By Rev. Dr. Curt Keller
This final piece in dealing with stress is to focus on factors that can come into play with stress that we may overlook.
We generally accept that physical stress can affect emotional stress and emotional stress can affect physical stress. We also know that it is virtually impossible to live without some degree of stress. Paul uses the illustration of a runner removing as much as possible that could slow him down in a race as a concept in leading our Christian life. We can use that same concept in dealing with stress. After you have worked on having adequate stress relievers, reduce the stress you can and possibly set up some new methods of dealing with stress, how about looking at some lifestyle issues such as what we eat.
Most people in the United States have a diet full of processed foods and lots of hidden sugar. The more most foods are processed, the more important nutrients will be removed and in some cases we are left with foods that really give us no nutritional value, but take energy from us. Proper nutrition helps our brains to function as well as our bodies. Looking at our diets to remove foods that have little or no nutritional value and replacing those foods with healthier choices may help us handle stress better. Doing such can be a step in taking more control of our physical and mental health.
Although I am a vegetarian and like to do organic gardening, I doubt if anyone not already doing so will join me. So I will not ask you do take such a drastic step. However, you can look at your own diets and begin taking steps to eat healthier. Knowing what is in what you eat is important to do. Often it can be as simple as reading the ingredient list. You can also do research on what foods provide little nutritional value, like chips and white bread. You may not want to eliminate these foods entirely (I continue to eat my donuts), but you can cut down on them and increase healthier foods. Remember that labeling can be misleading. “All natural ingredients” may not mean it is healthy as those ingredients may be very processed. “Wheat bread” may be almost all processed flour and have very little or no whole wheat flour in it. You might need to do some extra work to know what foods are actually healthier.
Some behaviors can affect our sleep, which in turn can affect how we deal with stress. Some people like to brag about how little sleep that they need. Studies show that we should be getting around 8 hours of sleep as adults to function at our best. Interrupted sleep reduces the amount of sleep we actually get. Some simple changes can help us sleep better like cutting back on caffeine and alcohol before we go to bed. These are probably some obvious things. Cutting back on dairy may also help. This is less obvious. My professional vocal coach son taught me that vocalists limit dairy as it causes mucus. This mucus can interfere with our breathing when we sleep besides affecting our vocals when we sing. (Getting adequate sleep can also reduce our hunger which can help us manage weight better.)
Our bodies are designed to eliminate some toxins that are introduced into our bodies. Drink plenty of water to help your kidneys function smoothly as they remove waste from our bodies. You can also work on cutting down on foods that might tax the kidneys and liver. You can research what promotes better liver and kidney function and what can harm their functioning.
Do some research and begin to make some changes into what goes into your bodies so that it can be better equipped to handle stress. And in so doing you can view yourself as a whole in which your mental health, your physical health and your spiritual health all affect one another.