Stress The Modern Day Epidemic
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I’ve dealt with stress for as long as I can remember. We all have certain forms of stress! Stress makes us feel alive. But in recent years, the types and amounts of stress we face have grown to unsustainable levels. People are burning out younger and younger each decade. It doesn’t have to be this way. Stress is a modern-day epidemic. We haven’t always been this way. Sure, we’ve dealt with stress in the past, but not stress like today.
Modern times present hundreds of new variables that we’ve never faced before. From the second you wake up to the second you go to sleep, technology, bills, work and the future itself loom overhead. How are you supposed to move forward if you are held back by emotional and psychological handicaps? It’s not an easy question to answer, but people like you are learning to deal with this new era of stress with great success.
Most people aren’t taught a thing about stress until they discover it on their own. College or starting your first full-time job may have given you the first real taste of stress. Oftentimes, our childhoods and social support groups are so comfortable that we become jaded by the reality of fending for ourselves and making big decisions.
When I was growing up stress, depression, and anxiety were hardly ever mentioned by my parents, or in my family. These were very real issues and I did not know how to cope with these feelings. Stress was a fire that burned within me along with anxiety and depression. I did not have the means to extinguish the flames and as I grew up these issues just piled up.
TYPES OF STRESS
Our types of stress are usually never distinguished or separated. They are lumped into one single event or problem that has no defined edges, boundaries, or rules. It’s like a ghost in the sense that you know it’s there, but you can’t pinpoint what or where it is. If you can’t classify or identify the types and sources of stress that you’re faced with, you can’t manage them. It’s like trying to explain what it’s like to burn yourself if you’ve never done it. There are probably hundreds of sources of stress you’ve encountered, but let’s focus on the forms most impactful on your cognitive function, physical performance, and overall health.
We are nutritionally depleted on a global scale. The remaining hunter-gatherers may have remnants of micronutrient density, but we in the modern world have strayed away from quality food for convenience, taste, pleasure, and a 99-cent price tag to go along with it. We’ve created an abundance of food rich in calories that lacks nutritional quality. We are overfed but undernourished. The soil is depleted of minerals and the water is polluted with chemicals and heavy metals. The air is filled with mercury from coal-burning power plants, jet fuel exhaust, and hundreds of other pollutants deemed safe by governments and other large financial institutions. They have enough money to buy out the CDC and the WHO.
Emotional stress is a key player in the entire stress response. The health of our relationships and world response plays a significant role in our personal and professional lives. Emotional stress contributes to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Attempting to repress emotions doesn’t work forever. Eventually, it seeps out and can lead to many serious health implications. But by numbing ourselves to bad emotions, we don’t experience positive emotions.
Society has taught men that it’s “tough” or “cool” not to show emotion and just to brush their problems off. While this may be a good short-term strategy for your role in an upcoming action movie, it’s not sustainable. Emotions are a good thing. Feeling emotion is what makes us human. Life is supposed to be felt. The distinction to make is whether you are ruminating on your emotional traumas or simply discussing and dealing with them.
Repressing stress is a common response because we lack the fuel to handle it. Facing stress turns to self-sabotage and self-destruction. Realizing the impact emotional stability has on your overall state of health is crucial for long-term sustainability and proper stress management. Numerous studies point to the fact that women are more emotionally or psychologically stressed than men, but this shouldn’t discourage you from enhancing your coping ability.
How Technology Factors In
The natural world has been replaced by technological innovation and obsession. It’s a double-edged sword that hacks our neural pathways and programs our brains for what marketing experts call “pulling sensations”. Services like Twitter and Instagram don’t directly tell you what’s going on like the old forms of media, including television and the newspaper. These services “pull you” and allow you to be in charge of updates and new notifications as you desire. The marketing industry considers creating a “pull” as a key goal when developing new applications, games, and platforms.
If the “Fear Of Missing Out” or “FOMO” response is created, it almost ensures addiction, thereby success. It’s a hijacking of our ancient wiring system that demands constant connectivity. Society has been hollowed out with the loss of physical interaction, touch, and other forms of personal connection. But, for every swing in one direction, a stronger swing in the opposite direction develops. For example, a popular restaurant game for groups of people is to put all of your cell phones into the center of the table. Whoever can’t handle their “FOMO Syndrome” and grabs their phone has to pay the bill.
Physical exercise continues to gain value as the modern, sedentary lifestyle grows. It’s becoming “cool” to use a standing desk and to post pictures of how you’re not sitting down anymore. These trends merely create large profit opportunities for companies creating adjustable desks. Your physical health isn’t determined by how long you stand or how long you sit, but rather by the number of times you alternate positions.
