Up to 90% of doctor visits caused by a stress-related illness. 43% of all adults suffer noticeable physical and emotional symptoms of
Stress costs Canada: up to $33 billion/year in health claims, disability days, and sick-day costs. “Stress absence has increased 316%
since 1995”. Definition of stress: “any real or imagined threat and your body’s response to it”. Celebrations and tragedies alike can
cause a stress response in your body (good or bad stress is the same).
Some stress is unavoidable; the only stress-free situation is death. A stressor becomes a problem when:
Your response to it is negative
Your feelings and emotions are inappropriate for the circumstances (overreactions)
Your response lasts an excessively long time
You’re feeling continuously overwhelmed, overpowered, or overworked
The General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) : The initial response to stress is the alarm reaction – ‘fight or flight
response’. The alarm reaction is triggered by brain reactions which cause the pituitary gland to release ACTH which causes the
adrenals to secrete adrenaline and other stress-related hormones like cortisol. The alarm response is designed to counteract danger
by mobilizing the body’s resources for immediate physical activity.
The body responds by: increasing HR, increasing blood flow to the muscles and brain, increasing breathing rate, increasing sweat to
eliminate toxins and to lower body temperature, severely reducing digestive secretions, and significantly increasing blood sugar
levels as the liver dumps stored glucose into the blood stream for quick and easy energy; The alarm phase is meant to be short-lived.
The next phase the resistance-reaction allows the body to continue fighting the stressor long after the effects of the alarm phase
have worn off. Cortisol and other corticosteroids are largely responsible for the resistance reaction These hormones stimulate
the conversion of protein to energy (muscle wasting) as well as promote the retention of sodium to keep BP elevated. Resistance
reaction provides changes required for meeting an emotional crisis, performing a strenuous task, and fighting infection. Prolonging
the resistance reaction or continued stress increase the risk of significant disease and results in the final stage of GAS – exhaustion.
This is when you see significant health impacts from stress. If continued major adaptation is required, or a number of adaptations ar
required over time, the neuroendocrine and immune systems are seriously taxed.
8 Physical Indicators Reflecting High Stress
1) Increases in BP
2) Increases in blood cholesterol levels
3) Increases in fat around the abdomen
4) Increases in blood sugar (could cause diabetes)
5) Increases in levels of cortisol
6) Suppressed immunity
7) Bone loss
8) Weaker muscles
Stress is a combination of the stressor and the way the stressor is perceived by the individual. If it is believed that a situation will
result in loss, harm, threat, or challenge, then stress is experienced.
The situation and the person’s appraisal of it work together to create the stress. Those who have a lot of resources available to meet
the challenge, have less stress.
Psychosomatic diseases - Not all in the mind, they are real; physiological changes do occur. The mind and body are an interrelated
whole; what affects one ultimately affects the other. Health Problems
Stress has been implicated in: stroke, coronary heart disease, ulcers, migraine headaches and tension headaches, cancer (endocrine
and immune system become compromised), allergies, asthma, hay fever, rheumatoid arthritis, backache, diabetes.
Other health problems associated with stress are: Digestive problems (such as stomach aches, diarrhea, constipation, irritable
bowel syndrome), insomnia and fatigue, injuries (including on-the-job injuries caused by repetitive strain), menstrual irregularities,
psychological problems (including: depression, anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder), and
impotence and pregnancy complications.
Cognitive symptoms (mental): memory problems, inability to concentrate, poor judgement, pessimism, anxious or racing thoughts,
and constant worrying.
Emotional symptoms: moodiness, irritability or short temper, agitation, inability to relax, feeling overwhelmed, sense of loneliness
and isolation, and depression of general unhappiness.
Physical symptoms: aches and pains, diarrhoea or constipation, nausea, dizziness, chest pain, rapid HR, loss of sex drive, and
Behavioural symptoms: eating more or less, sleeping too much or too little, isolating yourself, procrastinating of neglecting
responsibilities, using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax, and nervous habits.
As stress increases, productivity and effectiveness decrease.
You can’t separate your wellness from your emotions; every feeling you have
affects some part of your body creating physiological changes. Your skin, HR,
digestion, joints, muscle energy levels, etc. can change with emotion.
Stress can wreak havoc even if you’re doing everything else ‘right’ (exercise
1) Develop positive coping strategies
2) Get a good sleep
3) Stabilize blood sugar levels
4) Nourish your body and brain (nutrition):
5) Manage your life
1) Coping Strategies Negative strategies include: dependence on chemicals [drugs, alcohol, tobacco], overeating, too
much TV, emotional outbursts, feelings of helplessness, overspending, excessive behaviour
450-million cups of coffee consumed daily
20-million drink 6+ cups of coffee a day
30% smoke at least half a pack of cigarettes daily
30+% consume more than 4 alcoholic drinks daily
10 billion tranquilizers are swallowed each year
Your mind is a powerful tool in determining how you feel; you can use your mind to create powerful positive emotions that can give
you a natural high that can help you cope with stress
Seven Steps to a Stress-Busting Attitude
• 1. Become an optimist: focus on the positives even in challenging situations
2. Become aware of self-talk: our self-talk makes an impression on our sub-conscious mind; focus on the positives
3. Ask Better Questions: the quality of your life is equal to the quality of the questions you habitually ask yourself
whatever you are asking yourself, your brain will get the answer. When the mind is searching for answers to your questions,
it is reprogramming your subconscious into believing you have an abundance of energy. 4. Employ Positive Affirmations: an affirmation is a statement with emotional intensity behind it positive affirmations
can make imprints on the subconscious mind to create a healthy, positive self image. Affirmations can fuel the changes you
desire. Always phrase an affirmation positively and in the present tense associate with positive feelings; imagine that it has
already come to pass.
