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Blog posts tagged with 'stress'

Knowing Your Daily Stressors and Taking Steps to Avoid Their Effects

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Knowing Your Daily Stressors and Taking Steps to Avoid Their EffectsStress and anxiety can come from a variety of places; whether it's deadline driven or due to life's sometimes overwhelming responsibilities. Everyone feels a little bit of anxiety and stress now and then, but when you are unable to properly deal with the daily anxieties of life they can build up and put excessive physical strain on your body. However, there are some simple techniques to dealing with the everyday stressors that can help you relax in the moment in order to keep your body from feeling the residual effects that stress can cause.

Concentrating on a Constant: Breathing

Breathing is an essential, unconscious process needed to sustain life. There are, however, many techniques which can help you control your rate of breathing. Whenever people feel stress or anxiety they naturally tend to breathe faster, which is part of the ingrained fight or flight response. By focusing on your breathing and taking slow, methodical breaths to avoid shallow breaths, you can slow your physical reaction to stress. One method is to produce long, deep breaths holding it, and then slowly exhaling over a few seconds. This type of deep breathing can reduce the effect those waves of anxiety can have on the body.

The Human Connection

Sometimes, relaxation is easier with company. Human beings are social creatures and throughout our lives we create deep, meaningful bonds with others. These connections to the people you love and care for can also be useful in reducing anxiety or stress when you're feeling frustrated. A positive word of encouragement from someone you love, or even a pat on the back or hug, can do wonders for your mood. Stress can make you tense and reserved, making you reluctant to open up and share your feelings. But having someone to talk to, or even just rant with, can relieve stress almost immediately. The power of the human connection should never be underutilized.

Moving to Stay Ahead of Stress

Whether you realize it or not, stress can also be a motivating factor that can be used to your advantage. This is aptly referred to as stimulation and engagement. When you feel bouts of anxiety or stress, you often feel as if you need to move around, which is why it's common to picture a person pacing back and forth when they're fretting on their problems. This idea can be used in a positive way if you engage in physical activity during instances of anxiety. Whether you work out, go for a walk, or even just dance around your room to a favorite song, you are naturally letting off steam and helping your body relieve the symptoms of anxiety.

Paying Attention to Your Stress Levels

Many people don't pay attention to stress and anxiety until it has a hold on them and sends their mood spiraling downward. Being aware of certain reactionary cues throughout your day such as changes to your voice, having sweaty palms, feeling burned out, or faster breathing can alert you to the fact that you may be dealing with unwanted anxiety.

Modern society is filled with things that can constantly make you stressed, from major nuisances (job, money, marriage, and relationships) to minor ones (traffic, cell phone service, and grocery shopping). By knowing what your trigger points are and being proactive in calming yourself through simple techniques, you can avoid stress before it takes hold and gain peace of mind, a healthier immune system, better focus, and more energy to concentrate on the things you love.

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The Triggers of Emotional Eating and What You Can Do

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The Triggers of Emotional Eating and What You Can DoBad day at work? Going through some issues in your personal life? Is your first response to grab the ice cream from the freezer or rip open that bag of chips and have at it? Human responses to stress can take various forms, many of them unhealthy. Whether it's anger, sadness, frustration, or stress that has infiltrated your daily life everyone needs to find an outlet to relieve the tension. Unfortunately, many people turn to food as their outlet. Binge eating or emotional eating can happen without you realizing how serious it can become. Understanding how to deal with powerful emotions, stress, and reactions can help you avoid the pitfalls of emotional eating so that you can resolve your issues in a healthier way.

What Induces Your Emotional Eating Response?

Sometimes the most important question to ask yourself is, "Why am I eating?" In the case of overeating, especially if it's emotional, pinpoint your triggers. These triggers can range from internal feelings to outside influences. Some people eat to fill a void; when they're bored, have no plans, and can't figure out what to do with their evening, they may eat as a way to pass the time. Others may be trying to fill an emotional void due to loneliness, anxiety, and stress. Sometimes the root of stress or anxiety can be connected to your thoughts on your body. Having a negative self-image can cause a cycle of destructive behaviors that includes finding solace in food.

Other triggers can be social, such as eating to fit in or being encouraged to eat by those around you. Physiological responses such as headaches or stomach aches due to skipping meals may also convince people that they need to eat more to curb their hunger.

Identifying your triggers and analyzing the issues in your life to find the problem can be the first step in pinpointing the question of "Why?" To help keep track of possible triggers, keep a food diary and write down what you ate, when you ate it, and what stressors, thoughts, or emotions you experienced while eating. Once you've spotted the pattern, address what you can do to change your lifestyle, stress factors, and other things that may be causing the reaction of overeating.

Spot the Pattern, Break the Cycle

For many, emotional eating can become a routine part of getting through situations. To break a cycle, no matter what it is, you have to change the pattern of repetition. Simple activities throughout your day, even if they only take up a small chunk of time, can alleviate the urge to use food as a coping response and finding a passion can go a long way to avoiding the static cycle of negativity. Going for a walk, exercising, reading, talking to a friend, or finding a hobby can replace the tendency to choose food as a means of filling up the emotional void in your life.

