Is stress controlling your life?

overwhelmed-employeeIf stress is controlling your life you’re not alone.

  • Approximately 1 out of 75 people may experience panic disorder – National Institutes of Mental Health
  • 80% of workers feel stress on the job and nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress.  And 42% say their co-workers need such help – American Institute of Stress.
  • Depression is among the leading causes of disability worldwide – World Health Organization –
  • 75% of adults reported experiencing moderate to high levels of stress in the past month and nearly half reported that their stress has increased in the past year – American Psychological Association.

Developed countries harbor stressful societies, some more than others as you can see here.

Let’s face it; stress is a fact of life. As Paulo Coelho said in his book “Manuscript Found in Accra”

“Anxiety was born in the very same moment as mankind. And since we will never be able to master it, we will have to learn to live with it – just as we have learned to live with storms.”

So why am I writing about stress in a food blog? Because stress affects our bodies in profound ways and we can help counter that with the foods we eat. While diet can’t entirely compensate for an over stressed, over scheduled life it can help. However, coupled with lifestyle changes diet can be a powerful healer to re-balance our systems.

Adrenaline Dependence

Archibald Hart author of “The Hidden Link Between Adrenaline and Stress” believes “Adrenaline dependence” is the greatest addiction problem in America today and I have to agree. People become hooked on the energy, pleasure, and confidence that come with the body’s stress hormones, primarily cortisol and adrenaline. This becomes a problem when we live in a constant state of urgency pumping up with coffee and “energy” drinks.

The Socially Revered Addiction

Many become reliant on the stress hormones to manage unnaturally over scheduled lives. Unfortunately this supercharged,morning-coffee hyper-full life of the adrenaline junkie is not only socially acceptable it’s admired and set as an example. In fact if we endeavor to live a healthy, sane, existence we are looked down upon as slackers. What we need to do is replace adrenaline dependence with soul care.

Does This Sound Familiar?

But, when adrenaline addicts slow down they aren’t happy. When they do slow down on vacation, weekends, etc they experience withdrawal. They have a compulsion to get busy, be more productive, be stimulated with noise or activity. The feeling of emptiness and boredom depresses them. They feel guilty about being idle, and become irritable or lose their temper. They keep worrying about work and what needs to be done. They become fidgety and restless (evident in such things as finger or foot tapping, fast gum chewing, or nail biting) and come back from a “restful” time utterly exhausted.

Yet the work week really isn’t any better. Their thoughts race and are constantly worrying. They can’t focus, become forgetful and disorganized, and exhibit poor judgment. It’s not surprising they become pessimistic or see only the negative side of things.

The Price We Pay

People who are constantly keyed up with a steady flow of adrenaline also experience rapid heart rate, headaches, backaches, gastric distress, sleep problems, frequent colds and eventually adrenal depletion and collapse. Then there are the dangers of the ways people try to alleviate their stress such as drinking, cigarette smoking, and drugs. The burgeoning junk and fast food industry built on a stressed out society’s craving for salt, fat, and the “give me food right now because I can’t cope with cooking” something thinking. Unfortunately, instead of returning the body to a relaxed state all these “fixes” keep the body in a stressed state and causes even more problems.

There is also price paid in quality of life. They feel overwhelmed and feel like they are losing control and need to gain control. They have difficulty relaxing, have low self esteem, and are frequently depressed. All this also costs them meaningful relationships, passionate pursuits, and spirituality; where they may come to see God as some distant and unconcerned or a harsh taskmaster.

To Sleep Perchance To Dream

SleepA recent poll by The National Sleep Foundation found 63% of Americans sleep less than 8 hours a night with 35% sleeping less than 7 hours. Among the dangers of sleep deprivation is food cravings that lead to excessive weight. Our poor beleaguered bodies try to address the stress and deficiencies created by lack of sleep by craving food, when that isn’t the nourishment we really need.

Dr. Siang-Yang Tan, professor of psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary and a licensed psychologist, cites a study that shows when given the opportunity to sleep as much as they want people average 8 ½ hours and feel happier and healthier and more energetic

Adrenaline Culture

Adrenal addiction is so revered there is a culture based on it including websites like adrenaladdiction.net, a clothing line called Adrenaline Addiction. It is very hard not to get caught up in or feel pressured to join the stress addicted culture that surrounds us; and affects every generation. The energy, pleasure, and confidence of these stress hormones coupled with the sense of community are very seductive.

The MFF Stress Series

Years ago I suffered from everything I’ve described above that led to a serious case of adrenal fatigue; which led me to do quite a bit of research on the subject. In this series of blogs I will share some of what I learned not least of which is that you can turn things around, you can heal yourself, and to quote Christine Pirello “You can eat your way to the life you want.”

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