Stress, dance and diet.
By Paul Vander Straaten
What is stress?
According to Dr. Tamara Hunter*, “stress is the emotional, mental and physical state resulting from an imbalance between your perception of the demands being placed on you and your perception of your own abilities to cope with the demands.” (Juice Plus Health Education Series, Stress Less Live Longer 2007). In this regard stress is different for everyone and the way we handle our stress is very significant in terms of how it impacts on our health.
Not all stress is bad. Dr Tamara Hunter believes there are three main types of stress.
- Eustress is the good stress such as getting a new job, getting married or beginning a sporting event. This is the type of stress that prompts us to succeed in task performance.
- Hypo stress is the type of stress that gives us low levels of arousal and manifests in poor performance and / or procrastination.
- Distress or being ‘stressed out’ is when our negative emotional state has us believe that our ability to cope with a given situation is inept. This is the bad stress in which most of the time we melt down and fail in task performance.
Some of the physical responses to stress include:
- Muscle tension increases
- Immune responsiveness decreases
- Respiration, circulation and perspiration increase
- Blood pressure, blood fats and blood sugars increase
- Gastro intestinal function decreases
- Saliva production decreases
As a dancer, if your muscles are over tense and your circulation is too high, you just won’t achieve peak performance and can injure more easily. If you find yourself in this state then it is fair to assume that your mental state is not ideal either.
When your immune system is not functioning adequately your risk of sickness is increased. In turn your risk of missed dance opportunities or poor performance also increases.
It’s sometimes hard to know whether stress is responsible for immune suppression or whether it is the actions we take when we are stressed that are responsible. Dr Tamara Hunter has theorised the COPS behaviours (Caffeine, Overeating, Pick me ups, Smoking). These are things we do in times of stress that are bad for us and only challenge our long term health.
Hypertension, stroke, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and Alzheimer’s are just some of the long term negative effects of today’s stressful lifestyles. When we are stressed our body’s cellular oxidation increases. In fact, stress actually increases free radical damage to brain cells and a life time of stress can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
To combat cellular oxidation we need to load our body up with antioxidants. Antioxidants slow down cellular ageing and prevent disease. We find antioxidants in fruits and vegetables. Oxidative stress conquers and leads to disease when we do not have enough antioxidants in our body to offset the cellular rusting.
Fruits and vegetables are nutrient dense and contain thousands of phytochemicals. Good sources of antioxidants include tomatoes and watermelon which contain lycopene (a powerful antioxidant for the brain and for the prevention of prostate and cervical cancer). Sweet potato, carrots and pumpkin are good sources of beta-carotene. Blueberries, broccoli, apples and onions are all rich in flavonoids. It is the wide selection of plant food colours that give our immune system a fighting chance.
The reality is that in the western world we are all too busy. Although we all have different things going on in our lives the one thing we have in common is stress and a lack of time. To help reduce your stress you may consider yoga or breathing exercises (see our article on Yoga for Dancers). Also set aside some time for the things you love doing. And, of course, feed your body with what it needs to grow and perform.
Don’t let stress be the cause of your poor health and rob you of your love for dancing. Be sure to make the most of every meal and incorporate lots of fruits and vegetables into your daily nutritional plan. If you want to take a simple, convenient and affordable step towards improving your base line nutrition please visit www.fruitandvegwithjuiceplus.com to get started on Juice Plus whole food based nutritional support.
Give your body what it needs to be stress free and dancing with ease.
By Paul Vander Straaten
Health & Fitness Consultant
Director of Healthaddiction Personal Fitness Training
Paul has been working in the fitness industry for 9 years. His focus for the last 6 years has been on nutrition and how important it is in achieving optimal health. He believes that nutrition is vitally important when it comes to good health and that a plant based diet must rule our daily nutritional plan if we are to live long and strong. Good health is easy and Juice Plus just makes it even easier.
* Dr. Tamara Hunter is an Exercise Physiologist and Registrar in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Sort after speaker in the areas of stress management nutrition, women’s health, body image and exercise physiology.
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Top photo: © Andystjohn | Dreamstime.com