Modern living tends to pull us away from the state of balance between stress and calm, that is required for our bodies to operate efficiently and maintain our good health. Here’s how you can effectively manage your stress and reclaim your state of wellbeing.
Processed food, environmental toxins, being connected to technology 24-7 and a time-pressured lifestyle, together with the constant drive to succeed and the emotional strain of daily life, all impact negatively on your body’s ability to maintain a healthy state of balance and equilibrium. As a result, we end up driven by adrenaline which not only compromises the immune system, but puts us at risk of developing burnout - as well as serious illnesses such as cancer.
A combination of high levels of stress, together with living on adrenalized energy, plays havoc with your health, explains Dr Ela Manga, an integrated medicine practitioner with a special interest in energy management and also preventing and treating burnout.
Dr Ela Manga, an advocate for health and wellness.
“A chronic state of stress and the accompanying high levels of the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, affect every cell and every system in your body - which then begins to function sub-optimally. It’s such a gradual process that the tell-tale warning signs of systems in the body taking strain are often either overlooked or ignored”, says Dr Manga.
Warning signs include:
- muscle tension
- irritable bowel syndrome and other gut problems such as food intolerances
- sleep disturbances
- depressed immunity (regular colds or flu)
- ongoing feelings of irritability
- persistent anxiety
“These are all signs that your body’s functioning is being compromised, so instead of the above symptoms being treated symptomatically – treating only the symptom - they should rather be seen as an opportunity to put mechanisms in place to restore wellness in all areas of your life, exploring the source of the problem, rather than simply addressing the way it has manifested,” says Dr Manga.
How to manage your stress
Dr Manga offers the following practical guidelines to effectively manage your stress:
- Treat the root cause. Always look for the sources of your stress and try to correct what you can. Try to identify and then deal with the energy drainers in your life (such as habits of thought and behaviour that contribute to negative stress) that are adding to your stress levels. Consider seeking professional help to assist you here if you feel overwhelmed or in overload.
- Support your gut health. All that adrenaline and cortisol pumping through your body causes your gastrointestinal system to shut down. This affects the flow of digestive juices and your bowel movement and disrupts your gut microbiome – which is filled with all the ‘good’ bacteria that keep you healthy and energized. So make the necessary changes needed to your diet, focusing on whole foods and eliminating anything processed, as well as white flour and preservatives. Ensure at least 50% of your diet includes fresh fruit and vegetables, and supplement with a daily probiotic and Vitamin C (which will help your strained adrenals).
- Get adequate sleep. Put a quiet wind-down ritual into place 30 minutes before you switch off the lights to break out of the ‘tired but wired’ space. Ban technology and stick to deep breathing and relaxation exercises instead.
- Breathe. It’s the simplest, most effective energy management tool and the perfect way to de-stress throughout the day. Practice slow, deep breathing three times a day for five minutes at time, (breath in for 5 seconds and exhale for 5 seconds, repeat 30 times – so simple!).
- Exercise regularly. It’s one of the best ways to de-stress no matter how tired you may feel. Be sure to include strength, endurance and core building through stretching and yoga in your exercise programme.
- Take time to reflect. Journaling is the perfect way to introspect and also allows you to offload and to express your feelings. Remember that suppressed emotions feed a state of inflammation in your body which is detrimental to your health. Read more about chronic, low-grade inflammation here.
- Schedule in recovery loops. This means daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly timeouts – which could be anything from a regular digital detox to a weekend away - to allow yourself the time and space to switch off and re-energize
- Always stay connected - but not digitally. Connect to yourself, to those around you who feed your soul, and to nature. Venturing outside for a walk in a park or on the beach is the perfect antidote to city living.
- Practice mindfulness to move from a reactive, stress-filled, habitual way of living to the more responsive and self-aware way of living – a way of life that your heart, body and soul are asking for, from you.
The Discovery Health Medical Scheme is an independent non-profit entity governed by the Medical Schemes Act, and regulated by the Council for Medical Schemes. It is administered by a separate company, Discovery Health (Pty) Ltd, an authorised financial services provider.
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