Smorgasbord Health Column – UnSeasonal Affective Disorder #Lockdown #Elderly – Part One by Sally Cronin


Normally I would refer to Seasonal Affective Disorder in February as the winter months take their toll on our physical, mental and emotional health. However, reading the various reports in the media on Vitamin D Deficiency being one of the causes for susceptibility to Covid-19 and raised concerns on the levels of mental health issues including depression, the comments from readers who are experiencing lack of energy and focus, I began to see some parallels to SAD, but six months ahead of schedule.

Care homes and lockdown

Usually care homes have some garden or outside facilities for residents to walk and interact with each other in daylight and sunshine in particular, but with lock down over the summer months that has been in the main prohibited. Also elderly who live in sheltered housing, apartments and other homes without back gardens have also been denied that very important immune boosting few months before winter hits.

The Summer

The weather here is not brilliant but we can usually rely on about six weeks of summer but this year that has not been the case with more rain than usual and grey days.  I know that is mirrored in much of the UK and combined with restrictions on exercise, and now the wearing of masks, none of us have recharged our Vitamin D batteries effectively. Holidays outside of our own local area were only allowed for a brief few weeks and not every family was able to take advantage of that lifting of restrictions. Hundreds of thousands of tourists who might have got a boost by hitting foreign beaches were also unable to do so this year and whilst just 14 days is not sufficient to last all winter, it certainly gives Vitamin D levels a much needed boost.

The Winter ahead.

Many of us face the threat of another more restrictive lockdown in coming weeks and with six months of winter ahead our access to sunlight, fresh air and exercise is going to be further restricted. This includes for example, those retirees who normally head off to the sunshine states in America or an apartment in the south of Europe who will be unable to do so because of  restrictions on travel or quarantine measures.

Children in school may not be getting as much playtime as normal, and certainly the weather during the next few months is going to prohibit that to a greater extent.

This puts thousands of men, women and children at further risk of contracting influenza and colds, and possibly Covid-19.

Diet

For the last six months a high percentage of elderly and at risk men and women have been reliant on food deliveries or others to buy their food. There has also been a reliance on packaged food bought to stock larders in case of shortages. Whilst many will have managed to obtain fresh produce, there will be some who have had a nutritionally poor diet for the last six months. Without those essential nutrients, they are going into the winter months without the necessary protection.

I am going to post two parts of this series a week as I do believe that we are going to have to be responsible for beating the effects of SAD which already seems to be making its presence felt.

Here is a little more about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

The typical symptoms of SAD include depression, lack of energy, increased need for sleep, a craving for sweets and weight gain. Symptoms begin in the fall, peak in the winter and usually resolve in the spring. Some individuals experience great bursts of energy and creativity in the spring or early summer. Susceptible individuals who work in buildings without windows may experience SAD-type symptoms at any time of year.

Some people with SAD have mild or occasionally severe periods of mania during the spring or summer. If the symptoms are mild, no treatment may be necessary. If they are problematic, then a mood stabilizer such as Lithium might be considered. There is a smaller group of individuals who suffer from summer depression.

I believe that a great many more people currently have fallen into that latter group due to lock down and are already suffering from this condition.

My experience with SAD.

I loved summer in Madrid where we lived most of the time for 17 years – long sunny days, heat of the sun as I worked in the garden or swam (lots of Vitamin D and more about that on Friday), crisp salads and lots of fish and protein, being tanned (safely of course) and sitting at 10 at night watching the sun going down. Autumn was also a very pleasant season – beautiful colours in the garden – still sunny days – little nip in the air – prospect of getting the leather jacket out of the depths of the wardrobe, a move to slightly more carbohydrates in the diet. Nuts and seeds, porridge with a little honey…lovely.

Then winter……………for millions of people around the world the lights go off. Add the fact that for many of those millions, their diet consists of white fats, grains and sugars and their bodies are not prepared for the plunge into darkness. And, because their diet is not going to change through the winter months the symptoms of SAD will only intensify. The symptoms are varied but include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Unexplained weight gain and loss
  • Slow growth in children,
  • Overeating of carbohydrates and sugars
  • Insomnia
  • Increased infections.

For me the last four winters have been hard. Not because it has been cold but because most days it has been grey. I do not like the dark days and although I include foods that contain Vitamin D in my daily diet I do require it in supplemental form too.. I will talk about that at the end of the series.

