Strategies for avoiding burnout

If you’re working more than 40 hours a week while balancing family and social commitments,stress management may become a major issue in your life. And if you’re constantly feeling overwhelmed, odds are you’re not going to be able to offer your best performance at your job.

To help readers out with this issue, Huffington Post scribe Carson Tate – who’s also a prominent member of management consultancy Working Simply – offered a few tips for workers who are having difficulty staying excited about their jobs.

Take a day off 
Tate notes that working every day of the week – and by “working” she includes checking email and attending to household chores – may increase you’re odds of becoming overwhelmed and disinterested in your daily life. If you take a proper day off, it’ll help you get the mental and physical rest needed to be more engaged with your professional life during the other five or six days a week you’re focusing on getting things done.

There may even be health-oriented reasons for taking a so-called “mental day,” according to an article in Fox News. If work stress is preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep, or you’re feeling excessively moody or indifferent, it might be a good time to ask your boss for the type of day Tate describes.

Change things up a bit
If the way you’re currently going about taking care of work and other matters is leaving you stressed and moody all the time, it’s possible that a rearrangement of your schedule may help reduce stress. Tate notes that If your way of maintaining your schedule isn’t working, “challenge the status quo.” She specifically notes that if a weekly staff meeting has been traditionally held with all the participants seated in a conference room, there’s no reason not to change that up.

Even Wired magazine recently proclaimed that “sitting is our generation’s smoking” in light of the fact that the average American currently spends more time sitting than he or she does sleeping. The source encourages people to take what it calls “walkntalks,” to decrease the amount of time managers and employees spend on their tooshes. So-called “walkntalks” could resolve the conflict between the need to be productive and taking actions that may be beneficial for the health, notes the source.

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Bloggers and researchers weigh in on stress management

A new study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine makes a direct connection between coronary heart disease, diabetes and job burnout. In this instance, “burnout” is defined as a state characterized by emotional exhaustion, fatigue and cognitive weariness.

To bring about their conclusions, scientists affiliated with Tel Aviv University examined almost 8,900 people, 100 of whom developed coronary heart disease by the end of their three to four year study. Using a scale to determine their levels of burnout, the Tel Aviv team identified that high levels of job burnout increased the chances of having heart disease by 40 percent. Those who were especially burnt out – whose level of burnout were in the top 20 percent – were almost 80 percent more likely to experience heart disease than their more relaxed counterparts.

Following a write up of the study, the Huffington Post published a compilation of other issues related to stress. These include a greater-than-average chance of becoming depressed, problems with sleep and a tendency to have poorer brain health.

In light of these and other problems related to stress, Huffington Post blogger and stress expert Kate Bratskeir wrote about specific things she used to stress out about, which she has learned to discard in order to improve her personal mental state. These include concerns that might seem superfluous, but nonetheless can weigh on a person’s mind, such as a lack of ability to dance well, having less-than perfect vision, not having a clear sense of direction and worrying about what her friends think of her vegetarianism.  Her underlaying thesis may be that a good way to control stress is to have a clear sense of what factors in life can and cannot be controlled.

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Some of the best supplements and strategies for stress management

In this day and age, it's practically impossible to be unaffected by stress. Many people have especially stressful jobs. Others are juggling careers and family responsibilities. Even not having a job can be a significant source of stress. 

While a little extra anxiety now and again may help individuals accomplish tasks when they absolutely have to, ongoing stress can lead to many undesirable health conditions over a long enough period of time. In a September of 2012 article in the Huffington Post, National Institutes of Health visiting scientist George Chrousos said that chronic stress has been linked to depression, migraines and heart attacks. Other sources confirmed that being stressed over long periods of time may harm a person's immune health.

Luckily there are many ways that people can calm themselves down a bit. 

Vitamin B
Mehmet Oz, M.D. encourages people with stress-induced headaches to consider taking up regular consumption of a cocktail of vitamin B supplements – specifically B6 and B2 on his website. Noting that stressful scenarios frequently lead to the body eating up whatever B vitamins it has on reserve, Dr. Oz says that 25 mgs of B2 and B6 a day could help reduce the pain of migraines or tension headaches. 

In addition, when combined with magnesium, vitamin Bs may help some women's health problems that arise under extreme levels of duress, according to Dr. Oz.  

