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 stay afloat.
Even before Covid emerged, a survey by the Mental Health Foundation found that 75 per cent of Britons said they had been so stressed out in the past year that they felt they couldn’t cope.
However, alongside “bad” stress, there is also “good” stress that drives you to rise to a challenge and triumph against all odds (thinking of you Leos).
Sometimes a little extra stress is just what the doctor ordered. That’s according to a recent study from the University of Georgia in the US, which found that moderate levels of stress not only make you more resilient, but also reduce your 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 per cent of Britons said they had been so stressed out in the past year that they felt they couldn’t cope
The study, published in the journal Psychiatry Research, involved testing more than 1,200 young adults who were asked to fill out questionnaires that rated their stress levels and answered questions like, “How many times have you found that you couldn’t cope with all of these things did you have to do?’
They also underwent cognitive tests that measured their memory, ability to switch between tasks, and processing speed (how fast their brain works).
Researchers, after evaluating the numbers, concluded that exposure to moderate levels of stress improves people’s cognitive abilities and protects against the risks of developing mental health problems.
It may be that when we are stressed, we learn coping mechanisms that will help us face future challenges.
There’s a fine line to be drawn, of course, and researchers point out that while some stress can be good for your brain, sustained high levels of stress can be incredibly damaging.
These findings support something I’ve long believed: that stress, whether physical or mental, can make us stronger.
There’s even a name for it: Hormesis. This isn’t just a twist on “join the army and you’ll make a man”; Hormesis is a way of explaining the health benefits of a continuous challenge.
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 stay afloat
Take something as simple as exercise. When you run or pump iron, you actually damage your muscles and cause small tears. Your body responds by repairing, and this makes your muscles stronger.
Eating bitter vegetables is another example. Plants produce compounds called phytochemicals, some of which act as natural pesticides to deter mammals like us from eating them.
They taste bitter because they contain potentially toxic chemicals. However, many vegetables that are particularly good for us, like cabbage and broccoli, are so bitter that even adults have trouble loving them.
It appears that the toxic phytochemicals are in such small doses that they don’t harm us, yet they are potent enough to activate a stress response in our cells, which then turns on genes that make our cells stronger and healthier.
When you start looking at the world this way, you realize that many activities that we initially find stressful, like eating bitter vegetables, jogging and lifting weights, or even intermittent fasting — something I’m famous for — become tremendous are beneficial in the long run.
The challenge seems to be part of the benefit. The fact that prolonged starvation is very bad for you doesn’t mean that short periods of intermittent fasting have to be a little bit bad for you. In fact, a lot of research shows that cutting back on your calories for short periods of time has several benefits, as long as you eat healthily the rest of the time.
Hormesis could also explain the benefits of cold showers or cold water swimming, something I’ve been doing for a while. Submerging yourself in cold water is a shock to the system at first – I’m still gasping for air.
But if you keep doing this, you’ll find that not only can you manage the stress caused by cold water immersion, but you should find that it helps you deal with other stressors in your life as well , such as B. Pressure at work or poor sleep.
President Kennedy famously said in a speech that started the race to man the moon, “We choose to go to the moon and do the other things this decade, not because they’re easy, but because they’re difficult.” “
Keep that in mind the next time you hesitate, run, swim, or just take on a new challenge.
If you have a smartwatch, you know that it monitors everything from your heart rate to the number of calories burned. But it can’t see how your heart changes during 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 equipment. But this new device is no bigger than a band-aid and requires no specialist knowledge. It’s still in development, but future uses could include monitoring a dodgy heart or developing a fetus in the womb. It could really be revolutionary.
Planting a tree could protect your brain
If you live on a busy street or bike a lot (which I do), you should be alarmed by a new report from the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants, which, after reviewing nearly 70 studies, concluded that air pollution not only increases the risk for heart disease and cancer, but also for dementia.
Cars, buses and trucks produce PM2.5 – tiny particles that penetrate deep into your lungs and are then carried 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 had more behavioral problems and fewer IQs.
So what can you do? First, you could try to avoid traffic jams because even if you close the windows you are still exposed to pollutants emitted by other cars. A few years ago I took part in a study where I wore a pollution meter while walking, cycling or driving around central London. By far the worst results were when I was in the car. You might also want to plant some trees in your garden.
In 2019, Lancaster University tested the ability of nine tree species to reduce air pollution and found that silver birch, yew and elder were able to use the hairs on their leaves to capture the tiny pollutant particles, reducing levels in the ambient air have been reduced by more than 70 percent.
And please do not buy any wood-burning stoves – they contribute more to fine dust pollution than all road traffic put together.
The new Prime Minister must prioritize the fight against obesity
Now that Boris Johnson is stepping down, I fear it will mean the end of our fight against obesity.
Boris had personal reasons for tackling this issue – he said he ended up in intensive care with Covid because he was “seriously overweight”. But will his successor be just as enthusiastic?
Liz Truss has said that people “don’t want the government telling them what to eat” and that they support Boris’ proposed ban on “buy one, get one free” offers on products such as chocolate, chips or cake will cancel.
While she and Rishi Sunak say they are committed to alleviating the NHS crisis, it remains to be seen how they intend to tackle our ever-rising obesity rate (which is one of the biggest drivers of this crisis).
The only good news is that an important part of Boris’ anti-obesity strategy is still in place (although it’s probably hanging by a thread). This is a proposal to curb junk food advertising aimed at children.
We know work is being restricted: A Sheffield University study suggests restrictions on junk food ads on the Transport for London network resulted in 95,000 fewer cases of obesity in 2019, prevented or delayed 2,857 cases of diabetes and expected to save the NHS £218m.
Let’s hope our next PM is brave enough to take on the junk food giants.