DESPITE numerous stress management techniques and prevention efforts, Covid-19 stress poses significant issues among individuals, both young and old globally writes Laura Harrington, Chartered Physiotherapist at the Mardyke Arena UCC.
Stress, defined as a mental and physical condition, resulting from pressure or demands that exceed one’s capacity or perceived capacity to cope, has been at the forefront of many people’s lives since the start of this pandemic.
Symptoms fall into three general categories: physical, mental and emotional. Some of these, but not all, include headaches, fatigue, gastro-intestinal (GI) problems, lack of concentration, sleep disturbances and anxiety, as well as heart problems (palpitations). Behavioural changes may also occur, including isolation, disruptive eating patterns, over/under-eating, increased smoking or alcohol consumption.
When threatened by environmental/socioeconomic changes and demands, we experience a variety of physiological and psychological changes. If the demands of the situation are deemed to be greater than the available coping resources, a ‘Fight-or-Flight response’ is generated. Various physiological processes occur in the body’s systems and, emotionally, people tend to become anxious and restless.
If the person is able to successfully manage or avoid the stressor, the body returns to homeostasis. However, chronic exposure to stress over time can begin to take a toll on a person.
The goal of stress management is not to eliminate all stress, as mild to moderate levels of stress are part of everyday life and wellbeing.
Stress management techniques are designed to keep stress levels within a healthy range. Participating in healthy lifestyle behaviours can help to reduce stress and maximise a long healthy life. Many stress management techniques have been consistently supported and advised. These include physical Activity and exercise (PA and E), Mindfulness and Meditation as well as Social Support.
Physical Activity and Exercise
The association between PA and E and health outcomes is well established. Those who exercise have a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. There is a similar picture for exercise and mental health outcomes. Those who exercise suffer from less depression, anxiety and fatigue.
Regular engagement of moderate intensity exercise such as a brisk walk strengthens the immune system and decreases the rate of illness. Exercise also strengthens body muscles, including the heart; increases muscle mass and helps with weight management.
Exercising regularly helps to relieve stress, improve memory, ensure better sleep and improve overall mood. People who exercise regularly tend to do so as it gives them a huge sense of wellbeing, providing more energy throughout the day. It makes people more relaxed and positive about their lives, through the release of endorphins, powerful chemicals in the brain which make you feel good.
Thirty minutes of moderate intensity exercises, five times a week is advised.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Relaxing gives your mind and body time to recover from the stresses of everyday life. Finding something you enjoy and making a conscious effort every day for ten minutes will allow you the down time to help manage your stress better. Breathing techniques and remembering to be present are beneficial. Diaphragmatic breathing or deep abdominal breathing is a technique designed to slow one’s breathing, regulate oxygen intake and help one to reach a state of relaxation down.
It has long been said that “Laughter is the best medicine”. It’s important to reach into your support network including family and friends and social groups when dealing with stressful events. Laughter has been shown to reduce BP and blood sugar levels as well as increase blood blow and improve energy levels.
Why include more Omega 3s in your diet?
Omega 3s provide numerous health benefits such as fighting inflammation and heart disease, writes Nutritional Consultant, Mary Carmody.
Food sources include seeds (pumpkin, sesame, chia seeds, flaxseeds, linseeds, hemp seeds) and their oils e.g. flaxseed oil, nuts (walnuts), oily fish(salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring), edamame beans, seaweed, spirulina, chlorella are other sources.
Eight reasons to include more Omega 3s in your diet
1. Our brain is made up of 60% fat, a large portion of which are made up of Omega 3s, which is an essential fat, so it’s important to feed it well with good omega 3s.
2. Your body cannot produce omegas, so they must be got either from diet or a supplement.
3. We are consuming too much Omega 6 in relation to Omega 3 in our diets. If this happens, you may be producing substances that have a pro-inflammatory effect on your body.
Omega 6 sources include sunflower oil, sunflower seeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, etc, which are also good but we need to get the right balance between these omegas. The ratio of Omega 6 is normally much higher so it’s recommended to switch this by consuming more omega 3 in the diet.
4. There has been an 80% decrease in the consumption of omega 3 fatty acids over the last 100 years with our westernised diets. It’s recommended to eat more fish in our diet as well as other sources of omega 3 fats.
5. Deficiency in Omega 3s is quite common, and symptoms can appear as dry skin, eczema, psoriasis, brittle or limp hair, poor concentration levels, painful joints, arthritis, cracked skin on fingertips.
6. There can be a lot of misunderstanding in society relating to whether a fat is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, so I always promote eating “good fats” in the diet as mentioned above and cutting out the ‘bad fats’ such as too much saturated fats and the hydrogenated fats we get in fried or processed foods.
When I’m doing corporate nutrition & mindset talks (by zoom now) I often get asked, are almonds fattening? People can get very confused about different types of fats, so I always say “Almonds are good but watch portions and don’t eat too many — they are the good fats “
7. Studies have shown improvements in concentration and sleep when people eat good quality omega 3’s in the right ratios.
8. Finally, an increase in the omega 6 to omega 3 ratio can increase your risk of obesity, which in turn can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
Mary Carmody’s Amazing Almond Balls recipe
Ingredients: 80g almonds, 65g dates, 1 tbsp. almond butter, o 1 tbsp. raw cacao, 1 tbsp. desiccated coconut flakes
1. Roast almonds in oven for 10 minutes at 180 degrees. Set aside to cool.
2. Place dates into a cup and cover with warm water to soften.
3. Blitz up cooled almonds in nutri-bullet/blender and set aside.
4. Take dates out of water and blitz up.
5 Add all ingredients together in a bowl and mix.
6. You might need to add some of water from the dates if mix is too dry.
7. Roll up the mixture into 8 protein balls and store in the fridge in a Tupperware container for an hour before eating.
These protein balls will last up to a week/10 days in the fridge. Totally yummy!
- Visit www.marycarmodynutrition.ie for more recipes.
“If you’re doing a fitness class at home, let us know #KeepingCorkHealthy and tag ‘Mardyke Arena UCC’
To catch up on our Keeping Cork Healthy series see the articles and workout videos on the links below.