Resilience to Stress with Dr Rangan Chatterjee

Rangan Chatterjee, Chief Wellness Officer

 

Stress is an epidemic of our time.

We live in an era of information overload, work overload and sugar, alcohol and sitting-on-our-backsides all day overload. There’s more and more pressure on us as individuals, with less and less support. Things are so bad that the World Health Organization has deemed stress ‘the health epidemic of the twenty-first century’.

Every day, I see patients who are suffering from common complaints like low libido, anxiety, poor memory, inability to focus and gut problems - the common root cause? Stress. 

Stress can have devastating consequences on your health.

It can contribute to the development of obesity, insomnia, burn-out, type 2 diabetes, auto-immune disease, depression, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, strokes and even Alzheimer’s disease.

Despite these risks, why are so many people still so blasé about it? We think we can get away with burning the candle at both ends forever, but the reality is very different.

As humans, we exist in an ecosystem of information going into our bodies. The sources of information combine to ask one thing: am I safe, or am I under threat? 

By tackling psychological stress, emotional stress, dietary stress, physical stress, technological stress, and life stress - you can impact the entire ecosystem to ensure that the information you are getting is that you are safe, and not under threat. 

That feeling of safety is how you take your brain from a stress state, to a thrive state.

5 everyday habits to take your brain state from stress, to thrive

  • Make sleep a priority

When you haven’t slept, your emotional brain goes into overdrive. The amygdala – the alarm system responsible for triggering emotions such as fear, sadness or rage – becomes significantly more sensitive. Meanwhile the prefrontal cortex – your rational brain, responsible for making decisions – becomes diminished. It explains why you struggle to concentrate when you’re tired, and why you feel so emotional and reactive.

 

  • What you eat is what you think

What you eat has a direct impact on your mind, as well as your body - as your gut microbiome sends information to your brain. If it’s healthy and happy? You are, too. The best way to a happy gut? A diverse diet, aiming for 26 different plant-based foods every month. You can download my Eat the Alphabet chart here

 

  • Make time for actual facetime 

Intimacy is the glue that holds relationships together and makes everything in life seem easier. Yet we’re often too busy for it. But, if you can make time to focus on each other and reconnect, you’ll feel closer, more cherished and more resilient to whatever stressors might come your way.

Next time your partner comes home, try my 3D greeting to show you truly value each other. Instead of a nod or grunt when you see each other, try to make deep, meaningful eye contact, embrace warmly and exchange a few loving words. Within a few days, it will seem natural and you will start feeling less stressed, more supported. We’re all busy, but I’ve never met anyone so busy they can’t spare the love of their life 15 seconds.

  • Schedule everything

To counter anxiety that there aren’t enough hours in the day, try making a detailed daily schedule that accounts for every minute. ‘Wake up: 6.30, Get ready: 6.45–7.05, Breakfast: 7.05–7.25,’ all the way through until bedtime. All the niggly bits, travel time, showers, everything. The result? Feeling more in control of your life.

Finishing each day with a satisfyingly ticked off to-do list means you are able to enjoy time to yourself, guilt free. 

Many top CEOs use scheduling to help them be more productive, while ensuring they have time to pursue hobbies as well as spend quality time with their families.

  • Take one minute, and breathe

Breathing is part of the information ecosystem. The more stressed you feel, the faster you breathe. Your brain will notice this and read it as a signal that things are not going well. 

The fast, shallow breathing that happens when you’re stressed is effectively telling your brain that you’re running from a lion. 

But, the reverse of this rule is also true: if you breathe slowly, you’re giving your brain a signal that you’re in a place of calm, and you will start to feel less stressed.

If all you do for one minute is slow your breathing down and aim for six breaths (one breath is in and out) in that minute, it will reduce the stress state and stimulate the thrive state.