Over the years of working with clients in relation to their weight and other dietary issues, it was clear that during the winter months, it was substantially more difficult to lose weight

A place to start to discover the origins of SAD is the caves of our ancestors and my hypothesis as to why our bodies have not adapted to this ultra high tech modern world of ours as fast as our minds have.

The Clan of the Cave Bear

Reading Jean M. Auel’s books, starting with the Clan of the Cave Bear back in the 80’s, was a revelation for me when I was determined to sort my health and weight out. Jean was decorated by the French Government for her work and her research alongside anthropologists was evident throughout her books which I highly recommend.

I would like you to consider this.

DNA mutations occur in humans rarely, about every 10,000 to 12,000 years. So for the sake of argument let us take a quick trip back in time.

Neanderthals, Prehistoric, Mountains

During the summer months the clan would hunt, fish, gather nuts and seeds, possibly some root vegetables and some green edible shoots and leaves. All would have been seasonal and most would have been consumed at the time. However, fats from their meats would have been used along with nuts and seeds to make long lasting cake and stored probably in gourds or leaves and used by hunters heading out as well as for the winter months. Meat and fish was dried in the sun both at the time of the hunt and for transport back to the cave but also during the months of abundance for consumption in the winter months.

nuts and seedsAutumn in particular would have been a wonderful opportunity for finding fruit, seeds and nuts and of course these could be sweetened with honey.

Night, Moon, Allgäu, Mountains, Alpine

Then came the dark of winter – there are various theories about when fire was discovered but probably quite early on from natural events such as lightening strikes that caused bushes to combust, and as man developed he would have exploited this resource – probably 10,000 years ago someone had discovered that liquid fat in a gourd burns and provided light but for all intents and purposes the dark came and stayed for many months.

Apart from opportune kills and for the lucky ones on the coast who could fish, the reliance was on stored foods. If it had been a lousy hunting season and poor autumn for nuts and seeds, many starved to death, especially the very young and elderly. What do you do in the dark months anyway? Most babies were born in the late spring! Still happens today in the winter months following winter power outages!

Imagine a world without any stimulation except for a few brief hours a day when you would rush around getting firewood if available – collecting water or snow in the depths of winter for drinking water, hunting for the few animals still awake. Then back to the cave where I guess apart from interaction between the clan, working in dim light on essential tasks, it would be nibbling on the sweet stored cake and the dried meat and then sleeping until the sun came up the next day.

Back to the present day, for our minds perhaps; but I believe that our bodies have not evolved enough yet. Remember that our world that we know and understand with all its sophisticated technology is really only around 150 years old. Our DNA is about 9,850 years adrift. Therefore, SAD is not a disorder, illness or disease but our natural winter state.

And, if you are going to try and alleviate the symptoms associated with this natural, semi hibernating condition, you need to do so with the right type of diet and exercise.

If you have been reading my blog about some of our modern lifestyle diseases you will have already twigged that the diet that I enjoy and have introduced to my clients, readers and listeners over the years is simply this.

  • Natural unprocessed meats,
  • Healthy Fats such as olive oil and butter
  • Moderate wholegrains
  • Poultry
  • Oily fish
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Root Vegetables
  • Green Vegetables
  • Seasonal Fruits
  • Honey
  • Minimum industrially manufactured foods

As you can see nothing new in history and not something I invented but my great grandmother several times removed. Meet Helena – The first of my clan circa 20,000 years ago

518aYh2HYEL._UY250_

Our diet is critical if we are to avoid experiencing the symptoms of SAD during the next few months until spring. We need to ensure that we are consuming fresh foods that contain nutrients that are necessary for the chemical reactions in the brain and our bloodstream that maintain our physical, mental and emotional well-being..

In the following posts I am going to be writing about the most important ingredients in our food that will encourage our bodies to stay well and also promote emotional and mental health as we head into the winter months…..Including Vitamin D and Tryptophan.

©Just Food for Health 1998 – 2020

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-two years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: My books and reviews 2020

Your feedback is always welcome and if you do find that following any of the posts that I have shared are beneficial then it would be great to hear about it. If you have any questions you can email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com.

 

 

 

Smorgasbord Health 2017- Weight Reduction – Stress factor.


Smorgasbord Health 2017

Stress is the modern equivalent of being chased by a mammoth which you promised your wife you would bring back for dinner and knowing how ‘disappointed’ she is going to be when you fail to do so! In our modern world we have a different set of stress triggers and it can certainly cause you to gain weight and certainly sabotage your efforts to lose excess fat. Stress is silent and can be deadly. It is useful to understand why we react in this way and to manage this natural response to life’s ups and downs.

mammoth

WHAT CAUSES A STRESS REACTION?

