Claire Carruthers goes in search of a stress-busting treatment...
We’ve all been there – added pressure at work, moving house, daily commutes. Health issues and personal problems can slowly and imperceptibly force us from being in control of our stress levels to constantly fighting them, leading to a lack of sleep or an energy-sapping diet of coffee, chocolate and nicotine. It’s a self-sabotaging situation but one that is possible to get out of with the right guidance.
Advice from the experts
Samia Shehadeh Nasser is a specialist in NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), which explores how we unconsciously organise our thoughts, feelings and behaviour and programme ourselves to react to life events. She has been offering personal and professional coaching advice to clients across the Gulf for more than a decade.
In your opinion, what are the main causes of stress in the Gulf? We all have different ways of perceiving the world around us. With the melting pot of nationalities that is the Gulf we will experience people with very different views of the world (values and beliefs, expectations, motivations) on a daily basis. Often we will battle against these differences with the aim of changing someone or something, not necessarily realising that we are battling against a whole cultural way of being. Other sources of stress include dealing with all the changes we face that come from being an expatriate in a new country, from feelings of isolation and building a new social and professional network to starting a new job or thinking about your next career move.
Oz Garcia is a New York-based nutritional counsellor and the best-selling author of The Balance – his clients include Hollywood’s A-list from the world of film and fashion.
Do you think men or women suffer more from stress? Is one more susceptible than the other? Men and women suffer from stress equally but, at the same time, differently due to varying hormones. For men, higher levels of testosterone enhances the damaging effects of stress hormones such as cortisol, which affects the heart and blood pressure levels.
What are some of the symptoms of stress? People who are stressed may consume a higher level of alcohol, suffer from a loss of appetite or increased appetite for starchy foods and complex carbohydrates and smokers tend to smoke more. Greater amounts of stress also weaken the immune system, which increases the chance of catching cold, flu and other infections. Motivational speaker and BBC guest-broadcaster Carole Spiers runs stress management workshops both internationally and across the Gulf:
For people living and working, what stress-relieving activities can you recommend? • Exercise to keep fit – at least 30 minutes three times a week. • Eat a balanced diet • Join a group or take up a hobby • Allow extra time for commuting (around 15 minutes) • Put 20 minutes ‘me time’ in your diary every day • Have an ‘arrangement free’ weekend every month • Don’t put off relaxing – learn stress reduction techniques (such as meditation) and use them daily • Set regular times to read your email then close your inbox • When you are ill, don’t pretend that you are not
• Samia Shehadeh Nasser, personal and professional coaching (050 691 5081) • Oz Garcia, dietary aids and vitamins available to buy online at www.ozgarcia.com. • Carole Spiers Group. ‘Managing Stress in the Workplace’ – the next non-residential one-day course will take place June 6, Dhs1,780. See www.carolespiersgroup.com/www.carolespiersgroup.co.uk for further information.
Chew on these…
Oranges A German study in psychopharmacology found that vitamin C helps reduce stress and return blood pressure to normal levels after a stressful situation. Vitamin C is also well known for boosting your immune system.
Sweet potatoes can satisfy the urge you get for carbohydrates and sweets. They are packed full of beta-carotene and other vitamins.
Apricots are rich in magnesium – a stress-buster and a natural muscle relaxant.
Almonds, pistachios and walnuts
Almonds are packed with B and E vitamins, which boost your immune system and walnuts and pistachios can help lower blood pressure.
A deficiency in magnesium can cause migraine headaches and a feeling of fatigue. One cup of spinach provides 40 per cent of your daily needs for magnesium.
Diets high in omega-3 fatty acids protect against heart disease. A study from Diabetes & Metabolism found that omega-3s keep the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline from peaking.
The mono-unsaturated fats and potassium in avocados help lower blood pressure.
Broccoli, kale and other dark-green vegetables are powerhouses of vitamins that help replenish our bodies in times of stress.
Eat small meals throughout the day that will keep your blood sugar stable. When blood sugar is low, mental, physical and emotional energy decreases, and stress increases.