You don’t have to work in a chemical factory to be exposed to chemicals. A comfy desk job in an office building can offer quite the potential for toxin exposure. Stale air, artificial lighting, and the off-gassing of plastics found in cubicles, new carpets, and synthetic leather chairs are the main threats. Additionally, the chemicals found in personal care and beauty products such as soaps, shampoos, conditioners, cosmetics, toothpaste, deodorants, laundry detergents, and dryer sheets provide enough chemicals to cause allergic reactions, rashes, and worse.
The myth that our skin is an impermeable barrier has long been disproven. In fact, many pharmaceutical companies are switching to topical applications to bypass the breakdown of the drugs by the liver and instead go directly into the bloodstream. Lead, aluminum, and other toxic metals present in personal care products accumulate in the body. Cells removed from a cancerous breast, in many cases, are full of aluminum. This toxic metal is the main ingredient of deodorants used by women across the world.
Eating and Stress
Nutrition is a foundation of life essential for both healthy stress response and longevity. If you’re lacking in raw materials or nutrients necessary to produce neurotransmitters and hormones, you’re gonna feel it. Remember the human owner’s manual we talked about? The one that’s missing?
Well inside of that owner’s manual was a chapter on how humans are supposed to eat. It’s obvious that we’ve lost it. Every other creature on the planet instinctually knows what to eat, except for us. It’s not your fault. The same raw materials, nutrients, and cofactors necessary for optimal sleep are the same ones required to nourish and balance the nervous system.
Your body needs grass-fed and pastured meats to provide long-burning fuel for the brain and body. Quality is far more important than quantity. You might feel like eating a 12-ounce grass-fed ribeye, but satiation can occur with only a palm-sized portion of these quality meats. Save yourself from overconsumption and overspending when it comes to quality meats. They are still more expensive than the conventional, hormone-laden meat served in grocery stores, but there’s no comparison.
1. Reduce isolated sugars. This includes table sugar, corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, candy, sweets, cereal, pasta, bread, refined foods, dressings, sauces with sugar, and natural sweeteners such as erythritol, stevia, coconut sugar, and especially agave nectar. We want to reduce any blood sugar fluctuations that negatively impact the nervous system and stress response. Use 1 tsp of raw honey at bedtime if sleep is an issue.
2. Eat 3-9 cups of organic vegetables per day. Yes, 9 cups. Dr. Terry Wahls reversed Multiple Sclerosis with 9 cups of vegetables per day among other protocols. We need to support glutathione production to encourage detoxification and eat sulfur-rich foods to enhance GABA production. This includes but is not limited to broccoli, onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, and avocado. Good leafy greens include kale, spinach, chard, arugula, and mustard greens.
3. Eat 1-2 handfuls of organic nuts and berries per day. This includes but is not limited to blueberries, cranberries, tart cherries, raspberries, mulberries, black currants, blackberries, almonds, cashews, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, chia seed, flaxseed (if desired). We need to add healthy fats, zinc, selenium, and antioxidants found in berries to support oxidative stress protection.
4. Eat 2-3 palm-sized pieces of organic quality meat or fish per day. This includes but is not limited to grass-fed beef, bison, chicken (skin-on or dark meat), turkey, lamb, duck, venison, or other game meats. We need to provide quality, long-burning fuel for the brain and body to feed on. These provide omega-3 fats, zinc, conjugated linoleic acid (burns fat), vitamin B12 (provides energy), and other crucial micronutrients.
5. Liberally add herbs and detoxifying ingredients. Cilantro has been found to bind to mercury and should be added to as many of your meals as possible. Lemons and limes should be juiced onto your salads or in a cup of spring water before your meals to improve your digestion via increased hydrochloric acid production, the secret to optimal digestion. Turmeric and black pepper together make up the most detoxifying combination available. Organic, grass-fed whey protein should also be added a few times per week to support detoxification and healing.
6. Consume probiotics weekly. Whether you want to drink kombucha tea or sodas, organic miso soup, organic pickles or sauerkraut, organic kefir, or yogurt, consume one or more of these each week to support healthy gut flora which is necessary for detoxification.
7. If desired, consume caffeine only before noon. Cortisol is highest in the morning and naturally falls throughout the day. The last thing we want is to cause a spike when the nervous system is calming down. Stick to organic green or matcha tea if possible. Only 1 cup of organic, shade-grown coffee if you must. Caffeine can have a very long half-life depending on the individual and can impair sleep.
8. Eat 2-4 times per day and don’t intentionally fast. Taking the workload off the adrenals to let them heal is essential to recovery. Be sure to eat a protein-rich breakfast like leftover beef and vegetables. You don’t want to skip meals or intermittent fasting purposely. It’s only healthy to do when your stress response is healed.