5. Set Positive Goals: state in positive terms and in present tense; SuPerSMART (self-controllable, public, specific,
measurable, alterable, realistic, time frame) format.
6. Practice Positive Visualizations: for ideal health, you must picture yourself in ideal health if you want to experience this
state; research on the power of visualization involves enhancing the immune system in the treatment of cancer.
7. Laugh Long and Often: humour may be the most powerful stress-buster around. Research has discovered that laughing
enhances the immune system and promotes improved physiology; it improves CV function; plays an active part in the
release of endorphins and other mood-elevating and pain-killing chemicals
2) Get a Good Sleep
Many health problems (depression, fatigue, fibromyalgia, etc.) are associated with sleep deprivation or disturbed sleep. People who
take sleeping pills die sooner than people who do not use sleeping pills. Deaths from common causes such as heart disease, cancer,
and stroke were all increased among sleeping pill users. Daily use of sleeping pills increased suicide risk by 7x in men and 2x in
3) Stabilize Blood Sugar Levels
blood glucose rises after meals, insulin is secreted lowering blood glucose by increasing the rate at which glucose is taken up by
• Declines in blood glucose can cause the release of adrenaline and cortisol
• Insulin resistance is the greatest threat to the health of most people -> underlying factor leading to weight gain, the inability
to lose weight, increased risk of heart disease, and type-2 diabetes As fat cells in the abdomen grow in size or number, they
secrete biologic products (i.e. resistin) that dampen the effect of insulin, impair glucose utilization in skeletal muscle, and
promote glucose production by the liver; and reduce the secretion of compounds that promote insulin action (i.e.
adiponectin). Adiponectin is associated with improved insulin sensitivity and has anti-inflammatory properties, lowers
triglycerides and blocks the development of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
• Insulin resistance causes blood sugar volatility, leading to repeated secretion of adrenaline and cortisol (i.e. effects of fight
or flight response). Elevated cortisol are associated with increased feelings of stress, depression, insomnia, high BP, loss of
appetite control, cravings for sugar, muscle catabolism, and weight gain (cortisol signals the brain to eat more and increases
the amount of visceral (abdominal) fat). Many of the detrimental effects of cortisol on appetite, mood, and sleep are the
result of lowered brain serotonin levels (serotonin promotes relaxation and positive mood. When serotonin is low, CHO
• As long as a person has either insulin resistance or high cortisol levels, serotonin levels will be low, resulting in strong CHO
cravings, depression, or insomnia.
• To control blood sugar levels: eat low GI foods, low GL (glycemic load – amount of CHO in a serving = GL 10 and under is
low) and high fiber foods. Foods that are mostly water, fiber, or air will not cause a steep rise in blood sugar.
4) Nourish Your Body and Brain
Adrenal glands needs support; potassium (K) is key to this. Most have a dietary K:Na ratio of <1:2; research recommends a dietary
K:Na ratio of >5:1 a natural diet rich in fruits and veggies can produce a K:Na ratio of >50:1 as most fruits and veggies have a ratio
A significant amount of research indicates that the optimal level for many nutrients, especially the antioxidants (vitamins C
and E, beta-cartene, and selenium) may be much higher than their current RDI. The RDIs (recommended daily intake) do
not take into consideration environmental and lifestyle factors (smokers require 2x as much vitamin C as non-smokers).
RDIs only define minimum amounts, not optimal. Vitamin C, B6, zinc, magnesium, and pantothenic acid are key in protecting against the effects of stress. During times of stress these nutrients in the adrenals drop to low levels when
stressed you need more vitamin C to support the immune system.
Pantothenic acid (a B vitamin found in legume, cauliflower, broccoli, salmon, yams, and tomato) deficiency results in
adrenal atrophy characterized by fatigue, headache, sleep disturbances, nausea, and abdominal discomfort; recommended
take at least an additional 100mg daily. Suggest taking a high quality multivitamin and mineral supplement as an insurance
policy. Fish oil = recommended.
Most consume far too many omega-7 oils and insufficient omega-3s; a deficiency in omega-3s increases risk for heart
disease, stroke, cancer, arthritis, high BP, diabetes, and depression. Longer chain omega-3s (cold water fish) are particularly
important for good health; critical for cell membrane integrity. Omega 3-s are critical for brain function (depression,
anxiety, and Alzheimer’s) linked to omega-3 deficiency.
Both depression and anxiety enhance the production of cytokines, pro-inflammatory compounds. Research has shown that
increased omega-3 and decreased omega-6 can have a positive effect on depression and anxiety and decrease cytokine
Recommendation for general health is : 1000mg of EPA/DHA daily; to reduce inflammation or lower triglyceride levels and
3000 mg EPA/DHA daily
5) Manage Your Life
Plan out your day, every day; it helps you keep your life on course and reduce stress.
Time management: people who do not manage their time properly may experience chronic stress, fatigue, despair, discouragement,
and illness (because exercise isn’t part of their daily routine). The greatest demands on our time are self-imposed. Taking a few
minutes to schedule your time each day pays off in many saved hours. Pick your best hours for top-priority activities.
Making time for exercise is not wasted time; it increases productivity, learning, and retention
Learn to delegate and say no without any guilt!
Don’t be a