Sunday, December 29, 2013

How childhood stress affects us negatively as adults

Living with domestic violence, living in poverty or in a threatening neighbourhood, being made to work in uncomfortable or unsafe conditions or living with a family or orphanage where one experiences abuse or neglect are just some of the chronic stressors some people experienced as children.

We’ve seen how some of these children grow up and turn to alcohol, drugs or sex to escape reality. It’s common knowledge that a bad childhood leaves emotional scars that remains with us through adulthood and affects how we think and act, but what do scientific findings say about this?

A study published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has turned its particular focus on poverty and its relationship to how the brain works as an adult in terms of dealing with negative emotions. Researchers found that study participants who were from lower family incomes at age 9 showed more activity in the regions of the brain associated with psychological disorders related to emotions such as depression, anxiety, impulsive aggression and substance abuse when they became adults. These people showed less activity in the region of the brain known for its role in dealing with negative emotions.
Dr. K. Luan Phan, psychiatry professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine and senior author of the study said that the negative effect of poverty may lead to “a cascade of increasing risk factors” for the kids to fall into physical and psychological troubles in adulthood. The most important takeaway from the findings, according to Dr. Phan, was how much chronic stress an individual goes through from childhood through adolescence, and this determined the extent to which poverty affected brain functioning when dealing with emotions, particularly negative ones.

The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University adds to this by saying that a childhood filled with positive experiences lays the foundation for healthy adults who are of great benefit to society by contributing in a valuable and productive way.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Simple and inexpensive solutions to fight holiday stress

It’s the most wonderful time of the year...

Or so the song says. For children maybe because all they have to do is eat, receive gifts and sign the occasional card for relatives, but for us adults who have to deal with nightmarish traffic, huge crowds, long shopping lists and party after party this could easily be the most stressful time of the year.

In our last post we talked about various holiday stressors, how the body reacts to stress and how this leads to weight gain. In this follow-up article we’ll share some ways validated by experts to help you cope with holiday stress. By staying relaxed, calm and energized you can actually enjoy time spent away from work and among the company of loved ones, and keep your waist trim in the process!
These methods are easy to do or find and won’t necessarily require you to wish Santa for a bigger bank account.

·         Spend a day out in the sun. This encourages the body to produce the feel-good hormone serotonin and provides required Vitamin D3, which is crucial for regulating some of our important functions like appetite, sleep, mood and behavior. It is also a natural way to ease Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, a debilitating form of depression caused by the change in season when days become short and cold. Get together with some friends and have a picnic at your favourite outdoor hangout or take the kids and pets out to the park. If you don’t have the time or patience for the crowd outside, opening doors and windows to let those golden rays in is a good alternative.

·         Savour the fragrance of citrus. A study done by researchers at the Mie University School of Medicine in Japan found that citrus fragrance reduced the doses of antidepressants needed to treat depressive patients. Citrus essential oils also do the trick if you need a quick pick-me-up at the office.

·         Get moving! Got a few hours in the morning to spare before work? Jog a few rounds around the block or walk briskly for at least a half hour. We all know it feels good afterward, but what’s the science behind? According to Dr. Ann Kulze, a respected expert on wellness and nutrition, the rhythm and repetition from walking or jogging has a tranquilizing effect on the brain, which translates to decreasing anxiety and improving the quality of sleep.

An even better idea is to combine the first three tips. Get up early in the morning when the sun isn’t too hot yet, walk briskly to the local supermarket or farm and get yourself a bag of oranges or lemons to eat or make into a delicious juice for breakfast.

·         Squeeze, squeeze. In traditional Chinese medicine, pressing the hoku spot or the fleshy area located between your index finger and thumb firmly for 30 seconds reduces stress and tension in the upper body. You can easily do this yourself whenever you start to feel overwhelmed from the long line at the checkout counter or while waiting for a cab that never seems to materialize when you need it most.

·         Find time for laughter. Alright, spending an hour (or a few) to watch Jimmy Kimmel or a Jim Carey flick on your couch might not be too practical if you barely have enough time to chew your food during meals but that doesn’t mean you have to wear a frown the whole day. Stuck in unmoving traffic or waiting for an appointment? Browse through a collection of photos on your phone and have a laugh-fest of your most silly, “what-was-I-thinking?” moments. YouTube on your mobile is also very handy in these situations.