9. Eat slowly, calmly, and while sitting only. Sampling your meal over the stove is fine, but please avoid eating while driving, reading, walking, standing, reading emails, scrolling on social media, or otherwise distracting yourself. Your body needs to know that it’s feeding time so it can adequately digest and assimilate nutrients.
10. Try removing nightshades. Foods and spices in the nightshade family can cause reactions. Try excluding eggs, potatoes (sweet potatoes are OK), tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers such as bell pepper, habanero, jalapeno, serrano, chili pepper, cayenne, and pepper-spice blends, and paprika, a commonly added spice to blends.
You knew meditation was coming up. This form of stress relief is not only good for those who have too much on their mind but also for those who are striving to achieve better things. That means all of you. Meditation is essentially the act of bringing your awareness to the present moment. The state of meditation can be attained in nearly a thousand ways.
To enter a meditative state with nearly no effort:
• Listen to the sound of water flowing. If you have a community pool near you or a natural source of flowing water, this can stimulate a calm nervous system.
• Listen to music. Certain “New Age” music and soundtracks that implement birds, water, bells, harps, and other instruments can have a profound impact on the nervous system. Some clinicians have recognized the therapeutic benefit and have used music to help Alzheimer’s patients.
• Close your eyes. Inhale normally through your nose. Minimal effort creates an almost instinctual sigh of relief here.
I’ll spare you the science on this section; it’s a no-brainer. Sleep is the time for rest and recovery. You simply can’t beat stress if you’re sleep-deprived. Your body enters a catabolic state rather quickly from sleep deprivation, causing muscle breakdown and reduced stress response. Go to bed at 10 PM at the latest and if you’re on a swing-shift or third-shift schedule, do your best to get enough hours of sleep, even if they are at strange times.
EXERCISE TWICE PER WEEK
Walking in the forest is great for reducing stress, but it’s helpful to balance out your stress-reduction efforts by inducing positive stress in the form of weight lifting. Exercise will help reverse the effects of the dietary stress you may be under. Exercise helps reverse insulin resistance. Exercise allows your muscles to absorb more glucose without the need for insulin. The more muscle you have, the more glucose you can burn. Building adequate muscle should be a top priority for anyone who is overweight, and dealing with sugar cravings and prediabetes. Physical exercise is a basic human necessity.
Free weights are the best choice for stimulating extra muscle fibers that may remain dormant during the use of machines and other structured exercises. Small stabilizer muscles that are activated during free weight exercise can help you in other daily activities like bringing in groceries, picking up your child, or other daily tasks.
Some of the best free-weight exercises are:
• Dumbbell bench press. This exercise is applicable to both men and women. Stick to 3 sets of 10 reps. If you can go to 15 reps with your weights, that’s fine, but no more. If you find yourself only getting to 4 or 5 repetitions, lower the weight.
• Dumbbell shoulder press. This exercise requires a bit more balance as you’ll be sitting at a nearly 90-degree angle. Follow the same set and repetition schedule as the bench and start with a lightweight. This exercise can help you develop great upper body strength.
• Dumbbell row. This exercise develops core, arm, and back strength that can help improve your overall posture and stature. You’ll want to ensure your back is flat and straight as you perform this exercise.
• Pull-ups. Managing your body weight is a great way to beat stress. Even if you can’t successfully complete a pull-up, grab a bar, tree branch, or other horizontal object and hold yourself up.
• Dumbbell squats. Many people dislike a barbell on their backs. You can hold two dumbbells close to your chest and perform a squat this way. You can’t go as heavy, but that’s fine for most.
• Pushups. Another bodyweight exercise that can help improve confidence and basic fitness ability, pushups can be helpful for any and all levels of exercise. If it hurts your wrists, take it easy.
REMOVE YOUR TOXIC LOAD
To remove chemical toxins from your water supply, ensure that you use a chlorine filter for your showerhead and bathtub. Most shower filters that advertise 99% removal of chlorine will be sufficient.
Other toxin removal steps:
• Use fluoride-free toothpaste. Kinds of toothpaste that use xylitol, stevia, or other natural sweetener are safe choices. Some use activated charcoal which has a highly effective teeth-whitening ability.
• Drink and cook with spring water. Springwater may be sourced locally, which is a fun experience. More realistically, your local grocer should have a supply of gallon or bigger jugs of spring water.
• Vitamin D. Although vitamin D doesn’t directly reduce stress and anxiety, a study notes benefits in reducing inflammatory bowel issues and multiple sclerosis, two common and extremely stressful issues, with adequate vitamin D levels.
• Krill oil. Krill oil shows greater benefits and requires less to achieve the same effect as fish oils in reducing inflammation.