Stress is the modern day equivalent of our ancestral ‘fight or flight’ mechanism that was necessary in the highly competitive and predatory world throughout our evolution. There may no longer be cave lions or mammoths in our world but the modern day alternatives can be just as daunting.

A threatening or tense situation triggers this stress response demanding that we take physical action. Unfortunately most modern day stress involves situations that we cannot run away from such as relationship issues, a demanding job and boss, financial worries and traffic jams on the way home. There are two types of stress. Acute and Chronic stress and both have very distinctive patterns.

Acute stress is a short-term response by the body’s sympathetic nervous system and the response may only last for a few minutes, days or a few weeks. How many times have you said that your heart stopped or your stomach lurched during a moment of intense stress such as an accident? We have all heard stories of mothers and fathers who have been suddenly infused with superhuman strength and able to lift cars and other heavy objects off their trapped children. They are empowered to do this by the actions of their body in a moment of crisis.

Blood sugar levels rise and additional red blood cells are released to carry strength giving oxygen levels a boost. The pulse quickens, blood pressure rises and the digestive process stops to enable the focus to be entirely on regaining safety.

Chronic Stress is when this acute stress response is repeated on a continuous basis. Whilst the body after a few hundred thousand years is well able to handle the occasional stress response and in fact uses it positively, if the response becomes a normal way of life, other parts of the brain and body become involved leading to long term damage.

For example on-going stress causes the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland that are the master controllers for the body to release a chemical called ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) which stimulates the adrenal gland to produce and release cortisol which disrupts sleep patterns leading to increased levels of stress. Our bodies are simply not designed to live at high alert for sustained periods of time; it just wears it down leading to illness.

Symptoms of stress can be subtle such as fatigue, insomnia, depression, headaches, back or neck pain, irritability and sudden weight loss or gain. The less common but more damaging are heart palpitations, shortness of breath, diarrhoea, nausea, panic attacks, inability to concentrate and chronic fear. If not controlled stress leads to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and ulcers. Mental health is also affected as people struggle to contain what is essentially a heightened sense of fear.

HOW DOES THIS AFFECT WEIGHT GAIN AND LOSS?

I understand after all these years, that my relationship with food has always been dependent on my stress levels. It is learned behaviour. As a child our parents or older family members did not just reward us with sweets and food if we had been good. They would also indulge us if we skinned our knees, banged our heads, were frightened by next door’s dog, and had an earache. How many of us have run off, lost sight of our mother or father, been in panic mode, been found and given a great big hug, lots of attention even if it meant being scolded, everybody so happy to see you. “Come on we will all have an ice-cream. That will make it feel better”. How many times have we seen the toddler, working up a head of steam, stamping feet, getting red in the face being appeased by a cuddle and some food?

What I want to illustrate is that we are not just at the mercy of outside stress we also are quite capable of working ourselves up into a frenzy and creating a physical response that activates all the same reactions. The expression “worrying myself to death” is firmly established in our modern language.

If you are mentally, physically and emotionally under pressure, being concerned about the food you are putting in your mouth seems to take a back seat. Just give me chocolate!

baby-eating-chocolate

Also when hormones like cortisol which have normal, daily functions in the body are being secreted all the time, some of your maintenance systems are affected. Cortisol should be at different levels at certain times of the day – highest in the morning and lowest last thing at night. This makes sense as it helps maintain a healthy blood pressure, raising it early in the morning as you wake up and decreasing it as you go to sleep.

You can imagine how confused the body is going to get if you are pumping cortisol into the system at increased levels throughout the day in response to your stress triggers. Cortisol is also necessary for metabolism or the fats and carbohydrates that we eat for that fast hit of energy and also the management of insulin and blood sugar levels.

We all know that sugar high that we get after eating too many sweet foods and then the sudden drop that urges us to consume even more of the nectar…. And that is why diving into the chocolate biscuits or the tub of ice-cream when stressed is so predictable. Particular if this has been your learned response since childhood.

As I mentioned earlier during a stress response the digestive process stops. That may be fine for an hour or two but if you are stressed the whole time you are not going to be able to process any healthy foods that you do eat efficiently. Long term this can lead to nutritional deficiency syndrome that encourages your body to store rather that utilise fat.

So if you are on a weight loss programme and even if you are eating a wonderfully rich diet of unprocessed foods, if you do not get your stress levels reduced, you will find it difficult to lose the excess weight.