Omega-3 fatty acid
One of the good kinds of fat, omega-3 seems to find its way on quite a few lists of best supplements. Nonetheless, Dr. Oz recommends two to three grams of omega-3 per day for lessening chronic neck, shoulder or hip pain often associated with and enhanced by extended periods of stress.

Mediation
According to the Mayo Clinic, many styles of medication encourage the practitioner to divert his or her attention away from factors in life that may be sources of anxiety. The organization notes that – while many people prefer privacy and quiet for their meditative time – it's not impossible to meditate while going on a walk, riding the bus or in basically any situation where your immediate attention isn't required for something specific. Yoga, an ancient discipline of Indian stretching, is also pointed to by the Mayo Clinic as a good form of stress relief. 

Keep things in perspective
The first thing listed on the website Stress Management Tips is "take a deep breath and count to 10…" which may sound a bit of a simplistic solution. However, when looked at in a broader context, that's actually pretty sound stress management advice. Sometimes it's important to remember that we can't control everything, as much as we'd like to. So when stress starts to feel overwhelming, it might be time to take the old adage "stop and smell the roses" literally. After all, what can flowers do except for alliviate stress? 

Do your favorite things and rest up!
Rest is cited often on lists of best measures against excess stress, but there are types of mental rest apart from sleep. The Mayo Clinic noted that learning a music instrument could aid with keeping stress under control, while Stress Management Tips advises stressed out readers to listen to their preferred types of music. Watching television and reading books could have similar effects, notes the latter source. Exercise is cited as a potential stress reliever, but you could always make exercising about more than health. Those with an adventurous taste for the outdoors could consider mountain climbing. People who prefer to stay close to the ground could, for example, take up tennis. 

But if none of these or other methods of getting stress under control seem to be working, don't hesitate to contact a professional. 

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Adaptogens – Rhodiola rosea – The “Gold-Standard” Adaptogen

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Rhodiola rosea – The “Gold-Standard” Adaptogen

Also known as golden root and Arctic root, Rhodiola rosea has been shown to have superior adaptogenic properties that support the various phases of the body’s stress response. Extracts of Rhodiola rosea root contain a variety of active phytonutrients (flavonoids); the best known are salidroside (also called rhodioloside or rhodosin), rodiolin, rosin, rosavin, rosarin, rosaridin and p-tyrosol.

Rhodiola rosea Enhances Physical Performance

Scandinavian and Russian professional and Olympic athletes have supplemented with Rhodiola rosea root extract for years to maximize endurance and accelerate muscle cell recovery after exercise. According to a detailed summary of research conducted within the former Soviet Union on Rhodiola rosea root extract, daily consumption of 200 to 600 mg of this herbal preparation has been relied upon for its abilities to 1) sustain a high level of conversion of energy to work during strenuous exercise; 2) reduce the recovery time immediately after a strenuous event; and 3) stimulate protein deposition and muscle growth.2 Although it is not possible to confirm this author’s evaluation of the research (available only in the original Russian), there is some independent scientific evidence that supports the ability of Rhodiola rosea root extract to support performance under stress.

In experiments in animals, Rhodiola rosea root extract has been found to improve physical working capacity by increasing the efficiency of conversion of nutrients into energy in muscle cells during exhaustive work. This effect of Rhodiola rosea root extract on muscle cells can explain at least in part the demonstration, published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, that compared to the lack of effects of placebo, the consumption of 200 mg of Rhodiola rosea root extract (standardized to 3% rosavin + 1% salidroside) one hour before testing produced increased endurance (time to exhaustion) and maximum oxygen delivery during exercise without an increase in work by the lungs.3 In another experiment, untrained volunteers who consumed Rhodiola rosea root extract prior to beginning controlled exercise experienced faster recovery of muscle function and less soreness when they became exhausted.

Together, this body of science suggests that the capacity to perform any activity, even the activities of daily work, can be sustained and supported by appropriately timed dietary supplementation with Rhodiola rosea root extract.

Rhodiola rosea Promotes Mental Performance

Rhodiola rosea root flavonoids enjoy a reputation for stimulating the nervous system, increasing the ability to concentrate, enhancing the quality of work performance, enhancing healthy sleep and eliminating tiredness. For example, the flavonoids in these roots were shown to decrease mental fatigue and increase physical fitness, associative thinking and short-term memory, ability to perform mathematical calculations, ability to concentrate and ability to perform on standardized tests in studies of students during “exam week” and young physicians during generally stressful night shifts. It is likely that, as with muscular work, Rhodiola rosea root extract enhances the efficiency of physiological energy generation, and thus supports efficient mental function even during periods of energy-draining physical and mental stress.

