Stress is undoubtedly the biggest challenge that caregivers face. Statistics show that the stress of care giving can result in chronic disease for the caregiver and take as many as 10 years off one’s life.
When we are chronically stressed the body’s fight or flight response gets turned on and forgets to shut off. When the body is in a constant state of “emergency alert” the adrenal glands—the small walnut shaped glands that sit on top of your kidneys—get “stuck” in the on position and produce an excess of cortisol, the stress hormone, which can result in sleep problems, weight gain, and chronic health problems.
Additionally, the liver releases too much glucose and fatty acids into the bloodstream. The excess glucose goes unused, so your body has to produce an enormous amount of insulin to handle it. Eventually, this can result in hypoglycemia or diabetes, and weight gain. Fat that is dumped into your blood also goes unused, so it clogs your arteries, leading to cardiovascular disease.
5 foods that can help relieve stress
- Dark leafy greens such as kale, Swiss chard, and spinach contain vitamin D, which helps with high levels of stress, and vitamin B, especially folic acid, which is depleted by stress. B vitamins are needed to make serotonin, a neurotransmitter that directly affects mood in a positive way.
- Wild-caught salmon contains magnesium the mood mineral, and vitamin D, which helps with high levels of stress.
- Yellow fruits such as peaches, nectarines and apricots, and cantaloupe contain vitamin A, important for a healthy immune system.
- Asparagus is high in folic acid, which can help stabilize your mood.
- Cottage cheese is high in calcium and protien. Add a fruit high in vitamin C, like oranges or strawberries, for the added antioxidant benefit that fights free radicals produced by stress and helps support the adrenal glands.
10 tips for instant stress relief
- Eat within one hour of arising and by 10am. Eating breakfast restores healthy blood sugar levels, which have dropped during the night. Instead of a bowl of cereal with skim milk and a banana, eat protein and a healthy fat such as an omelet and avocado and a slice of whole grain toast. A healthy breakfast provides you with the energy you need to get through the morning, while maintaining a sense of equilibrium.
- Take a walk—even a quick 10-minute walk can do wonders.
- Sit down and breathe deeply for 10 minutes, focusing on the breath.
- Get an aromatherapy plug-in diffuser. (They are available online.) Lavender calms the nerves and uplifts mood.
- Take a bath with Epsom salts and/or aromatherapy essential oils.
- Put on some music in your living room and dance with your care partner. It does wonders.
- Put on a funny movie and laugh.
- Get a dog. Hundreds of studies show that interacting with man’s best friend is a great stress reliever.
- Stay hydrated! Drink plenty of water. Our bodies and our brains depend on it. Dehydration contributes to foggy thinking and stresses out the body.
- And remember, this too shall pass.