Taking Steps for a Healthier Future

Nutrition should always be a focus when it comes to your everyday diet. By focusing on healthy eating and learning about what your body needs you can help facilitate the lifestyle change you need. A recent study by USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University and at Massachusetts General Hospital recently revealed how a low-calorie, high-fiber diet along with the right behavioral counseling can actually increase one's cravings for healthy foods and minimize those for unhealthy ones.

While everyone responds differently to triggers and their surroundings, there are ways of overcoming emotional overeating and turning your lifestyle around. If you or someone you know struggles with overeating or emotional eating, learn how you can help that person reverse their negative behavior and deal with their emotions in a healthier way.

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What Your Body Looks Like On Worry and Anxiety

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What Your Body Looks Like On Worry and AnxietyMost people think of stress as something that weighs heavily only on your mind and emotions. Its effects, however, can also produce a physical response in your body that can have far-reaching consequences on your overall health.

Your body contains many different organs and systems that work symbiotically to react to both short term and long term mood and anxiety. Learning exactly what those pangs of physical reactions are doing to your body and how to properly manage these situations can help you overcome the mental and physical challenges they present.

Spotting the First Signs

When high-stress situations occur, your brain chemistry and hormone production changes, causing a cascade of reactions down to the rest of your body. Your adrenal system kicks in and the hormone, cortisol, is produced, which has a variety of effects.

At the first sign of anxiety, your heart rate increases, breathing becomes rapid, and the lungs take in more oxygen. Blood flow may actually increase 300%–400% in order to prime the muscles, lungs, and brain. To cope with your body's increased oxygen demands, the spleen becomes more active and discharges more red and white blood cells.

If your voice suddenly becomes creaky or squeaky, or there's a tightness in your throat when you swallow, it's because the body is dispensing fluids from nonessential areas, such as your mouth, to more essential areas of the body, often leaving you with a dry throat. Blood flow gets redirected from the skin so that the supply can be concentrated on the heart and muscle tissues. This is why muscles tighten up, and your skin can feel cold and clammy.

Cortisol also causes the liver produce more glucose, the main fuel your body uses for energy. For most people, excess glucose can be reabsorbed if it isn't used, but if you already have trouble balancing your blood sugar levels, excess glucose can make your levels spike even higher. And one of the more day-to-day effects of stress can be the compromising of your immune system. Once again, cortisol is the main culprit because it suppresses your immune system function, leaving you more susceptible to inflammation and infections.

The Body's Worries Over Time

One of the main concerns about anxiety is if it's constantly present. Besides causing an immediate physical reaction, the long-term effects can negatively influence other important areas of your health, leading to digestion problems, changes in metabolism, and increasing your chances of developing an ulcer. Studies have also linked it to weakened respiratory function.

Those who experience constant anxiety and periods of low moods are more at risk for heart-related concerns due to increased blood flow, higher blood pressure, and an increase in cortisol production. Cortisol is a means to increase blood flow to give you the energy needed to deal with the situation, however, too much of it can overwork the cardiovascular system, eventually weakening it.

Dealing with the Daily Distractions

You cannot completely avoid frustrating situations; it's a natural response of human nature. But there are some immediate and simple ways to deal with it.

Taking a few deep breaths or counting slowly to 10 when you start to feel anxious can help you control the immediate impact it can have on your day. According to the American Heart Association, 10 minutes of peace, quiet, and slow breathing can help you alleviate the influence of stress on your mind and allow your body to relax.

Positive reaffirmation can be beneficial to calming those moments where you feel overwhelmed. Similarly you can find solace throughout your day with common practices such as meditation, yoga, or exercise.

Remaining Aware of the Mind and Body

It's important to pay attention to how much stress you are dealing with in your life and take the appropriate action to avoid the negative health consequences. Give your mind and body the daily support you need so you can take on the task at hand and allowing yourself to maintain a healthy mind and body.

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Science Reveals Instant Mood-Boosting Techniques

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Science Reveals Instant Mood-Boosting TechniquesSeeing the brighter side of life doesn't always come easy to everyone. But what if you could trick your brain into thinking positive thoughts? According to a recent study there are several ways of accomplishing this to help support a positive mind and mood that can influence an overall healthier lifestyle.

Neutral, Duchenne and Chopsticks

Because of the close connection that the mind and body share, researchers wanted to investigate what extent physical signals from the body could influence the mind. Their study centered on smiling. It's already known that feeling good can make you react with a smile, but can forcing a smile, in-turn, make you feel good? To test this hypothesis, researcher Tara Kraft from the University of Kansas gathered 169 participants and trained the volunteers to maintain three separate facial expressions: a neutral expression, a standard smile, and a more empathetic smile called the Duchenne smile, achieved by holding chopsticks in their mouths. While only half the participants were told to smile, researchers explained that having chopsticks in their mouths forced the volunteers to smile without being aware that they were doing so. All of the subjects then participated in stress-inducing tasks such as submerging their hands in ice-cold water and tracing a star with their non-dominant hand while looking at a reflection of the shape in a mirror.

