Science has helped us function. Science has made us cleverer. Unlike animals who just eat, sleep, procreate, play, eat, sleep, procreate, moan. Earth is not the same as it was in 1958, 1775 or 1211.
Last week we spoke of the industrial revolution giving us products that help us, but also mess our health. Like plastics. This week let us look at stress.
When I was a kid, we all used to think being in the white man’s country would be best thing on earth. Many years later, I arrived in one of these countries. Met a Tanzanian in Norway. The chap was happily, settled with family and children.
We sat at the table in his huge house eating. When the meal was over and we were now reclining on their comfortable sofas and watching TV, we kept telling him how much we admired him and his achievements. He had made it. Ulaya.
The happy man cleared his throat.
“Life here is good, yes. You work. You get paid well. Your kids go to nice schools. You have clean and better surroundings than back home. No dust, no mosquitoes, but you are always running. It is a very stressful life. You are constantly fighting time. Time, time, time. I am so fed up. We shall soon return home. Life in Africa might be chaotic but at least your heart beats slowly.”
Looking back, those words meant nothing. We were fresh from Africa. Sitting in someone’s living room. First world. Cars. Huge houses. Big shops. Money. The word stress could have meant monkeys or trees. It did not register.
Nevertheless, that is the unknown side of the developed world. Stress. Stress and its girlfriend called Time. Time and Stress mortal enemies. You are always running to catch the bus, board the train, be somewhere, be here. Over there. Punctuality. You cannot be late. Late once, for say ten minutes might be excused. Repeat? Make it a habit? You will not be hired. You build a reputation. No honey. No wine. No dollars; no Euros, no Pounds.
Even children are stressed.
Not just for fear of terrorism and child molesters. Stressed because information technology is putting pressure on them. Return from school, practise music, a sport or both; then homework. Unlike Africa, here, little ones begin school, very, very early. The average for starting nursery in Africa is around six -7 years. Here, nonetheless, a two-year-old baby is already in a strict, play and learn educational institution.
On streets, nowadays, the sight of young people permanently on their gadgets is normal. Instagram. Facebook. Imo. Canada and Sweden under 12’s are not allowed mobile phones. Or so I hear.
Stress is like grass. Everywhere.
According to several scientific studies, when we are stressed the body produces Cortisol, a primary hormone that may affect arteries of the heart. One of these malfunctions is coronary heart disease, which is of course, fatal.
It is not only the heart that is hammered.
When we are stressed, our moods change; which usually causes loss of energy, loss of libido (sexual desire) and inflammation of stomach walls. Know stomach ulcers?
Usually any business that brings peace to the mind and body may help. Exercise, holidays, good food.
Recently, various medical journals and nutritional programs have listed over a dozen foods and fruits that may assist the body deal with stress.
Top on the list of fruits are berries. They improve body defence immunity. Blueberries for instance have anti oxidants and phytonutrients. King of fruits, avocados, (super food) carries over 20 powerful nutrients and natural fat.
Milk, eggs and yoghurt (above), have vital vitamins like D, the sunshine vitamin that gives you a feeling of joy and maintenance of bones. Seeds and nuts are filled with nutrients and anti-oxidants that support cardio vascular health. Very beneficial to the heart.
Cashew nuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds have Omega 3 (equally found in fish). Regulate emotions, fatigue and irritability. For women suffering from PMS (premenstrual tension), Omega- 3 helps moods through its minerals. Here we should mention oats. Blood glucose. As super carbohydrates, oats have serotonin - the happy feeling. De stresser.
Are you a meat eater? High up the ladder are turkey and salmon. Unfortunately, salmon, the black- pink fish is not available in the tropics; however, eating any fish helps. Like fish, turkey meat offers a calming effect. Last on the line are black chocolate and green leafy vegetables. These provide Dopamine, the pleasure chemical. Dopamine has a positive mood and more energy, and is therefore, excellent for those with depression and stress.
So, when you are stressed, you might want to reach out for cigarette, coffee, drugs and alcohol. These are mere escape tools. They stimulate but do not solve the actual, underlining, battle.
Published in Citizen Tanzania , Friday 11 March, 2016