Friday thoughts.... What is Stress and how does it affect us?
Stress is such a buzz word. How often do you say or hear someone else say "I'm stressed"
But what is it?
Stress is perceived differently by different people and what is stressful for one person may be an exciting challenge for someone else. Some people thrive on being super busy, juggling & multi tasking whereas someone else may only be able to do one thing at a time in order to avoid feeling stressed & overwhelmed. We are all different and have different perceptions and coping mechanisms and there are times when we can cope with having all the balls in the air 🤹♀️and others when we want to hide away from it all.
Stress can serve a purpose in short bursts, Our bodies are programmed with the 'fight or flight response' which is a primitive response that we have from being Cavemen running from a wild animal. When we feel stressed our body reacts by releasing adrenaline and cortisol which increases blood flow to our vital organs and muscles in anticipation of us having to face our stressor or flee. This can result in increased blood pressure & affect blood sugar levels. So you can see that the system works well in this situation or any when we have to be sharply aware and react to something quickly.
However when the stress response kicks in, other systems of the body, such as our digestive and reproductive systems are suppressed as they aren’t needed to deal with our stress. As a result of this, we may have symptoms like acid reflux/ indigestion, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting as well as menstrual problems and ultimately difficulty conceiving.
The reality of our modern lives is that we are constantly exposed to these stress hormones as we tend to take on too much, without allowing adequate time for rest and relaxation, allowing the hormones to work their way out of our bodies and to reset the balance. This is known as Chronic stress and can have serious implications for our health.
So What can we do about it?
🔹Take some time out of each day to rest/switch off, even if its small amounts at first,if it doesn't come naturally to you. Do something you really enjoy, just for you - A good book, a cup of tea in the sunshine, a relaxing bath.....🛀📖
🔹Make sure you are eating a nutritious diet and drink plenty of water. The food we eat directly affects how we feel and how we cope with stress. 🥗🍗🍒🥑
🔹Get some form of physical activity. Exercise is as good for our minds as it is our body. I hate running and I can't run far at all but there is nothing like the feeling I get afterwards, much more upbeat for the day. You might prefer a good walk, a swim or an exercise class, it doesn't matter as long as it gets you moving and you enjoy it. (OK not so much about the running for me but find something you enjoy and you will want to do it more often)🏊♀️🏌️♀️🚴♀️🏇🤸♀️
🔹Get out in nature, whether it's out in your garden or a walk on the beach, It has been proven that this is good for our Mental health and who doesn't feel calmer when surrounded by Nature's beauty. 🏝️🏔️🏞️🌅
🔹Have a Reflexology treatment (when government restrictions are lifted) which helps to take stress away from the body by focusing on balancing the endocrine system and allowing hormones to normalise and the body to 'rest and digest' instead of 'fight or flight'.👣
And if the feet aren't for you Massage, Reiki or another relaxing therapy or treatment, it's all time for you away from your busy life. How many of you have a haircut booked now that you can? That's 'me time' too. 💇♀️
🔹Have a catch up with your friends. Even if you can't have the usual get together yet, just a phone call to your bestie, to share your troubles & laughs can make you feel so much better.❤️
🔹Make sure you get a good night sleep. We underestimate the importance of sleep but is essential for a fully functioning mind and body. Have a regular bedtime routine, take time to unwind, put down those devices, find a way to relax like a nice bath, camomile tea or some meditation, should all help you to sleep better. Lavender has relaxation properties so if you have any in your garden to use or you can get lavender spray for your bedding. 🛌
Above all Be Kind to yourself, take off the pressure, does that ironing really need to be done? (Not in my house it doesn't 😂) Can anyone else help with the chores? Do things have to be perfect? Give yourself a break, it will do you good!
Boosting your Immunity
In light of what is going on in the world at the moment and the fear around Coronavirus, Instead of panicking (after all what good are 100 toilet rolls going to do for you!) It's good to know what steps you can take to help to boost and strengthen your immune system. There are always bacteria and viruses around us, it is how our body deals with it that is important.
The Immune system is amazing and its job is to defend our body from foreign substances. Unfortunately with the way things have changed and progressed in the world today, the immune system’s job has become harder. Due to the growth in the population around the world, the way that a lot of our food is farmed today with the use of chemicals, exposure to technology, such as mobile phones, the fast pace in the work place, and our very stressful busy lives, our Immune systems are under a lot of strain to function effectively.
