New research shows stressed-out Australians are losing sleep over money-related matters and many can't see their anxiety being curbed any time soon.
A Newspoll commissioned by Nutra-Life Organic Magnesium has revealed that four in ten Australians are more stressed than this time last year and 70% can see their anxiety levels being the same or even worse in a year's time.
The online survey of more than 1200 Australians aged 18-64, showed that women are marginally more likely to admit to being stressed and those in the younger age groups, particularly 18 to 24 year olds, are much more likely to believe they will be more stressed in the future.
By far the major source of stress is money-related matters, affecting 84% of respondents, and 79% of workers said their job is a source of anxiety, with work-life balance proving to be a concern for 72%. Sleep deprivation was the most common by-product of stress identified by the Newspoll survey. Three out of four respondents (77%) had trouble sleeping because of stress, a similar number (73%) reported a lack of energy, and 68% had trouble concentrating.
Australian naturopath and stress expert Lisa Guy said the by-products of stress compound the issue, with lack of sleep and concentration difficulties creating a vicious circle.
"When you are faced with a stressful situation, you go into what's called "fight or flight" mode. Your body starts pumping out adrenalin which at first helps provide you with energy and makes you feel more alert. But when stress is ongoing, the coping capacity of the biological systems designed to help you deal with the pressure become impaired and a negative spiral ensues.
"Restlessness, lack of energy, weakened immunity, cardiovascular problems and anxiety are all linked to stress," she said.
One Aussie trying to tackle the problem head on is singer/songwriter Candice Alley, who said the everyday stresses of juggling a career, caring for her children and supporting her loving husband, swimming legend Grant Hackett, can sometimes be difficult to manage.
"Life can be overwhelming at times and pushing to be the best in everything you do, at work and at home, can create anxiety, especially if you're giving one hundred per cent to each area and sometimes wondering if you're making headway," Candice Alley said.
"I found myself getting wound up over the big picture while sweating over the smallest of things and took it upon myself to create a more stress-free environment and become calmer."
Alley now mixes exercise, such as pilates and park runarounds with her toddler twins, with the serenity she finds in song-writing and music, and a daily dose of Nutra-Life Organic Magnesium, a natural supplement that helps alleviate stress and worry.
"I did my research and found that magnesium plays a crucial role in energy production and is necessary for almost every major biological process, so I thought I'd give it a shot and see if it was as calming as I'd read."
Candice Alley has become a fan.
"I understand the science, that prolonged stress depletes magnesium from the body and the right amount has a calming effect on the central nervous system," Candice Alley said. "I can't categorically say that the extra magnesium is countering the effects of adrenalin and other stress hormones, but I can confidently say I'm more energetic and able to cope with life's daily demands.
"I feel comfortable taking a natural product rather than a pharmaceutical one, and have certainly been sleeping better and loving life that little bit more."
Like Candice, Lisa Guy advocates a holistic approach to overcoming stress and anxiety.
"There are a range of measures you can take to help address your stress - diet, exercise and taking time to identify the stress factors in your life are all important. If you can ascertain the cause of the stress, you can then effectively identify how it can be prevented," she said.
"Massive workloads and bullying are major sources of work stress. Look at whether you are managing your time effectively, find out if there are other resources that could be supporting you and in the event of bullying, make sure you speak with your co-workers or supervisors, your HR department or union."
Lisa Guy said that when you are unable to alter the source of stress, bolstering your personal resources is necessary.
"Adequate exercise is necessary to burn off unused energy and it can help clear the mind. Good nutrition is also important to ensure sufficient energy to cope with demands, and to replace nutrients consumed during stress coping. Herbal teas, a magnesium supplement, exposure to sunlight and support from friends and family is also really helpful."
Insight into Magnesium
Question: What is magnesium and what role does it play in the human body?
One of the most abundant minerals in the body, magnesium is essential to all cells of all known living organisms. It is involved in more than 300 essential enzymatic actions in humans and is necessary for every major biological process. Magnesium plays a crucial role in the brain, nervous system, cardiovascular system, muscles, hormone-secreting glands, kidney and liver.
Magnesium helps regulate blood sugar levels, keeps the heart rhythm steady, aids the immune system and helps ensure bones remain strong. It is also recognised for helping to manage disorders such as hypertension, disease and diabetes, relaxing our muscles and supporting our nervous system.
Question: How does the body produce magnesium?