HOW CAN WE MANAGE MODERN DAY STRESS AND SUCCESSFULLY LOSE WEIGHT?

When I started this theme of weight loss, I mentioned that we need to have a three dimensional approach to losing weight.

Physically, mentally and emotionally.

The physical is getting the foods right and by consuming non industrialised foods (some of our foods have to be processed such as milk, cheese so it is wrong to cut out all processed foods). We also need to limit our sugary food intake as this causes a chemical imbalance in our blood that encourages storage particularly around our middles. You need to consistently provide your body with the basic nutrients it needs on a daily basis to function efficiently and healthily.

But you also need to back this up by recognising where you are in real terms in the stress cycle – acute or chronic? Is the stress external or are you the one that is creating the stress yourself. Whatever the origin you have to learn how to drop the threat level. This is not just about losing weight but preventing possible long term health problems.

A major challenge is to make the stress in your life work for you instead of against you. Stress is now on tap 24/7; you only have to switch on a communication device including the mobile one in your pocket, to get a slice of world stress. At another level we have our own personal stress and we also affected by the stress we inflict on others around us. We have all heard the term ‘mass hysteria’ and you can see the affect if you watch an audience of mainly teenage girls at a One Direction concert. Within minutes thousands are screaming, crying, some are distraught. This might only be for a 2 hour concert but it is still a stress reaction. In more subtle ways this happens to our family and friends as our behaviour raises their stress levels. You need to recognise if this is your pattern and if so learn how to adapt that behaviour for your own health’s sake and those around you.

Finding ways to reduce both externally and internally created stress is a challenge. It is unique and personal to each of us because we all handle it in a different way. So personal in fact that what may be relaxing for one person may be extremely stressful to another. One person may delight in throwing themselves out of a plane at 15,000 feet attached to a small, silk umbrella which would frankly freak me out!! A busy executive might find a beach holiday boring and unproductive leading to stress whereas another can completely chill out.

Although too much emotional or mental stress can cause physical illnesses such as high blood pressure, ulcers or even heart disease, physical stress from work or exercise is very unlikely to cause these problems, unless you really do overdo it. The truth is that physical exercise can help you relax and to handle your emotional and mental stress. That is another good reason to include a regular exercise programme alongside the changes you have made to your foods.

Here are some basic techniques to help you manage whatever stress you do have in your lives. It would be a perfect world where we had absolutely no worries whatsoever but I am afraid there are only a few people who live in that serene an environment.

  1. It is easier said than done, but you must find a way to relax that suits you. Think carefully about what makes you feel alive but calm, that gives you satisfaction and creates a feel good factor. For you as an individual it could be skiing down a mountain or it could be walking along a sandy beach at sunset. As unique as the causes of stress are, so are the ways that we find to counteract the tension.
  2. Next time you begin to hyperventilate, and start getting wound up, saying things like “I’m freaking out!” take a breath and check to see if this is an external threat that needs to be dealt with or it is your own creation. If in doubt walk away and find somewhere you can think about the situation for a few minutes calmly and rationally. Of course if you are faced with immediate physical danger then you need to do whatever you must to survive.
  3. If you really cannot think of anything on your own then find yourself a professional advisor who can help you find your bit of space and peace. Learn relaxation techniques and new coping mechanisms that are not based on your reward system. It is always a good idea to find someone who has been referred by a friend or family matter but your G.P should also be able to recommend someone.
  4. Keep to a regular sleep pattern, although people do need varying amounts of sleep the average is seven hours. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time even at the weekends. Lack of sleep is one of the leading causes of stress and has been linked to weight gain
  5. Try to find at least 30 minutes in the day when you are not being bombarded by any outside stimulus. Music does not count. As you know I consider it to be another food group, and provided it is your favourite type of music, sticking your headphones on and closing your eyes for half an hour will help break the cycle of daily stress.
  6. I am afraid that stimulants such as cigarettes and alcohol and recreational drugs are absolutely the wrong things to rely on during a stress episode. As hard as it may be, avoid these at all costs.

DIET AND STRESS.

A healthy diet is absolutely necessary whatever lifestyle we have but if we are under excessive levels of stress then it becomes critical.

Make sure that you are hydrated. Dehydration is a leading physical cause of stress and you need at least 2 litres of fluids from various sources per day and more if you are exercising hard or live in countries with very low humidity. (See last Friday’s blog) This is particular important for young children – they need moderate amounts of fluids regularly as their small bodies get dehydrated very quickly.