What can you do to strengthen your Immune system?
I believe that what we eat is one of the most important factors when it comes to immunity. After all our gut is a vital part of our immune system and if it is happy, then generally we are too. When it comes to nutrition, the best advice is to eat as naturally and organically as possible. A good healthy diet will include
Fresh fruits and vegetables
Whole grains and pulses
Probiotics food such as natural yoghurt which will help our gut to become stronger and more efficient. Other natural probiotics can also be found in sauerkraut, which a type of fermented cabbage, kefir a yoghurt type drink and Kombucha, a type of flavoured tea drink).
Protein, which helps to form the immune tissues and antibodies; essential fatty acids, such as omega 3 and 6 and complex carbohydrates (such as vegetables and wholegrains).
Try to avoid foods such as: sugar, white bread, white rice, chocolate, biscuits, fizzy drinks, fast foods and excess dairy products. These foods are anti nutrients so they are taking away nutrients given to you by other foods. Also Alcohol affects the absorption of many vitamins that are needed by the body to function properly. It is advisable to keep alcohol consumption down in order to limit deficiencies, especially when you are ill.
Intermittent fasting has also been reported to strengthen the immune system and help cleanse the body.
It is also crucial to drink enough water in order to flush out impurities and thus help the body to get rid of toxins and pathogens.
If you are eating a well-balanced, whole food diet with lots of fruits and vegetables that are organically grown then you might not need to take a supplement. If you are specifically looking at boosting your immunity then a good quality anti-oxidant would be good to take. This includes vitamins A, C and E, zinc and selenium,particularly Zinc and vitamin C. These nutrients stimulate immune function. Vitamin D is also really important at this time of year as with all of the grey days, we just don’t get enough sunshine to make this vitamin.
Echinacea is an antimicrobial and boosts the immune system
Some natural alternatives include:
Garlic, which is a natural antibiotic and Turmeric which is an anti-inflammatory.
Tea made with lemon, ginger and honey, is great for coughs, sore throats and colds.
High doses of Vitamin C
Sleep and relaxation
Sleep gives the body a chance to maintain and repair its cells. The immune system triggers the release of Melatonin, which is sleep inducing, while fighting infection to help the healing process. Sleep helps the body conserve energy and resources needed to fight infection. Melatonin is produced naturally while we sleep and is extremely beneficial for the immune system. It is a powerful antioxidant and stimulates the cells of the immune system. It is therefore vital that we get enough sleep.
Relaxation techniques have the opposite effect to that of stress. Blood pressure drops, pulse rate and breathing rate fall, muscles relax and arteries dilate. There is also a remarkable effect on psychological distress as they help alleviate depression, anxiety, fatigue and negative emotions. People who practice relaxation techniques usually enjoy life more, have better relationships and perform better. Relaxation can take many forms, it does not mean inactivity. Techniques include meditation, listening to soothing music ,relaxing in a warm bath, having a massage, having a Reflexology treatment or reading a book. Meet up with family or friends that you enjoy being with, and have a good laugh, It has been found that laughter has the opposite effect of stress on the body and is very good for our immune system. Spending time with people we love and giving and receiving hugs improves the activity of natural defence cells, which seek out and destroy pathogens in the body.
Moderate exercise strengthens the immune system. It also improves our circulation, which means that nutrients, immune cells and oxygen are distributed around the body. Exercise is not only good for us physically but it improves our Mental health too. dy but also psychologically. Exercise improves our mood and self-esteem and can be beneficial to our performance and relationships. It can alleviate depression and anxiety, making you feel more positive and able to sleep better. Exercise helps to cope with stress as it offers a form of release. It is advisable to do some form of moderate exercise that you enjoy. It could be going for a walk, gardening, swimming, yoga, pilates or dancing. Care should be taken if you are ill as your immune system is overloaded fighting infection and your body will not be as strong as it usually is. If there is no fever, then moderate exercise might help and make you feel a bit better.
Too much or too intense exercise though can would only exacerbate the symptoms and prolong healing and put too much strain on your heart.
Research has proven that by having positive thoughts, the immune response is strengthened. Positive thoughts lead to positive emotions, which in turn stimulate the body to release endorphins and stimulate the immune response. On average we have around 60000 thoughts a day, the majority of which are repetitive. You have no power over anyone but yourself and you choose your thoughts. You can therefore choose to have positive healing thoughts. Try it and watch the aches and pains disappear and lightness and peace appear.
