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MANGAWHAI'S NO.1 NEWSPAPER

The Stress on Stress


Jan van der Lee red door copy-409In our stressed-out world, we all experience times of feeling overwhelmed at the load life presents us – financial worries, caring for a sick loved one, working long hours and raising families – it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Sometimes we may feel too exhausted to keep giving to others, even though giving is a primary source of happiness in our lives.

Most people have heard of the fight-or-flight response (the sympathetic nervous system, when we are fighting or running from the tiger) but how about the rest-and-digest response? This is the parasympathetic division of our nervous systems, which is responsible for controlling the balance and maintenance of the bodies calming systems, allowing exactly that, rest and digest – when repair and regeneration of the body takes place.

The less time spent in sympathetic mode the better, although this state is vital for our daily function, it’s basically our ‘on’ button. We need to do all we can to activate our parasympathetic mode, our ‘off’ button.

So what can we do?

Ÿ Learn to eat a healthy diet. Cut refined sugars from the diet – sugar added to processed foods, cereals, muesli bars, cakes and cookies. Include good quality protein – organic meat, eggs, fish, beans, nuts and seeds. Increase fresh seasonal produce. Drink fresh clean water.

Ÿ Include meditation, yoga, belly breathing exercises, gentle exercise (not the gym junkie workout, which has its place but not when we are exhausted), and time out in nature is vital. Remember where we live and how lucky we are to live in this beautiful coastal location, barefoot beach walks. Try Qi Gong, Tai Chi.

Ÿ Treat yourself to a regular massage. Then indulge in a very warm bath, adding a cup of Epsom salts – magnesium sulphate, great for soothing tight muscles and detoxing.

Ÿ Limit stimulants like alcohol and caffeine. Are you using caffeinated beverages to drive yourself? This places a huge load on the adrenal glands, two tiny glands that sit atop our kidneys producing many hormones, mainly cortisol and adrenaline. When our ‘on’ button is ‘on’ constantly adrenals produce excess of these hormones (later not enough) leading to burnout and complex health issues.

Ÿ Get enough sleep. Sleep in, allow kids a sleep-in one day of the weekend. Many mums and kids are ‘pedal to the metal’ all week – a terminal, exhaustive, perpetual cycle of school work, and after-school activities. Look closely at the pressure and expectation you place on yourself and your child.

Ÿ Social connection, from birth to old age, is one of our greatest human needs. Social connection leads to lower rates of anxiety and depression and strengthens our immune systems. Participate in the social activities you choose, learn to be a little selective.

Ÿ Take regular mini-breaks. Once in a while plan a long weekend where you take time out completely for yourself.

Ÿ Last of all, and most important, practice self-compassion. Treat yourself as you would a dear friend, with kindness rather than self-judgment, especially at times when you fail. We all make mistakes and we are all human and need time out. Learn to say no, perhaps be a tiny bit selfish!

n Jan van der Lee is a Clinical Nutritionist based at Waipu Natural Health, 3 Cove Road, Waipu, waipunaturalhealth.co.nz


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