April is Stress Awareness Month. (It’s also file-your-tax-return month. Coincidence? We doubt it….)
Excess stress is no fun. Increasingly, however, research is finding that stress is clinically unhealthy in a variety of concrete ways.
At Life Wellness Center, we focus on the triad of health. The three pillars are mental, physical, and nutritional health. Keep all three strong and in balance, then you’re in good shape. If you’re deficient in one of these facets, your health will suffer.
This month, let’s think about mental, physical and nutritional stress. The important thing to recognize is that none of these happen in isolation–they’re almost always connected.
Let’s take mental stress: troubles at work, in the family, or at the bank weigh heavily. Maybe it seems you can’t think of anything else–your mind keeps dwelling on your problem. You’re worried. This can lead to physical stress. Perhaps you believe you don’t have time to exercise, so you’re always stiff and sluggish. Maybe you carry your stress in your neck or your lower back, so your body is uncomfortable or hurting. Here, mental stress has resulted in physical stress.
Can mental stress cause nutritional stress?
Absolutely! Stress releases cortisol, and cortisol promotes cravings for comfort foods like carbs and sugar. Indulge in those cravings regularly, and you’ve set up an addictive pattern. As you neglect vegetables and protein to stuff down some more grilled cheese sandwiches, you’re stepping into a nutritionally stressed state in which you’re missing out on essential nutrients, suffering poor energy, and quite possibly putting on a few pounds–which will increase your mental stress. Not a happy cycle!
Maybe your stress-of-origin is physical stress. Once again, this may cultivate mental and nutritional stress. Back pain is a classic example: as people cycle through back pain over the course of months and years, their anxiety about re-injury can become a huge part of the problem. The physical stress of back pain cultivates the mental stress of dread and anxiety, which can boomerang back into more back pain. Likewise, your physical stress may make you feel sorry for yourself, and you self-sooth with unhealthy foods. It’s easy to think, “I slept so lousy last night, I deserve this big mocha, along with a pastry,” but that attempt at self-care exacerbates the problem instead of solving it.
Can your nutritional stress promote mental or physical stress? Yes! If your nutritional stress compels you to eat poorly, you’ll inevitably feel physically poorly: low energy, bad sleep, poor concentration. Likewise, you’ll likely suffer mental stress because you know better! Those poor eating habits can cultivate lots of negative self-talk, and it’s stressful to worry about your weight or your physical health, especially if you have family histories of diabetes or hypertension.
Here’s the good news: because they’re all connected, you can focus on any one of them–physical, mental or nutritional stress–and have a positive impact on all of them. If you improve your eating habits, you can diminish your mental and physical stress. If you exercise, you’ll make headway against mental and nutritional stress. If you take up meditation, you’ll find your nutritional and physical stress improve. And as each zone becomes a little less stress-filled, it’ll have a positive effect on the other two pillars of health. It doesn’t have to be a vicious cycle–it can be a virtuous cycle towards greater health and vitality. The first step is to recognize the connections, then choose the path that feels like the right one for you.
Are you ready to say goodbye to stress and hello to better health? Schedule a consultation with our team today and we’ll work together to help you get back on track.