Having a treatment at the first sign of illness which is usually a feeling of being 'run down', an unusual fatigue, really helps to boost the immune system and shorten the duration of symptoms. Listen to your body and rest after a treatment and you will be pleasantly surprised by the results, it really does work!
Take care everyone.
Veganuary and Food Intolerances
Me and my family decided to do Veganuary. We didn't think January was a long enough month, so why not make it feel longer by doing Dry January AND eating a plant based diet! 🤔😂. Hence to say Dry January lasted for 2 weeks! 🤣
Before we started on our plant based journey I was a little daunted by it and asked for advice from anyone who had tried it and was surprised that quite a few people were either already eating plant based or had given it a go,and their advice was really useful.
I have to say i expected it to be a challenge, although being us, I knew we wouldn't give up on it (we had already done Dry Jan last year so that didn't feel like a new challenge) but I was very surprised by how much easier it was to do than I expected.
We have had some amazing food, mostly food that I've prepared from scratch, due to my husband being intolerant to Soya and the majority of processed vegan foods do contain it. It also means you don't spend your life looking at Food labels!😳
Things we have discovered:
* We like Oat milk (Oatly is amazing, if a little expensive so we have had a combination of this and supermarkets own brand.
*We've discovered Jackfruit - I had never heard of it before but it is easily available in a tin and you shred it, so it's texture is like pulled pork or shredded chicken and although it has little taste, it absorbs the flavours that you cook with.
* Dairy free butter tastes the same as dairy.
*Vegan cheese is not as bad as people say. It's fine if you like a mild cheese and really easy to grate, less crumbly than normal.
*Nutritional yeast makes an excellent 'cheese' sauce.
* Nothing replaces an Egg - We used a Vegan egg replacement made from chickpea flour which was quite batter like, and we made an omelette with it which was quite similar and scrambled 'eggs' which were a little different and my son called them rubbery 🤔 but we do like Eggs, and eggs on toast is a regular breakfast in our house, so Eggs were missed, and Yorkshire puddings! 😭
*Some everyday things you wouldn't even realise are plant based,: Crumpets, Popcorn, Digestive biscuits, Peanut butter on toast!
Do we feel any better for it? It's difficult to say, as we have all spent the last week or two with coughs/colds, which we rarely suffer from, but then it is winter. I think generally I have had more energy, but the most important thing is that since giving up dairy, My sons eczema, which he has had on his hand since he was little, has Completely DISAPPEARED! So if anyone in your family suffers, I would definitely recommend giving it a try, there are so many dairy replacements (Even Magnum ice cream!) available it that it's not such an onerous task.
My son has actually been brilliant with this challenge, he embraced it and was so self regulating with it, he amazed me, he would avoid certain school meals because he 'didn't want to risk it' his words and we had said to him it didn't matter if he slipped up. He actually gave his classmates school birthday sweets away because he knew they had gelatine in. So proud of him. This has been an enlightening experience for us all but especially educational for the kids.
What we are taking from this experience is that you don't need meat to have a great meal. We have had Chilli, Curry, Lasagne, Stew, Enchiladas, Quesadillas, pizzas, pasties and much more 🌮🍲🥙 All home made and very delicious.
We did miss our Sunday roast but never missed meat at any other time so we plan to each much less now, although I probably need to get a veg chopper as I've already lost many hours in the kitchen doing that! 😂
A lot of people were surprised when we started this and probably thought we wouldn't manage the month but I'm glad that we jumped down the rabbit hole and were open to experiencing something different, both for the sake of the environment and our health. If you are thinking about trying a plant based diet, I would say give it a try, it's easier than you think,and it's not all rabbit food down the rabbit hole! 🐰
Just a note about Food intolerance. Many of us have them to a greater or lesser degree and they can affect us in various ways. My husband is intolerant to Soya but he could never have found this out himself. Soya is in many things so when he suffered with bloating, excess gas and fatigue, it was difficult to know where it came from. So he did an online intolerance test, the one where you have to send your hair sample off. i know people can be sceptical about these but I think they are useful for giving you a starting point for your intolerances and then you can scrutinise individual foods and how you feel after eating them. Since then all of my family have tried them and my son who has had eczema on his hands since he was a baby has managed to eradicate this since we removed dairy from his diet after it was listed.