Stress: what is it good for?
Ok, so that's not entirely true. But 99.9% of reactions to stress nowadays are harmful and unnecessary.
Here's a whirlwind tour on what stress is doing to you and your body, why it sucks, and what you can do about it to have a happier, more kick ass life.
Most of us have heard that the physiologic (body) response to stress has evolved to run away from woolly mammoths or saber tooth tigers or something along those lines.
Well, ok, great, but we were also club-swinging unibrow-sporting troglodytes (word of the day for ya). Things have changed. So why on earth would morning traffic and work deadlines cause the same effects in your body as a near-death experience as the hands (or claws?) of a neolithic lion? Because, for the most part, deep deep down in your genes and cells, not much has changed. You're still living, breathing and metabolizing like its 1999. B.C that is.
And what is stress and who defines it anyways? What cranks one person's stress-o-meter up to 11 (public speaking anyone?), is exciting, challenging and enjoyable to another. Well, the million dollar answer is: that person, thing, event or activity that is "stressful" is only stressful because you're responding stressfully to it.
Ok, before I go too esoteric and off into "what is is" land, let me break it down another way: stress as a word was not created to describe a human physiologic response. It came from civil engineering, and only afterwards did biology researchers take the idea and apply it to the human body. Stress is a force from the outside that is exerting its effects in you (or a bridge, but why split hairs). Or to quote the never-wrong wikipedia, "stress is a measure of the internal forces acting within a deformable body." Sexy definition, right?
So something is trying to deform your body (boss breathing down your neck, kids going nuts, no time to yourself) and stress is the amount those things are affecting you, internally.
But. But. The real kicker of all this is you have a choice in the matter. You can choose how all those external forces affect your internal forces and deform your body. (ok, I'll stop with the engineering talk)
There are many ways you can respond physiologically (and emotionally) to potentially stress-inducing events and interactions.
How do you respond? Crack like an eggshell? Crumble like saltine?
How do you want to respond? Bounce back from any hardship like a superball? Nonchalantly and gracefully move from one project to the next like a slinky?
You may have minimal influence over commuter traffic, paying the bills and having a ever-expanding to do list with never enough time-- but what you do have maximal influence over is your response.
This is more than a matter of "just think good thoughts" or "quit your job and move to Fiji" (though if you're looking to take a concierge doctor to Fiji with you, let me know). I work with people to build up their internal reserves so that they can react to life more like a slinky and less like an eggshell.
Getting and maintaining that attribute is a process (unless you do just move to Fiji)- but one that when working together, I have always seen stress diminish, anxiety dissolve and positivity and resilience grow in their place. And from that standpoint, you can take on the tigers and bosses without losing your cool.
To your good health,
If it could never exist in nature, is it still natural?
Has science left common sense eating in the dust? When I see Cherry 7-Up Antioxidant advertising "A Delicious Cherry Way to Pick Your Antioxidant.," it seems that science, any science whatsoever, trumps common sense.
When you have no idea how your food is made, as is the case with pretty much all processed food, you leave your health in the hands of companies such as Pepsi-Co. Personally, I do not trust that these companies have my health in mind when they're advertising the antioxidant power of soda pop.
So, if Pepsi-Co won't look out for our best health, who will? You will. And if the old adage is right, that we are what we eat, then what should we eat?
Well, I for one was not created in a lab, so why would lab-created food be best for me? It wouldn't. What is "whole food?" I like to think of it as food you can identify. Meat, vegetables, fruit. What isn't whole food? Food that you have no idea how it was created. If you're squinting to make out the ingredient names (if you're looking at the ingredients list at all), you're probably not eating whole food.
And if you're not eating whole food, then you're eating part food and part chemicals, at a greater cost. A whole chicken and rice (or beans or potatoes) will always cost a family less than Combo/Value/Kid's Meals for everyone at a fast food establishment. And what kind of sense does that make?
If you want to read more on this, one place to look is Michael Pollan. I've taken the liberty to condense his already condensed "7 Rules for Eating" to the phrase: "Real Food, Not too Much, Not too Fast." See WebMd's page on him as a springboard into this topic.
Thank you for reading. I always appreciate your comments and questions!
Paleolithic people ate ten times more fiber than we do now.
An anti-Paleolithic Diet article in last week's Chicago Tribune is the latest to turn a skeptical eye to a diet shunning the great American food pillars: bread and dairy. The nutritionist they profiled, Dr. Keith Ayoob, has quite a few bones to pick with this diet, which focuses on produce, nuts, seeds and lean meats (the diet likely consumed by paleolithic people).
His major contentions are that this diet must be deficient in vitamins and minerals because it does not include grains and dairy, and is (in his view) too expensive to feed a teenage boy. That was actually a real argument on his part.
Those nutrients which are found in fortified grains (bread, pasta, rice) and dairy are found in much lower levels compared to the wide spectrum of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds your typical "paleolithic dieter" consumes.
Have questions as to whether you're getting the necessary amounts of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from your diet? Consult a Naturopathic doctor- a doctor who's also an expert in nutrition! You deserve the best information and guidance, it's your health we're talking about here!
Thank you for reading, please contact me with questions, comments and feedback!