A Smile for Science

Results showed that those who were instructed to smile, (in particular, those who had the Duchenne smiles) had lower heart rates when performing the tasks than those who had neutral expressions. Even those who were unknowingly forced into smiling with the chopsticks in their mouths had a slightly lower heart rate than those who wore neutral expressions. The results, soon to be published in the journal, Psychological Science, give validity to the theory that even a forced smile positively influences the mind into a better mood and can improve other important areas such as stress and heart health. Kraft's research partner, Sarah Pressman, even suggested an everyday application to this theory. "The next time you are stuck in traffic or are experiencing some other type of stress, you might try to hold your face in a smile for a moment," she said.

A Pose for Positive Moods

While a smile may be the easiest way to spontaneously support a good mood there are other poses that have been shown to help support a positive frame of mind. For instance, one study showed that opening up one's body to occupy more space in what's called a "high-power pose" can have positive mental effects and alter hormone levels, too. Those who held high-power poses were more willing to gamble or take risks, pointing to a higher level of confidence and more positive frame of mind. While meditation has long been linked to promoting a sound mind and mood, a 2008 study published in the journal, PLOS ONE, sought to investigate the benefits that yoga poses have on mental well-being. The study showed that breathing mechanisms and relaxed body posture can also help clear the mind and support lower stress levels.

Taking Control of Your Moods

Maintaining a healthy mood shouldn't be thought of as some insurmountable challenge. Everyone has their ups and downs, and understanding the little things you can do throughout your day can help to provide an instant mood boost. Now that you know how powerful your smile can be, use it wisely and often!

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Be Upbeat When It Comes to Heart Health

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https://www.gardavita.com/content/images/thumbs/0000217_daily-multichew-bogo-2x-bottles.jpegAll this month of February America celebrates the amazing human heart with Heart-Health Awareness Month. While heart health consistently ranks as the top health concern in the nation, new research indicates that there are more and more everyday things you can do to sway it in a more positive direction.

Yes, You Can!

The first step in any lifestyle change is having the right attitude. A study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes on 600 patients found that those who took the initiative to exercise and turn their health around significantly increased their life expectancy. Another study in the American Journal of Cardiology also found that having an upbeat attitude actually protected people from heart health risks. A large part of staying positive includes reducing stress. Research published in both the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism and Archives of Internal Medicine found that stress and its associated hormones can put added pressure on your heart. So if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, take time to unwind by engaging in relaxing activities such as reading a book, spending time with friends, or participating in physical activities.

Get Moving

Depending on various factors like age and doctor-recommended restrictions, physical activity is anything that gets you moving to burn calories. From climbing stairs to organized sports, staying active can support a healthy heart and aid circulation. At the very least, start walking; it’s fun, easy, and a sociable exercise. An article in the journal, Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, states that walking can help normalize blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.

Nutrition You Can Live By

Your diet plays an important role in supporting a healthy heart. Even simple things, such as remembering to eat a healthy breakfast, can help lower cardio health risks according to one Harvard study. Certain foods, when added to your diet, aid various aspects such as cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight management. Fish such as salmon, tuna, trout, herring, and mackerel contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help lower blood pressure and triglycerides that can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. The American Heart Association recommends eating these types of fish at least two times a week. Kidney beans or black beans can also be good sources omega-3 fatty acids as well as niacin, folate, magnesium, calcium, and soluble fiber. Even foods like yogurt and supplements containing probiotics have been studied recently for their cholesterol-lowering effects. Besides adding more nutritious foods to your diet, it’s important to cut back on the ones that push your heart health in the wrong direction. One observational study published in BMC Medicine found that cutting back on processed meat consumption to less than 20 grams per day could lower mortality rates by 3.3%. Lowering your consumption of red meat can also lower levels of amino acids that have been linked to heart concerns.

Healthy Snacking

Snacking doesn’t need to be the bane of your diet. Healthy snacks such as almonds and walnuts also contain omega-3s as well as fiber, folate, and magnesium that can boost your nutrition. Oatmeal, whole grains, and flaxseed can provide vitamins, minerals, and nutrients like magnesium, potassium, folate, niacin, calcium, and soluble fiber. Of course, a consistently healthy diet revolves around choosing lots of fruits and vegetables on a regular basis. Avoid fried foods, and foods and drinks with added sugars.

No Ifs, Ands, or “Butts” About It

Enough can’t be said on how much quitting smoking can boost heart health. But if you or someone you know needs yet another to convince them on how much their health can improve by quitting smoking, take a look at this study presented at a meeting held by the American Heart Association: It found that people who smoked fewer than 3.2 packs of cigarettes a day for 10 years could lower their heart illness risk to the same level as nonsmokers in eight years. Even heavy smokers who quit could improve their life expectancy by 35%.

The Power to Change Is in Everyone’s Hands

Some factors such as hereditary genes may be beyond your control, but by believing that you have the power to change your health and by following through with those changes, the power of positive thinking can go a long way. If the state of your heart is weighing heavily on your mind, adopt an upbeat attitude, be more active, eat healthier, and say goodbye to bad habits. Keep your heart in mind this February—and throughout your lifetime—by taking the steps towards greater well-being today!


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