keep moving – getting up from your desk every hour prevents stagnation and sluggishness.

Stressed and Cold

Symptoms and signs

• waking feeling unrefreshed
• less and less energy
• reduction or loss of hearing
• feeling colder than others most of the time
• fluid retention and poor circulation
• hair thinning or loss, especially outer edge of eyebrows
• feeling demotivated and unable to concentrate
• hoarse voice
• hypothyroidism (low thyroid function)

Chronic stress signals our bodies to conserve energy for potential action, so the thyroid glands slow down metabolism. Many with these symptoms may have had a ‘normal’ result from a doctor’s thyroid test, as it’s possible to have a thyroid functioning slightly short of hypothyroidism.

Three key Stressed & Cold priorities:
1. Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates and eat quality protein and good fats at each meal for the blood sugar balance that supports thyroid function.
2. Exercise, especially outdoors to allow yourself to get a little cold to increase thermogenesis (heat-creation) and increase metabolism.
3. Yoga poses like backbends or inversions (where your head is below your heart), encourage blood flow and delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the thyroid.

Stressed and Bloated

Symptoms and signs

• bloating and/or gas after eating
• digestive or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)-type symptoms worse when stressed
• food sensitivities
• constipation and/or diarrhoea – lack of daily ‘full and satisfying evacuation’
• headaches
• poor digestion of fats and/or greasy or pale-coloured stools
• frequent or long-term use of steroid medications, anti-inflammatories and/or antibiotics
• diet high in sugar, refined carbohydrates and/or grains

Stress lowers beneficial probiotic gut bacteria, which can prompt inflammation and conditions like asthma, eczema and arthritis. The stress response diverts energy, oxygen and nutrients away from the gut towards brain and muscle. Chronic stress can cause spasm or constriction of gut muscles.

Three key Stressed & Bloated priorities:
1. Take a good quality probiotic supplement to help you cope with stress and prevent related immune, detoxification and skin issues.
2. Increase prebiotic foods in to feed the probiotic bacteria – plenty of vegetables and kiwi fruit, Jerusalem artichokes, chicory, bananas, garlic, onions and leeks.
3. Eat mindfully – thoroughly chewed food has the best chance of complete digestion and less chance of causing food intolerances.

Stressed and Sore

Symptoms and signs

• inflammatory conditions such as hay fever, asthma, eczema, arthritis or psoriasis
• frequent infections, including ear, nose and throat
• Irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive conditions
• bloating, fluid retention and sudden weight fluctuations
• frequent or long-term use of steroid medications, anti-inflammatories and/or antibiotics
• diet high in sugar, refined carbohydrates and/or grains
• degenerative conditions such as osteoporosis, heart disease, joint problems
• autoimmune conditions such as MS, diabetes, lupus

Low-level inflammation is at the root of many aspects of poor health and weight gain. Even without obvious external inflammation, stress and poor dietary habits can set off an inflammatory cascade that is tiring and they can also deplete levels of the anti-inflammatory antibody secretory-IgA in the gut.

Three key Stressed & Sore priorities:
1. Reduce sugar as inflammatory AGEs (advanced glycation end-products) are created in response to sugar and stress.
2. Eat plenty immune-supporting antioxidants – vegetables, nuts, seeds and fruit as well as specific bioflavonoids in spices, black tea, green tea and garlic.
3. Modern foods like grains and beans are linked to inflammatory conditions like acne and IBS. At least eat more vegetables in your diet than foods like bread, pasta, rice and pulses.

Stressed and Demotivated

Symptoms and signs

• poor motivation and ‘get-up-and-go’
• tendency to depression
• feeling less positive than before
• using sugar and refined carbs for comfort
• late-night binges or overeating sessions
• sleeping issues
• wanting to withdraw from the world
• Seasonal Affective Disorder

Stress quickly raises the feel-good brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin, which then crash later, leading to mood drops and an increasing craving sweet foods for quick-fix endorphin rushes and to ‘feel normal’. These craving cycles lead to weight gain and feed into habits of bingeing and/or overeating.

Three key Stressed & Demotivated priorities:
1. DHA, an omega 3 fatty acid found in fish oil (e.g. salmon and mackerel), is essential for serotonin and dopamine levels. Vegetarian or vegans can consider an algae DHA supplement.
2. Natural opioids or ‘beta-endorphins’ are produced in response to laughing, music, socializing, hugs and sex, a fabulous reward system for keeping the species going.
3. Replenishing probiotic as in Stressed & Bloated above; inflammation starts in the gut, is triggered by stress and has depressive effects on the brain.

Stressed and Hormonal

Symptoms and signs

• PMS or a history of menstrual problems
• periods becoming heavier, more painful, less regular
• female hormone issues, for example, fibroids, endometriosis, PCOS
• premenstrual or ovulation sugar cravings
• menopausal symptoms
• fertility issues
• long-term use of oral, IUD or injected hormonal contraception
• hormonal phases of irritability, crying and/or negative thoughts

Stress directly affects the balance of oestrogen and progesterone in your body, which often leads to heavy, painful periods and other hormonal symptoms. Stress can also lead to weight gain in ‘female areas’ like the bottom, hips and thighs as well as tend us to lay down fat around the middles.

Three key Stressed & Hormonal priorities:
1. Watch the alcohol, as it can raise circulating oestrogen and may worsen PMS and heighten breast cancer risk, especially if a drip-feed daily habit.
2. Choose organic meat, eggs and dairy, as the non-organic are higher in the growth hormones which disrupt hormone balance.
3. Traditional forms of soy, such as soy sauce, tamari, miso, tempeh and natto, have long been associated with female health when eaten several times a week.

For more information on The De-Stress Effect, click here.

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