In today’s busy world people accept chronic stress as part of everyday life. This thinking is extremely dangerous to your health. Up to 90% of all doctor visits in the United States are for stress-related illnesses. In fact, stress is the top reason why women are aging faster, getting sicker and dying before their time.
Chronic stress impacts 3 vital organs – the brain, the stomach and the heart; it weakens the immune system and increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal problems and possibly even cancer.
Research shows that stress affects the female heart on a microvascular level; plaque builds up within small arteries, which can lead to chest pains and even heart attacks.
On a cellular level stress increases the production of the stress hormone cortisol, causing inflammation and free radical damage that contributes to the premature aging of the body’s cells, shrinking of the brain and can add dangerous belly fat.
Conquer stress before it conquers you by reviewing Dr. Oz’s Ultimate Stress Checklist followed by his at-home stress test.
Dr. Oz’s Ultimate Stress Checklist
Avoid Stress Eating
In times of stress, the brain demands more calories. Stress eating has also been tied to excess belly fat, which is caused by increased cortisol production.
Fight stress by avoiding processed foods containing white flour and refined sugars. They spike insulin and stress hormone levels. Reach for these stress-busting foods instead.
- Whole grain cereals provide sustained energy release. Eat 1 cup of steel-cut oats per day.
- Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids prevent stress hormones from surging. Eat fish like salmon twice a week.
- Pistachios contain plant sterols, proven to lower blood pressure, and magnesium, which relaxes blood vessels. Eat 3-ounce handfuls a few times per week.
Practice Mindful Eating
Several times throughout the day, especially before meals, determine whether you’re actually hungry or stressed out:
- Rate your stress level.
- Label what you’re feeling.
- Rate your hunger level.
Ask yourself: Do I need calories now? Or am I feeling sad, lonely, bored or stressed? How can I meet this need? By separating emotions from hunger, you’ll better control your stress level and your appetite.
Vitamins B and C
Research shows that taking 50 mg of vitamin B and 1000 mg of vitamin C in times of stress, or for a couple days thereafter, can help regulate mood.
Exercise: Walking Stairs
Exercise releases serotonin and dopamine, the feel-good hormones that become blocked during stress. Walking stairs is a great workout. One study showed that walking stairs 7 minutes a day reduces the risk of heart disease by two-thirds.
Alternative Treatments: Acupressure and Aromatherapy
These age-old treatments trigger stress-reducing chemicals in the brain.
- Locate the acupressure point on your hand, the thenar branch of the median nerve located between your thumb and index finger. Massage for 5 minutes to lower cortisol levels and release the stress-reducing hormone oxtyocin.
- Practice aromatherapy with lavender oil, proven to reduce anxiety and aid sleep. In a spray bottle, mix 10 drops of lavender oil with 2 cups of water. Spray around the house and on your pillow at night.
Know Your Stress Triggers
Figure out which situations cause your stress. Can you change the situation? If not, focus on controlling your response:
- Avoid rehashing past events or projecting yourself into the future. This “time-travelling” puts the brain in a stressed state.
- Stressful situations can lower self-esteem, perhaps causing you to feel ashamed or embarrassed. Remind yourself that thoughts are just thoughts, not facts.
Now gauge your stress level with Dr. Oz’s at-home stress test.
Dr. Oz’s At-Home Stress Test
Nail and Hair Growth
Intense stress levels can put nails into a dormant resting phase. Measure your nail growth for 1 month. Nails that grow less than 2 millimeters can signal of stress.
This same phenomenon holds true with hair; if you don’t need a hair cut every 3 months, you may be stressed.
It’s a sign of stress if you’re unable to fall asleep within 30 minutes, or, if you’re waking up more than once a week in the middle of the night.
Teeth Grinding/Jaw Clenching
Do you wake up with tooth pain or a sore jaw? If so, you’re probably grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw as you sleep, another sign of stress.
Stand up straight against a wall. If both shoulders don’t make contact with the wall, it means you have hunched or raised shoulders, a chronic stress indicator.
Stress causes your extremities to become cold. Test your stress level with a biofeedback device, which measures body temperature through your finger. By thinking relaxing thoughts you can actually heat up your body temp and de-stress. You can order biofeedback cards in sets of 20 for about $35 online.
If you’ve determined that you have too much stress based on any of the above indicators, realize that you can control your body’s response to it. Click here to take Dr. Oz’s Stress-Proof Your Life Challenge.