• Dandelion. The cute little yellow flower that your parents probably sprayed as a kid had benefits after all. This study, among many, has proven dandelion extract to be a potent anti-cancer, anti-flu, and digestive remedy. Women swear by dandelion capsules for a postpregnancy rash; that counts as a stressor to me! There are several possible interactions with dandelion so do your homework on this and all supplements before purchasing.
• Probiotics. A study found that women who drank a fermented milk product had increased brain activity in areas that control emotion and sensation. Another study shows the healing power of probiotics for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, a key recovery tool for my personal struggles. Stress management was the other key.
• Milk thistle. A study showed that milk thistle can protect hippocampus cells against oxidative stress and cell death in rats. Even better, silymarin, the active component in milk thistle shows benefits in this study to protect against sodium fluoride consumed in water.
• Turmeric. Used in cooking, or more commonly in supplemental form, this is a great anti-inflammatory and health-supportive nutrient.
• Spirulina. This potent, blue-green algae was found in a study to protect against sodium fluoride-induced thyroid issues in offspring. Although this study looked at rats, the antioxidant benefits give spirulina a real “superfood” status.
• Vitamin C. The adrenal glands secrete vitamin C during their response to a stressor. Chronic stress depletes vitamin C stores, and if you’re not consuming dietary vitamin C, you could use some supplemental support.
TYING IT ALL TOGETHER
You’ve just discovered some of the most advanced and effective stress-busting methodologies known to mankind. I know there were a lot of scientific references involved, but on the topic of stress and effective methods for measuring and mitigating it, it’s my duty to provide the most valid and useful evidence that exists.
Our awareness of the topic of stress is quickly reaching the mainstream. Our fast-paced and overworked way of life is killing us in droves. We’re burning the candle at both ends and are seeing the first-generation effects. If we continue to live a life that’s high in stress and low in relaxation, we will quickly degrade our mental capacity to handle potentially serious and catastrophic issues that affect us all.
If our obsessions and addictions to social media, stimulation, caffeine, overwork, fast food, and more continue to grow, we’ll surely experience “death by a thousand stressors”. It’s not that the ring of a cell phone destroys your stress response itself, but it slowly and exponentially destroys your ability to cope. As you combine the notification sounds of your phone with the many other forms of daily stressors we’ve covered, your understanding of the big picture becomes very clear.
NEVER GIVE UP ON STRESS
Even if you’re overwhelmed with the information presented here, understand that you as a human have incredible abilities to recover and heal yourself, regardless of your starting point. We didn’t make it to the top of the food chain by being weak, anxious, and fearful creatures. Imagine the feats that our ancestors accomplished when tackling buffalo and saber-tooth tigers to protect their families and provide food for nourishment.
We are the descendants of these incredible humans and still have the genetic ability to be confident, secure, stable, and vigorous individuals. You can’t beat stress with anger and guilt as it will kill you long before you make real progress. But, you can outsmart stress by cultivating a lifestyle that relaxes you, calms you, and heals you. Stress is the fire that remains lit throughout our lives. It’s good to have a little flame burning at all times. That means you’re alive!
But, we need to constantly keep an eye on that fire and make sure that as soon as it flares up, we have a tool to keep it from raging out of control. A stressful week of exams at school can flare up the fire. A fight with your loved one can stoke the fire. A death, divorce, new career, promotion, demotion, layoff, or another major life event can add a barrel’s worth of gasoline to the fire. These are usually the events that cause complete emotional breakdowns and subsequent illness.
Anytime you feel that your stress level is beginning to get to an uncomfortably hot level:
• Ensure that you’re eating enough food to fuel your mind and body
• Make sure you’re having a healthy relationship with caffeine
• Slow down while driving
• Take a sniff of your essential oils
• Go for a walk on a trail
• Close your eyes and breathe through your heart
• Drink a glass of cool spring water
• Pet your animals
• Hug your significant other, friend, or whoever will give one back
• Reframe the situation
• Take a warm bath
• Use your supplement recommendations
• Allow yourself to let it go
• Forgive yourself and the stressor
• Smile and laugh, even if they’re fake
• Go for a swim
• Visit the ocean
• Put your hands and feet in the dirt
• Call someone and tell them you love them
• Use the Emotional Freedom Technique
• Compliment yourself
• Go for a sprint
• Lift some weights
• Get some sleep!
Next time you’re faced with a stressful situation, take a breath and determine the first step of action to solve it, no matter how tiny that step is.
We can not avoid stress in our lives. Learning to cope with it, manage and use it to our advantage are things we need to contemplate. I hope the article has given you some ideas to better deal with stress.
Thank you for reading
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