Rhodiola rosea Strengthens Immune System Performance

According to recently published research, the flavonoids in Rhodiola rosea roots are effective promoters of the innate response of the immune system.4 Further studies suggest that Rhodiola enhances the production of several chemical messengers of the immune system that function as proliferators of a highly vigilant immune response.5 Chinese researchers studying the immune modulating effects of Rhodiola have also concluded that the herb has modulatory effects on both the Th1 and Th2 response of the human immune system, thus showing an ability to beneficially balance the immune response.6 Through its influence on cytokine and immune protein expression, Rhodiola may promote an active, healthy immune response.

Rhodiola rosea may be an ideal adaptogenic herb that is able to support the human stress response by relieving feelings of tiredness and lethargy, by tonifying the body to increase work capacity and physical endurance, by enhancing cognitive function through its ability to support concentration and memory, and by modulating immune function to promote an enhanced immune response.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Liver Health: Support the Body’s Detox System

References:
2. Abidoff M, Ramazanov Z. Rhodiola Rosea. The Herbal Heavyweight from Russia. National Bioscience Corp., Chester, NY, 2005, 6 pages.
3. De Bock K, Eijnde BO, Ramaekers M, Hespel P. Acute Rhodiola rosea intake can improve endurance exercise performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2004;14:298-307.
4. Ming DS, Hillhouse BJ, Guns ES, Eberding A, Xie S, Vimalanathan S, Towers GH. Bioactive compounds from Rhodiola rosea (Crassulaceae). Phytother Res 2005;19:740-743.
5. Mishra KP, Ganju L, Chanda S, Karan D, Sawhney RC. Aqueous extract of Rhodiola imbricata rhizome stimulates Toll-like receptor 4, granzyme-B and Th1 cytokines in vitro.Immunobiology. 2009;214(1):27-31.
6. Li HX, Sze SC, Tong Y, Ng TB. Production of Th1- and Th2-dependent cytokines induced by the Chinese medicine herb, Rhodiola algida, on human peripheral blood monocytes. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009;22;123(2):257-66.

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Adaptogens – Normalizing the Body’s Stress Response

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Adaptogens – Normalizing the Body’s Stress Response

Several herbal remedies can be extremely useful for normalizing the body’s stress response. These herbs fall into the category known as adaptogens. Adaptogens increase the ability of the human body to respond (“adapt”) to a variety of chemical, biological and physical stressors. A common theme among these rejuvenating tonic herbs is that they are rich in naturally-occurring antioxidants. However, they have properties beyond their antioxidant capabilities that make them restorative of the body’s stress-handling ability. Some of the more well-known herbs falling into this category include the various ginsengs, licorice root, eleuthero and ashwagandha. All of these herbs are somewhat similar in nature in that they support the body’s natural response to stress. However, they are each somewhat different in terms of the type of situations they are indicated in. They are all superb adaptogens.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Rhodiola rosea – The “Gold-Standard” Adaptogen

 

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Dietary Habits to Reduce the Effects of Stress

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Dietary Habits to Reduce the Effects of Stress

Certain dietary habits can interfere with our ability to deal with stress and even increase the effects of stress on the body. Some of these factors are the obvious ones and include excessive alcohol consumption, smoking tobacco products, eating sugar-rich foods and high amounts of simple carbohydrates, skipping meals so the body does not receive adequate nutrition at regular intervals, failing to eat sufficient amounts of high-quality protein to support immune health and blood sugar regulation, and taking in large amounts of stimulants such as caffeine.

On the contrary, a diet high in essential fatty acids, rich in fruits and vegetables that contain important antioxidants, whole grains, and nutrient-rich foods (as opposed to eating empty calories) that contain essential vitamins and minerals all are supportive of the body’s stress response. Adding a high-quality, nutritionally complete multivitamin that contains the essential B vitamins, vitamin C and other antioxidant nutrients, such as CoQ10, alpha lipoic acid, and polyphenols, strengthens the foundation of nutritional support necessary for achieving the ability to cope with stressful situations.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Adaptogens – Help You to Adapt

 

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Lifestyle Activities that Enhance the Body’s Stress Response

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Lifestyle Activities that Enhance the Body’s Stress Response

Feeling Tired?