We have already established that when the body is under stress, the digestive process is compromised and your body will use stored nutrients in an effort to keep the systems functioning. However, if the stress situation continues for a period of weeks or months you will not be replacing these stored vitamins and minerals and you need to increase levels of particular foods as they contain specific vitamins and minerals which the body needs.

The shopping lists that I have already given you have plenty of these vitamins, however, they are basic levels needed during normal activity and you need to up slightly during stressful times. If you cannot eat because you are stressed then at the very least make some homemade soup – Chicken and vegetables, blitz in a blender and drink three or four cups during the day.

VITAMINS ESSENTIAL FOR THE BODY TO MANAGE STRESS.

Vitamin A mops up the toxic residue of elevated stress hormone levels. (Liver, fish oils, butter, cheese, Free range eggs, oily fish and Beta-carotene that converts to Vitamin A from carrots, green leafy vegetables such as asparagus and broccoli, spinach, orange and red coloured vegetables such as apricots)

Vitamin B1 improves your mood and is vital for nerve function. (Whole grains, seeds, peas, beans and nuts.)

Vitamin B3 helps you regulate your sleep patterns. (Liver, brewer’s yeast, chicken, turkey, fish, meat, peanuts, whole grains, eggs and milk.)

Vitamin B5 better known as Pantothenic Acid controls the action of the adrenal glands, which play a vital part in the stress response. (Liver, yeast, salmon, dairy, eggs, grains, meat and vegetables.

Vitamin B6 is essential for the manufacture of the brain chemical serotonin which is also called the feel good chemical. (Potatoes, bananas, cereals, lentils, liver, turkey, chicken, lamb, fish, liver, avocados, soybeans, walnuts and oats.)

Vitamin B12 is necessary to help produce brain chemicals such as serotonin (dairy, eggs, meat, poultry and fish, for vegetarians in Miso and Tempeh both fermented soybean products)

Vitamin C is one of those vitamins that is used up very quickly during a stress reaction and needs to be replaced immediately as a deficiency leads to increased levels of anxiety and irritability. Smokers should take in Vitamin C in their diet and under the supervision of a professional should also take supplemental Vitamin C. (found in all fruit and vegetables but best sources are blackcurrants, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cherries, grapefruits, guavas, kiwi fruit, lemons, parsley, peppers, rosehips, potatoes, tomatoes and watercress.)

MINERALS NECESSARY TO HELP THE BODY MANAGE STRESS.

Calcium helps you relax. (Dairy, sardines, canned salmon with the bones, green leafy vegetables such as spinach and soy products such as tofu.)

Magnesium works with calcium and also helps to reduce stress. (Whole grains, beans, seeds, wheat germ, dried apricots, dark green vegetables, soybeans and fish)

Chromium stabilises blood sugar levels that create stress. (Brewer’s yeast, whole grains, shellfish, liver and molasses)

As we get older and our body less efficient in processing foods it can be a good idea to take the B-vitamins in supplement form. Make sure you get good advice and get the best quality you can. If you feel that you are under stress for long periods of time, do not be afraid to ask for help from a nutritionist and get some counselling.

Finally something to watch to calm your frayed nerves from reading this lengthy blog on stress.. I would not want you tearing your hair out in frustration!  Down girls……..

You can find all the other posts in the series on Weight Reduction in this directory.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/weight-reduction-programme-2017/

©sallycronin 2016

Please feel free to ask any questions in the comment section and if you would like a private word then please email me sally.cronin@moyhill.com.

Smorgasbord Health – Middle-Age Spread..Not always down to what you eat!


smorgasbord healthI know that the mantra is supposed to be ‘love your body whatever its shape‘ and people ‘tut, tut’ when you complain about your various bits and pieces that seem to distort your image…… but you know what….it can be a real pain at times. It is particularly frustrating when you are doing everything right.. eating, exercising, drinking plenty of green tea and only having one digestive with your coffee!!

Scan221

This is me 22 years ago at age 41 on holiday in America and weighing in at 300 lbs. I would go on to add another 30lbs over the next few months until I was size 32. To put things into perspective… I am 5ft 11inches so the overall impression was huge.  Along with this excess weight came several health problems which led to me studying not just nutrition but also a deep interest in psychology and anatomy.  I made some very interesting discoveries about myself that would help me lose my weight.