Whatever difficulty we found ourselves in, it’s important to remember that the quality of life we live depends largely on perspective. Hey, even the rich and famous have their own share of feuds, divorces and bad hair days too. If you always find time to be grateful for every blessing that came your way and strive to see the good that has the potential to come out in every situation, you will find that these stressors we go through are merely ‘hiccups’ compared to the happiness we get from life. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Holiday Stress - Another Reason for Weight Gain

As if the overflowing food and drinks from parties and dinners this month and early the next aren’t enough reasons to pile on the pounds, the stress we experience during this time is another reason for weight gain.
Preparing meals, buying and wrapping gifts, looking for the perfect outfit to complement each event we attend can leave us in a constant state of motion as we go all over town. Others who do not have family or partners face a different type of stress as they deal with loneliness and depression in the season where everyone is under pressure to be in a festive mood.

All of these add on to the pressures we already experience from our daily life of dealing with projects, bosses, clients, heavy traffic, bills, spouses and children.

What goes on inside – how the body reacts to stress
Our body has a built-in mechanism for handling stress. This set of physiological and biological reactions give you a burst of energy needed during make-or-break, dangerous situations. Whenever you experience an acute stressor, adrenal glands release the stress hormone cortisol into the bloodstream. This results to a surge in blood sugar which the body can use to fuel urgent actions like fighting and running or its modern-day equivalents of slamming on the car breaks, sprinting to catch the last bus or going after the colleague that spreads false rumours about you in the office.

Once the problem has been dealt with, the cortisol exits your system and the body resumes its normal metabolic state. Unfortunately, with our modern pressure-filled lifestyle we simply swap one form of stressor for another as we go through the day.

During the holidays, stress is compounded as we have to deal with additional expenses and additional responsibilities on top of pressures from work and the people we interact with on a daily basis. 
Holiday shopping, writing and mailing Christmas cards, getting the house decorated, preparing for the Christmas and New Year’s Eve meals and the various get-togethers we attend leading up to these two big occasions can leave us feeling overwhelmed. It leads to chronic stress as we feel there is always something that still needs to be done and we don’t have enough time or resources.
Biologically, this causes significant metabolic imbalances and constantly elevated cortisol levels. This means blood sugar is always being readied to provide energy. It doesn’t have a good effect if this happens often.

Most of these mini-stressors we encounter do not require us to exert a lot of physical effort, unlike with our ancestors whose ‘emergency’ situations consisted of fleeing from storms and wild animals or walking long distances to look for food.

All of the excess sugar, generated by too much cortisol that does not get used as energy is stored as body fat. Elevated cortisol also results to a drop in serotonin, the hormone which regulates mood, sleep and appetite, among others. Low serotonin levels send a message to the brain to crave sugar and eat more to address the deficiency. Since most of the food available on the Christmas table is already fatty or sweet to begin with, eating more than what your body needs to deal with stress predisposes it to store more fat.
You can ease your stress, decrease your cravings and get control of your weight today with CortiSLIM!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Does CortiSLIM work?

Do you live a hectic and stress-filled life?
Have you noticed your pants are fitting a little tighter than they used to?
If you find yourself doing all the right things and yet you are still struggling with belly fat --

It’s not your fault!
Studies have linked our busy, stress-filled lives to a hormone called, “Cortisol”.
Cortisol releases glucose, protein and fat into your bloodstream to give you energy to handle your stress. Your body stores this unused energy around the abdominal organs. This type of fat, known as visceral fat, is most damaging to your health and can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

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Managing Work Stress

I have had some stressful jobs in my past and each stressful in their own way. One was performance-based stressed and the other all based on interpersonal-stress. I’m sure everyone could tell a story about a job with a particular stressor.

Today’s fast-paced and high-pressure lifestyle often pushes us beyond our physical and mental limits. In urban cities and highly developed countries, it is not uncommon for lawyers to clock in 90 hours a week, doctors to work in 30 consecutive-hour shifts, and soldiers to go on days without proper sleep during missions. Even regular eight-hour shifters are not spared as they are often required to render overtime and forego their rest days during busy periods on a business. All of this causes enormous amounts of stress that result to health and relationship problems, further adding to the strain already felt in the first place.