Chronic elevations in cortisol and related stress hormones from the body being under constant stress can lead to the third and final phase of the stress response: exhaustion. This is characterized by an inability of the body to deal with the effects of stress and results from the depletion of electrolytes such as potassium. It also results from an inability of the adrenal glands to produce the hormones required to be in this constant state of hypervigilance. This manifests in weakened organ function and depleted immune function. It also manifests as cellular dysfunction and problems with blood sugar regulation.

The shift of metabolic resources away from daily activities in response to stress predisposes us to a reduced ability to perform “cognitive mental processes” (learning and remembering) and impaired immune defenses. Thus, in order to maintain the body’s ability to cope with normal levels of stress, the body requires fundamental support to avoid the consequences of the exhaustion phase of the stress response.

Fundamentals for managing stress include relaxation exercises. These techniques are geared to producing a state of relaxation in the body, which is the opposite of the stress response. While under stress, the sympathetic nervous system is dominant, during relaxation, the parasympathetic nervous system dominates. This is characterized by shunting of blood back from the periphery to the core organs.

Relaxation can be induced through a variety of activities. Meditation and deep breathing exercises are excellent for inducing a state of relaxation of the mind and body. Surprisingly, exercise is also an important component of a stress management program. Acutely, exercise itself induces physical stress on tissues of the body. However, the long-term effects of exercise are to relax the body by strengthening its ability to deal with stress and enhance mood function.

Another important aspect of dealing with stress is mitochondrial health. The mitochondria in cells are the energy factories where cellular energy production occurs. The production of energy also leads to the production of free radicals. Hence, damage to the mitochondria and to the cells that contain them can occur at a rapid rate. Mitochondrial function has been shown to decrease with age as a result of oxidative stress, predisposing aged individuals to decreased ability to cope with stressful situations and increasing the chances of poor cellular health. Research has shown that resistance exercise restores mitochondrial function in the skeletal muscle of aging individuals, allowing their bodies to better withstand the physical aspects of stress.1

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Dietary Habits to Reduce the Effects of Stress

References:
1. Tarnopolsky MA. Mitochondrial DNA shifting in older adults following resistance exercise training. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2009;34(3):348-54.

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About Stress

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Stress

The body has a high capacity to adapt to stressful situations that can take various forms. Regardless of the stressors we throw its way, the body has an amazing capacity to react to them and recover normal functionality. However, without the support it needs on a constant basis to overcome stressful situations, even the body can show signs of breakdown, and wear and tear. The effects of chronic stress are well-documented. High levels of constant stress are bad for the body and diminish health. The nature of stressors can be in the form of physical stress or mental and emotional stress. Any of these types of stressors can trigger the body’s stress response. The ability of the body to cope with stress determines the level of health in any individual.

The body’s stress response can be divided into three general phases in accordance with the work of the stress researcher Hans Selye. These three phases of the stress response include the alarm phase, the resistance phase, and the exhaustion phase. The alarm reaction involves what we know as the fight or flight response.

In this acute phase, which is a normal component of the body’s stress response, signals from the pituitary gland cause the adrenal glands to release adrenaline and other stress hormones. This allows the body to maintain a high state of vigilance to quickly react to the stressor it is facing. Heart rate increases as blood is circulated to the peripheral tissues in preparation for quick action. The rate of breathing increases and the supply of oxygen to the brain is increased. Blood sugar also increases in response to perceived need by the muscles.

While this initial phase arms the body for the short haul, the second phase of the stress response prepares the body to cope with extended periods of stress, and is known as the resistance phase. Cortisol and related hormones of the adrenal cortex are responsible for the physiological effects of this phase. The effects of the cortisol response include the conversion of protein into energy so the body has enough energy stores to cope with the depletion of its glucose supply. Other short-term effects of the resistance phase include providing the body with the emotional strength it needs to cope with stress and enhance its ability to perform strenuous work, while promoting a strong immune reaction. Cortisol is quite necessary when the body is faced with acute stressors; yet prolonged elevations in cortisol levels, and hence prolonging the resistance phase, can lead to detrimental health effects.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Feeling Tired? Rejuvenate Your Mind and Body with Adaptogens

 

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