In this episode, we’re talking about something that so many of my patients suffer from. That’s stress. I know a little bit about stress myself. I’m a father, a husband, a doctor and a television host. And, as a medical professional, I know that long-term stress can kill. So it’s been critical for me to learn how to manage the stress in my own life. That’s why I’m so passionate about today’s show, to help you beat the stress in your life.
Everyone feels stressed from time to time, but too much stress can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, and many other serious health problems. While there is “bad stress,” there is also what I call “good stress.” This is the kind that motivates you to do well, such as when you’re taking a test or interviewing for a job. But it’s the bad stuff, the bad stress, that puts your health at risk. And in this episode, you’ll learn how to keep that bad stress under control.
My first guest is Dr. Sharon Melnick, an expert on stress resilience. Like most women, she wants to make a difference and she wants to take care of the people who are important to her. She also wants to take care of herself. But in the midst of all this, with deadlines, opportunities and people relying on her, like all people, she can get overwhelmed and exhausted too.
Women want to do so much. They don’t want to disappoint, so they tend to carry stress. Work and financial stress are universal. 65% of women are breadwinners or co-breadwinners. But there are a few stressors that really have an extra oomph for women. Three of these include responsibility, housework and feeling guilty. In this episode, Dr. Melnick and I talked about how to deal with these factors, how to deal with stress and how to create balance and more energy.
My second guest is Dr. Adam Moeser, a Michigan State University professor who led the groundbreaking research on the impact of stress on immune cells and the gastrointestinal system. He explained to us that the fight or flight response is our evolutionary conserved response to stress. It’s actually a very important stress response and it’s meant for survival. The problem is when this stress becomes either too overwhelming or we cannot respond properly to this stress, disease can result. It switches from a very protective response to something that becomes very deleterious and causes disease.
Basically, the fact that we wanted to have lunch and not be lunch kept us alive throughout evolution with the help of this natural stress response. But nowadays we don’t have as much of a real threat as we did back in the cavemen days. Instead, we have so many other stressors, including emotional and mental stressors. A stressful environment or past childhood trauma can contribute to stress as well. There are so many factors. For women, it can be even more difficult. We know from science that women are more susceptible to stress-related diseases and this goes all the way to the fundamental differences in their biology. Dr. Moeser and I talked more about these topics in detail in this episode.
My third guest, Lolita Guarin, is a certified stress management coach who has written a book titled Crush Stress While You Work. At one point in her life, Lolita hit a turning point. She moved to the US from Lithuania and wanted to prove herself. She worked like a machine. One day, suddenly she just collapsed on the kitchen floor and had to be rushed to the emergency room. It was her stress levels, poor nutrition and lack of exercise that really impacted her health. She knew it was a turning point and now she is teaching others to kick stress in the butt.
Stress is an accepted norm in today’s world. Everybody has stress, it’s totally normal, but as we mentioned before, it really affects our health. Pacing oneself, time management, taking breaks, exercising and minding nutrition are all incredibly important in managing stress. Lolita and I talked about important stress management strategies in this episode.
My fourth guest is Dr. Susan Albers, psychologist and author behind eatingmindfully.com. She explained that when we’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, we may want to disconnect and escape from the way that we are feeling. Eating is a way to do that. When we eat, it’s a little bit like changing the channel on our feelings. The comfort foods we reach for release dopamine, the pleasure neurotransmitter in our brain. That’s why we feel really good at the moment. This can create a cycle. Every time we are stressed, we want to reach for comfort foods that are not actually good for our physical or mental health. They can lead to more stress and inflammation.
It is important to be mindful of eating at all times, especially when stressed. Some foods to avoid include sugar, artificial sweeteners, gluten, microwave foods, processed foods and also anything that has hydrogenated oils in it. Some of Dr. Albers favorite tools for times of stress are cinnamon tea, mandarin oranges and self-massage. Dr. Albers and I talked about other tips to decrease and manage stress as well.
My fifth guest, Ajayan Borys has traveled the entire globe studying and teaching meditation. His unique approach is called Effortless Mind, which is awesome. Ajayan explained that effortlessness is the key to meditation, because if you’re going to go from the conscious thinking mind where we’re doing something to a deeper state of awareness, a more quiet state of awareness, then it has to be effortless. Mantras, chanting, small phrases, or even a syllable can be incredibly helpful.
People who have a hard time with meditation primarily tend to have a lot of misconceptions about it. The biggest one is the idea that you shouldn’t have thoughts in meditation, otherwise they are not doing it right. That’s a complete misconception. Everyone has thoughts. Thoughts will pop up and that’s normal. The important part is not to fight them, but accept them and let them float by. In this episode, Ajayan and I discussed some helpful aspects of meditation to help reduce stress in your life.