Are you feeling stressed? Join the club. There’s the cost of living crisis, the threat of rising fuel bills and the constant pressure to just keep afloat.
Even before Covid emerged, a survey by the Mental Health Foundation found that 75 percent of Britons reported being so stressed in the previous year that they felt they couldn’t handle it.
But in addition to ‘bad’ stress, there is also ‘good’ stress, which makes you take on a challenge and triumph against all odds (I’m thinking of you, Lionesses).
Sometimes a little extra stress is just what the doctor ordered. That was the conclusion of a recent study from the University of Georgia in the US, which found that exposure to moderate stress not only makes people more resilient, but also reduces their risk of developing mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety.
Even before Covid emerged, a survey by the Mental Health Foundation found that 75 percent of Britons reported feeling so stressed in the previous year that they felt they couldn’t handle it.
The study, published in the journal Psychiatry Research, included tests on more than 1,200 young adults who were asked to complete questionnaires that assessed their stress levels, answering questions such as “how many times have you found that you couldn’t handle all things?” you had to do?’
They also underwent cognitive tests that measured their memory, ability to switch between tasks and processing speed (how fast their brains work).
Researchers concluded, after crunching the numbers, that exposure to moderate levels of stress improves people’s cognitive skills and protects against the risks of developing mental health problems.
It may be that when we are stressed, we learn coping mechanisms that help us cope with future challenges.
There’s a fine line, of course, and the researchers point out that while some stress can be good for your brain, sustained high stress can be incredibly harmful.
These findings support something I’ve long believed in: that when we’re exposed to stress, whether it’s physical or mental, it can make us stronger.
There’s even a name for it: hormesis. This isn’t just some variation of ‘join the military and it will make a man out of you’; hormesis is a way of explaining the health benefits of being continuously challenged.
Are you feeling stressed? Join the club. There’s the cost of living crisis, the threat of rising fuel bills and the constant pressure to just keep our heads above water
Take something as simple as exercise. When you run or pump iron, you actually damage your muscles, causing tiny cracks. Your body responds to this by making repairs and that makes your muscles stronger.
Eating bitter vegetables is another example. Plants produce compounds called phytochemicals, some of which act as natural pesticides to prevent mammals like us from eating them.
They taste bitter because they contain chemicals that are potentially toxic. Yet many vegetables that are particularly good for us, such as cabbage and broccoli, are so bitter that even adults have a hard time loving them.
It seems that the toxic phytochemicals are in such low doses that they don’t harm us, but they are strong enough to trigger a stress response in our cells, which then turns on genes that make our cells stronger and healthier.
Once you start looking at the world this way, you realize that many activities that we initially find stressful, such as eating bitter vegetables, running and lifting weights, or even intermittent fasting – something I’m known for – be very beneficial in the long run.
The challenge seems to be part of the benefit. Just because prolonged starvation is very bad for you doesn’t mean that short periods of intermittent fasting have to be a little bad for you. Indeed, a lot of research shows that there are multiple benefits of cutting your calories for short periods of time, as long as you eat healthy the rest of the time.
Hormesis may also explain the benefits of taking cold showers or swimming in cold water, which is something I’ve been doing for a while. At first it’s a shock to the system to dip yourself in cold water – I’m still gasping.
But if you continue with this, you’ll find that not only can you handle the stress of soaking in cold water, but it will also help you deal with other stressors in your life, such as pressure at work or poor sleep.
President Kennedy famously said in a speech that kicked off the race to get a man on the moon: “We’re choosing to go to the moon this decade and do the other things, not because they’re easy.” , but because they are difficult.’
Something to keep in mind the next time you’re hesitant to go for a run, swim, or just take on a new challenge.
If you have a smart watch, you know that it tracks everything from your heart rate to the number of calories you burn. But it can’t watch your heart change shape when you exercise, or how your stomach expands and then contracts when you down a drink. For that, you need the new ultrasound patch developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — a postage-stamp-sized device that sticks to the skin and provides continuous ultrasound imaging of your organs. If you’ve ever had an ultrasound, you know they’re bulky machines. Yet this new device is no bigger than a band-aid and requires no expertise to use. It is still in the development stage, but future use may include monitoring an unreliable heart or the development of a fetus in the womb. It could really be revolutionary.
Planting a tree can protect your brain
If you live on a busy road or cycle a lot (which I do), you should be alarmed by a new report from the Commission on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants that, after reviewing nearly 70 studies, concluded that air pollution isn’t just increases the risk of heart disease and cancer, as well as dementia.
Cars, buses and trucks produce PM2.5 – tiny particles that penetrate deep into your lungs and then travel through your blood to your brain.
This report follows another study, published in July in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, which found that children whose mothers were exposed to higher levels of nitrogen dioxide (another common air pollutant) during pregnancy were more likely to have behavioral problems and less IQs.
So what can you do? First, you can try to avoid getting stuck in traffic because even if you close the windows, you will still be exposed to pollutants emitted by other cars. A few years ago I took part in a study where I wore a pollution monitor while walking, cycling or traveling in a car through central London. By far the worst results were when I was in the car. You may also want to plant some trees in your yard.
In 2019, Lancaster University tested the ability of nine tree species to reduce air pollution and found that silver birch, yew and elder could use the hairs on their leaves to trap the tiny pollutants, raising levels in the surrounding air by more than 70. lowered. per cent.
And please don’t buy wood-burning stoves – they contribute more to particulate air pollution than all road traffic combined.
New Prime Minister Must Prioritize War on Obesity
With Boris Johnson stepping down, I fear it will spell the end of our war on obesity.
Boris had personal reasons for tackling this issue – he said he ended up in intensive care with Covid because of ‘a lot of excess weight’. But will his successor be just as enthusiastic?
Liz Truss has said people “don’t want the government telling them what to eat” and that she will scrap Boris’ proposed ban on “buy one, get one free” deals on products like chocolate, chips or pastries. .
While she, and Rishi Sunak, say they are committed to alleviating the NHS crisis, it remains to be seen how they propose to tackle our ever-rising obesity rates (which is one of the biggest drivers of that crisis).
The only good news is that an important part of Boris’s anti-obesity strategy is still in place (though probably hanging by a thread). This is a proposal to restrict junk food advertising to children.
We know curbs work: A Sheffield University study suggests restrictions on junk food ads on the Transport for London network led to 95,000 fewer cases of obesity, prevented or slowed down 2,857 cases of diabetes, and is expected to increase the NHS £ 218 million savings .
Let’s hope our next Prime Minister will be brave enough to take on the junk food giants.