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Healthy Living: ‘Beat STRESS with D.R.E.A.M.S’ || Eniola Afolabi-Obe

I am so delighted to be sharing again on a fresh edition of “Healthy Living”, providing us with knowledge and evidence-based lifestyle medicine strategies to foster and improve our overall health outcome. Let’s hit the ground running as we delve into the “menu” this write up will be speaking to.

These will include all the six pillars of lifestyle medicine namely, healthy diets, physical activity, restorative sleep, healthy relationships, management of stress and avoidance of harmful substances, while also providing actionable take aways for personal practice.

The global lifestyle Medicine week 2024 was celebrated from the 18th through the 24th of May 2024, during which more insights into the field of Lifestyle Medicine were shared.

However, this year, the Society of Lifestyle Medicine of Nigeria(SOLONg) celebrated the Global lifestyle Medicine week as it highlighted the importance of healthy lifestyles with the theme: ‘Beat STRESS with D.R.E.A.M.S’ an approach to mitigating stress, which focused on empowering individuals with the knowledge and tools to combat stress and chronic diseases through evidence-based lifestyle interventions.

Stress refers to response to real or imagined threats we are unable to deal with, which could be internal (for example from illness, loss of a loss of a loved one or even from a job loss) or external (stemming from social, environmental or psychological circumstances).

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Chronic stress has been linked as a causality in the development and continuance of chronic diseases. Though unavoidable and affects everyone, managing stress through healthy coping choices remains key in the maintenance of one’s health.

The first key message addressed stress as a Global challenge, with about 190 million people worldwide, reported by the World Health Organisation to have experienced significantly higher levels of stress in 2020. Nigeria inclusive, with a high prevalence of work related stress among the employee workforce in Nigeria.

Also, chronic stress was noted be detrimental to health as it contributes significantly in the development and perpetuation of chronic diseases. Its effect on the human body include but not limited to hormonal changes, immune system imbalance, metabolic disturbances, and negative behavioral patterns.

The manifestation of the various forms of stress is embedded in the acronym S.T.R.E.S.S.:
• S – Social or Work related Stress: Arising from poor interactions with others, whether at work, home, or in social settings.
• T – Time Stress: Feeling overwhelmed by the demands on our time.
• R – Relationship Stress: Stemming from conflicts or tensions within relationships.
• E – Environmental Stress: Caused by factors in our surroundings, such as noise, pollution, or clutter.
• S – Self-Induced Stress: Often resulting from our own negative beliefs or thoughts, unhealthy behaviors, or lifestyle choices.
• S – Situational Stress: Triggered by life events such as the loss of a loved one, illnesses, or circumstances like insecurity, economic stressors, job changes, or financial difficulties

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The third key message focused on the D.R.E.A.M.S approach in mitigating stress
D: Diet and Healthy Nutrition: Emphasizing predominantly whole, plant-based foods, minimally processed foods, and limited consumption of dairy, red meat, poultry, and eggs.
R: Relationships: Fostering healthy, positive connections with individuals, family members, and colleagues and avoiding toxic, abusive relationships.
E: Exercise: Encouraging regular, organized physical activity such as brisk walking, dancing, skipping, or jogging for at least 30 minutes on five days of the week.
A: Avoidance of Psychoactive or Toxic Substances: Discouraging the use of alcohol, tobacco, and street drugs.
M: Mental Wellbeing and Effective Stress Management: Promoting stress-reducing techniques to enhance mental health, including the following tips: Building a strong support network of friends and family. Spend quality time with loved ones, engaging in activities that strengthen your bond.

Challenging negative thoughts and replacing them with positive affirmations. Staying present in the moment and practicing mindfulness techniques like deep breathing or meditation. Prioritizing tasks, learning time management, and delegating when necessary. Maintaining a nutritious diet, getting regular exercise, and prioritizing adequate sleep for overall well-being.

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Spending time outdoors in natural environments to rejuvenate and reduce stress. Learning to say no when necessary and prioritizing your well-being. Addressing issues calmly and respectfully, focusing on finding solutions rather than placing blame.

Identifying actionable steps to address situations rather than dwelling on stressors. Reminding yourself that stressful situations are temporary and focusing on aspects of life that bring joy and fulfillment.
S: Sleep: Ensuring adequate and restorative sleep, with 7-8 hours recommended for individuals between 18-65 years.

In conclusion, it is important to note that by embracing the principles of Lifestyle Medicine and also addressing the multifaceted nature of stress, we can pave the way for a healthier future. Let each and every one make a commitment to beat STRESS with D.R.E.A.M.S together.




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