I eventually lost 150lbs over 18 months, recovered my health and apart from the occasional period, when I would put on a couple of stone, I have managed to keep most of that weight off. I will never be classified as skinny but I am very happy to be at a much healthier weight rather than fit into a size 10 pair of trousers.

Each time that I have added those extra 28lbs or so, it has been the result of one particular physical response.

I believe that to be healthy you need to focus on three elements; physical, mental and emotional. You also need to identify your triggers that result in a blip in your health and weight.  I know for me it is stress and whilst I might not show it outwardly, inwardly it lays down fat in all the wrong places as my body reacts to a constant level of stress hormones into the system.

Chronic Stress is when this acute stress response is repeated on a continuous basis. Whilst the body, after a hundred thousand years, is well able to handle the occasional stress response and in fact uses it positively, if the response becomes a normal way of life, other parts of the brain and body become involved leading to long term damage.

For example, ongoing stress causes the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, which are the master controllers for the body, to release a chemical called ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) which stimulates the adrenal gland to produce and release cortisol which disrupts sleep patterns leading to increased levels of stress. Our bodies are simply not designed to live at high alert for sustained periods of time; it just wears it down leading to illness and usually weight gain.

How has it impacted me?

In the last eighteen months I have put on 28lbs despite eating normally, cooking from scratch and being reasonably active.  The one added ingredient has been stress.

There is a reason that they say that moving house is as stressful as divorce or a bereavement. And the last eighteen months have certainly demonstrated that point. Between the worry of not selling and subsequent financial concern – the Spanish intricate legal system – packing up a large house ourselves in 3 weeks – selling two cars – waiting anxiously for ten days before the banks got their act together and transferred the funds to Ireland – living under someone elses roof for three months (very gratefully of course) – finding a house as quickly as possible – the buying process – renovations etc. It has been relentless.

Don’t get me wrong, I am loving the end result and in a few weeks time the work will be finished and our furniture will be arriving from Spain. We already love where we are living; despite missing our friends we had to leave behind. We have our family closer both here in Ireland and in the UK which is such a pleasure. We are looking forward to a future that will be so much less fraught with worry.

However, the cost to the body of all this internal stress, is another reason for our middle-aged spread.

If you look around you and even in the mirror…. you will see that there are a great many of us over the age of 50 who carry that evidence of internal stress, particular around our middles. Of course some of that extra weight is down to the hormonal changes that naturally take place for both men and women, but after working with clients all these years, I can also tell you that it is also down to something more dangerous.

Most that I have spoken too about stress have textbook examples across the board. Finances, jobs, relationships, the future, health, family, the world and its apparent spiral into mindless chaos. Even the lack of extended family, as men and women in their 70s and 80s wonder what is to become of them as they become ill. Even those who feel financially secure wonder how long that might last as they see their pensions and dreams of a stress free retirement dwindle.

This is mirrored in much younger men and women too which is even more concerning as it means they will be living with this stress reaction from much longer than those in middle-age. They are the ones who will be fuelling the statistics of heart disease and other chronic illnesses of the future.

Identifying your stress triggers.

I can identify the stress over the last two years and can finally see light at the end of the tunnel. I also have something that has gone a long way to mitigate the effects of that stress which is my writing, in its various formats. For me sitting down at the keyboard is hugely beneficial and goodness knows where my weight would be if I had not been able to write every day.

I am also starting swimming again in September once the holiday season is over at the local leisure centre, I am going to be helping out with the decorating which I do with music on my head and paint all over me; we will also be getting one of the greatest stress busters of all times.. a four-legged running machine.

What I want to convey is that our weight and health is not just about eating a balanced diet, watching your fluids, taking regular exercise… You can be doing all of that and still be unable to shift extra weight or even be putting it on.

If you are looking at embracing some health changes to eat a healthier diet, get more exercise etc… you also need to be honest about the stress in your life. Make a list and you will find that by finding solutions to combat that stress will actually do your body as much benefit as making changes to your food intake.

We all have our own ways of combatting stress.. I have mine lined up and I know that by Christmas my extra two stone will have vanished. But, despite my training and experience, even I can get caught out when I allow stress to get the better of me.

I wrote some posts on stress and its impact on the body and here is a couple that you might find helpful.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/04/05/smorgasbord-health-stress-drama-drama-drama-how-is-your-body-coping/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/04/07/smorgasbord-health-stress-strategies-and-foods-to-support-you/

Thanks for dropping in and if you have any questions you can always ask.. in the comments or if you prefer by email.. sally.cronin@moyhill.com