Ever noticed how whenever a “bug” is going around your office, some people get sick right away and some don’t even notice? Or it knocks some folks out for 2 weeks while others are good as new in 24 hours? The strength of our immune system is related to many factors, but one of them is definitely stress. Worry and stress can literally steal resources that could be better used fighting off disease and keeping you healthy. And stress not only depletes immunity, it also shortens your life and shrinks your brain.
Here are some things you can officially take off your list of things to stress about! Aren’t you glad you asked?
- Your Cholesterol level
Though it gets a huge amount of attention, may be far less predictive of heart disease than was previously believed. Look at the whole picture of risks: your triglycerides (under 100 is great), your HDL and the ratio of triglycerides to HDL. That last ratio (triglycerides divided by HDL) predicts heart disease way better than cholesterol (you’d like it to be around 2; less is even better). And five basic habits reduce heart disease and death many times more than lowering cholesterol does:
- Don’t smoke
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat fish, vegetables and nuts
- Drink alcohol very moderately.
- Your performance
Whether in the boardroom, the bedroom or the tennis court, worries about performance never accomplish anything except to make things worse. While focusing on goals can be a healthy thing, it can also keep you from being present in the moment and enjoying the process. An exclusive concern with how things are going to turn out keeps you from actually getting better at what you’re doing because your mind is too busy judging your performance. Remember Karate Kid, “Wax on, wax off?” Sometimes the best way to get somewhere is the slow scenic route. Not only do you arrive, but you get to enjoy the trip.
- The past
There are three important things to know about the past. One, it’s over. Two, you can’t change it. And three, the only thing keeping it alive is the energy you put into holding on to it. Letting go of the past can be one of the most liberating events in your life. It means allowing what was to be what it was — and also, what it was not. It doesn’t necessarily mean forgetting, but it does mean forgiving — both yourself and others. Remember that anger is like a little hot ball of wax. It causes the most harm to the person holding on to it.
- Your fat intake
Walter Willett, MD, Ph.D., the head of the Harvard School of Public Health, has said that the percentage of fat in the diet is not associated with any health outcome ever studied. The type of fat, and the type of carbohydrate, however is. If you dump the trans fats, keep calories reasonably low, and eat as little sugar and processed foods as you can, the percentage of fat in your diet is irrelevant, really.
- Getting sick
The study of the way our thoughts and feelings interact with our brain chemistry and our immune system has given birth to a whole new science: psychoneuroimmunology. The take-home message is that it’s all related. Studies show that people are far more resilient when they’re in a crisis than they thought they would be. If you get sick, you’ll deal with it- probably better than you thought you would. Meanwhile, take the best care of yourself possible, and let the cards fall where they may.
- Drinking coffee
Coffee is way overrated as a health risk. It’s actually one of the major sources of antioxidants in the American diet. Two of the 16 nutrition experts who contributed lists to my book, “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth” mentioned coffee as one of their top ten favorite foods. New research shows that coffee drinking lowers the risk for diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. Sure, too much can make you jittery and in some susceptible people raise blood pressure. But if you don’t live on it, drink it earlier in the day so it doesn’t upset your sleep and try to buy organic, it’s a perfectly fine drink to enjoy.
- Your teenager
There’s a huge temptation to be drawn into the vortex of angst, lack of motivation, acting out, anger and even drug use that can be part of the teenage years and to worry that things will never get better. Remember your teen’s brain isn’t even finished growing till age 25. The rage he may be expressing at you right now can — in a mere few years — morph into “Mom, thanks for doing that way back when I was 17.” Just remember to take the long view, don’t get too excited by the ups and definitely don’t worry too much about the downs. It’s all a journey and it ain’t over till it’s over.
- Your Limits
Stress comes not from our limits, but from the stories we tell ourselves about those limits. We make ourselves miserable by thinking we should be doing so much better than we are. Examples: the assistant who thinks she should be boss by now, the tennis player who thinks he should be serving 140 miles an hour, or the dieter who thinks she should have lost 50 pounds by Tuesday. Embracing your own limitations — even if they’re temporary — is part of the process of growing and becoming better. At the very least, it will make you happier to live in your own shoes at the moment. Remember the saying “Progress, not Perfection.” Wisdom begins when you realize that the perfect moment is the one you’re in.
- Having it All
One of the most destructive myths of the past few decades has been this one: You can have it all. You can’t. Sorry. If you choose a beach house, you don’t get snow-capped mountains. You can’t spend 8 hours a day of quality time with your infant and be on the fast track in a law firm that requires 100 hour weeks to make partner. You can’t have an intimate monogamous relationship and still date 5 people a week. But that’s not bad news. When any road is possible we often take none, or if we do take one, we worry constantly that it was the wrong choice. Relax. Wisdom and happiness begin when you make a commitment, even if it means there are some things you won’t do. Choose wisely and enjoy the process and the journey. You don’t actually have to “have it all” to be happy. True happiness is possible when you’re content with what you’ve chosen.
Remember, in the words of the great composer Stephen Sondheim, “The choice may have been mistaken….The choosing was not.”
Enjoy the journey!
Jonny Bowden, “the Nutrition Myth Buster” is a board-certified nutritionist and the best-selling author of 15 books including The Great Cholesterol Myth, Living Low Carb, the 150 Healthiest Foods On Earth and Smart Fat. To learn more about healthy living, motivation and nutrition, visit jonnybowden.com.
Note: The statements presented in this column should not be considered medical advice or a way to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. Dietary supplements do not treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of a medical professional before altering your daily dietary regimen. The opinions presented here are those of the writer.
Posted on WholeFoods Magazine Online, 12/22/16