Magnesium is a mineral which means it is not produced naturally by the body. Instead, we absorb it from food, beverages and supplements. Vegetables (especially dark green leafy vegetables, spices, nuts, wholegrain cereals and cocoa) are all rich sources of magnesium.
Our bodies store the majority of our magnesium in our bones, with another significant portion found in our muscles and the remainder in other cell types and body fluids.
Question: Why do magnesium levels in the human body vary?
If someone gets insufficient dietary magnesium (or insufficient rest in-between episodes of stress), their body's magnesium stores become slowly depleted. Both intense and/or prolonged stress can deplete magnesium, which is released from blood cells and then excreted via urine. Stress causes adrenalin to be released, which further increases magnesium depletion. The more stressed you are, the greater your depletion.
Many chronic fatigue patients have a low level of magnesium in their red blood cells. Using magnesium supplements may help reduce their resulting chronic tiredness and increase their energy levels.
b>Question: How does magnesium depletion affect stress?
The normal hormonal response to stress involves blood cells releasing magnesium into blood plasma, where it has a calming effect on the nerve-jangling effects of adrenalin and other stress hormones. When the body's magnesium levels are low, this normal response disintegrates. And with no magnesium present to counter the stress hormones, the effects of stress are intensified and coping becomes harder.
Question: Why is magnesium effective for stress?
Magnesium has a calming effect on the entire central nervous system. This means it decreases neural excitability (nerve overreaction), symptoms of which can include muscle tension, stress, tension headaches or migraines, irritability, muscle spasms and cramps.
Taking Nutra-Life Organic Magnesium can therefore help provide a feeling of calm during stress, and increase people's ability to cope with stressful situations.
Question: What is Nutra-Life Organic Magnesium?
Nutra-Life Organic Magnesium Complete is a health food supplement that combines 100% organic forms of magnesium* with added Vitamin D.
Organic forms of magnesium are believed to be more easily absorbed than non-organic forms, meaning the body can actually make use of a higher proportion of the available magnesium.
Question: How was stress affecting your life?
Candice Alley: Being a new mum of twins, sleep deprivation was the constant in my life for a while which was a result of stress, so I had to look at some alternative solutions to curb my stress and improve my sleep and that's where Nutra-life Organic Magnesium made a significant difference in my life.
Question: How has Nutra-Life Organic Magnesium helped you?
Candice Alley: It's definitely given me noticeable differences in my everyday life - feeling a sense of calm, and a continual source of energy. Being an organic product, it is more easily absorbed into the body which is more beneficial to everyone and for me it's been a supplement I've taken on a daily basis.
Question: Can you talk about your other suggestions for fighting stress?
Candice Alley: Definitely meditation, if you have the time. Even on a short flight it's a great tool to have. Reading a good book when the babies are in bed or if you can...a massage is amazing!
When you are faced with a stressful situation you go into what's called 'fight or flight' mode. Your adrenal glands start pumping out a hormone called adrenalin, which sets off certain physiological changes in the body.
Initially your heart starts beating faster, your blood pressure rises and you start to sweat. The blood vessels that supply your digestive system constrict, which shuts down your digestion. Eating when you're stressed will leave you with indigestion and can result in nutritional deficiencies if left too long. For people who have been stressed for a long period, their adrenal glands continually pump adrenalin (and then cortisol) until the adrenal glands become exhausted. As a result they start feeling tired and worn out. Continual stress will also weaken the immune system, leaving you vulnerable to colds and flu and other infections.
Here are some tips for natural ways to help treat stress and anxiety related conditions.
Two of the most important 'anti-stress' nutrients are magnesium and vitamin B. Both of these nutrients are essential for nervous system and adrenal health. Magnesium can be used to help improve sleep and is an important nutrient for treating anxiety.
Herbs used to calm the nervous system and support the adrenal glands are chamomile, valerian, withania, skullcap and lemon balm. These herbs can be purchased from health food stores in tea form - let tea steep for 5-10 minutes and drink 3 cups a day.
Cut down on caffeine:
Try cutting down on coffee and other caffeine containing foods and beverages (black tea, cola, chocolate). Caffeine will only stimulate an already over-stimulated nervous system. You want to calm your nervous system down, so try a calming herbal tea instead or eat some oats as they have a wonderful calming and nourishing effect on the nervous system.
Take time to shine:
To help tackle stress and anxiety, be kind to yourself and give your body and mind time to relax and reflect. Physical exercise, breathing exercises and meditation are great ways to help clear the mind and burn off nervous energy.
Interview by Brooke Hunter