This problem is further worsened by the prevailing culture which inspires admiration and offers rewards for those who disregard rest and relaxation to put in all the time they can spare and absorb tremendous pressure from bosses, colleagues and clients at work. As the popular saying goes, "The only difference between a diamond and a lump of coal is that the diamond had a little more pressure put on it." This sends a clear message that those who are not willing to go beyond what is increasingly becoming a ‘normal’ long task list and work hours are easily laid off or have fewer opportunities for career growth.

Still, we need to manage stress as all of us need to work to live comfortably and provide for our family. As any good soldier will tell you, in order to defeat the enemy, you must first get to know it well. Here are the different types of on-the-job stress and how to deal with each one:

·         Time stress. Impending deadline. Stuck in traffic and going late for an important meeting or presentation. Being too tired after work to spend quality time with the family. Time stress happens when you feel there aren’t enough hours in the day so you can do everything you need to do, and because of this you feel powerless, trapped, and unhappy.

How to manage it: Time management is an important skill you must develop so you can be productive not just during work, but when you get home and face your responsibilities there as well. Make a to-do list where your tasks are listed in order of priority. If possible, estimate how much time you will take up for each and stick to it. Put a small clock in your desk if necessary so you are aware of the passage of time. Clear up all non-essential apps and games on your PC. No gaming, posting or tweeting on the job! And don’t be tempted to use your smartphone either. Disable your Wi-Fi if needed so you can concentrate on the task at hand. You’ll have all the time to do these later during breaks and after work hours. If you feel like you’re frequently biting off more work than you can chew, learn to politely but firmly say “no”.

·         Anticipatory stress. This kind of stress happens when you worry too much about the future. It may either be concerned on a specific event such as an upcoming presentation, or a general sense of dread about the future when you feel your expectations will not be met or that you will fail.

How to manage it: Two words: positive thinking. Anticipatory stress is based on future events and because you do not have full control over what happens in the future, if you can’t help thinking about it at least think about it going positively. Create a scenario in your mind where you feel powerful and in control. Instead of fretting about the presentation turning into a mess, imagine you having a satisfied smile on your face as you finish and the people in front of you clapping or nodding in agreement. Create a contingency plan of every scenario where things can go wrong and how you will react it. If you feel you are well prepared to face an uncertain situation, the knowledge that you have planned for it well gives you confidence to face it.

·         Situational stress. This involves a situation where you feel you cannot control things, as in an emergency, calamity, conflict, diminished status or loss of acceptance from an important person or in a group you strongly identify with. Specific events include being in conflict with someone or making a major blunder during a group activity that caused the group’s performance to fail. Even witnessing people arguing in front of you already puts you in a situational stress.

How to manage it: Everyone reacts to this type of stress differently. Some may withdraw emotionally and cry in a corner. Others shout or act aggressively. However you choose to react, be aware of how you respond physically and emotionally to a stressor. If you tend to withdraw, learn how to think on your feet so you can communicate better and release the steam off. If you are the aggressive type, take stock of your emotions. Just before you’re about to “go over the edge” simply walk away from the situation and come back later with a cooler head. Stay in a quiet, relaxing room and take long, deep breaths.

·         Encounter stress. Dreading the meeting with top management or a client who doesn’t have a particularly good reputation? Encounter stress occurs when you worry about interacting with people you don’t like or think are unpredictable. This will also happen if you feel drained or overwhelmed from contact with so many people. Let’s face it, not everyone you meet on the job is open to what you do nor do they welcome the intrusion by unfamiliar faces.

How to manage it: Since this type of stress is entirely focused on how you relate to people, if it’s unavoidable in your job now would be the time to brush up on your people skills. Develop your emotional intelligence, or the ability to recognize the emotions and needs of others. Have empathy too. Put yourself in their shoes and ask: “what would I do if I were them?” A little more patience wouldn’t hurt as well, especially when dealing with crowds.

The problem with all this stress is the Cortisol our bodies produce when stress is consistently at an all-time high. Cortisol releases glucose, protein and fat into your bloodstream to give you energy to handle your stress. Your body stores this unused energy around the abdominal organs. This type of fat, known as visceral fat, is most damaging to your health and can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

CortiSLIM will help your body burn fat more efficiently, it will help you manage your stress effectively, and will help increase your metabolism allowing you to shed those unwanted pounds faster and get your body back on the right track.