As many of our workplace lives have shifted from basically manual to mental labor, we have seen a sharp rise in stress. According to a recent study in the UK, stress and its’ cohort anxiety are the root cause of 57% of sick days.
Two of the physiological effects of stress can actually be beneficial in the short term. Stress can cause insulin resistance that ensures sugar reaches the brain quickly in dangerous situations. Stress also raises inflammation markers that can shield battle wounds from pathogens.
Of course, we are not all soldiers or police consistently facing dangerous situations. Chronic stress in our everyday lives can be debilitating both physiologically and psychologically. Hypertension (high blood pressure) and type 2 diabetes are both connected to chronic stress. Psychologically it can cause significant depression and can even change the structure of the brain.
Urbanization in itself is thought to be a cause of stress. Exposure to nature with long walks or merely meditating can have a beneficial reduction in stress. Urbanization is also connected to a highly-processed diet. These diets lower microorganisms that affect immune cells that can change our response to stress. There is evidence that eating healthy foods like yogurt, avocados, bananas, carrots, and (thankfully) dark chocolate or taking one or more strains of probiotics can reduce symptoms of anxiety. Early results show improvement in cognitive response and reduced mental fatigue during stress by incorporating these steps into your daily life.
Our dependence on our devices may also be raising our stress levels. Melatonin, a hormone said to reduce anxiety, is delayed by bright or blue light emitted from our devices. So be mindful of your stress levels and the things you can do to help reduce them. Taking a walk outside, adding some probiotics to your diet, eating healthier, and turning off those devices early for some restful sleep are beneficial ways to becoming your best you.
KATHLEEN WEAVER-ZECH & DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO