Stressed? A personal health coach can help you cope

Written on 02/13/2021
Jackie Cameron

Health coach and nutritionist Dr Kate Couchman shares her seven main steps to guiding people out of a stressed state.

Scientists have warned that more of us are feeling stressed, with Covid-19 containment measures wiping out businesses, incomes and forcing big changes to our lifestyles. In this interview, health coach Dr Kate Couchman shares her seven main steps to guiding people out of a stressed state. The KZN practitioner – who is also a nutritionist – picks up on how she has managed to control her own epilepsy by sticking to the principles that she shares with her clients. – Jackie Cameron

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Dr Kate Couchman on stress:

It’s unfortunate how much stress impacts on our lives. Chronic stress, to be honest, is our number one killer. Our bodies don’t understand the difference between a car accident or job deadlines. We see ourselves going through this transition at the moment, where so many people are trying to homeschool, attend to household chores, working online and everything that we are going through with Covid – whether families are ill or just the stress of being at home.

Normally we can deal with stress in small packages. But when it becomes long-term, our body struggles with the adjustment of it. We keep pushing ourselves harder and potentially working longer hours. Not necessarily expressing our emotions – because we feel that we have to and everyone else is doing it. So we try and keep up with them. We have work commitments that we feel we need to meet or we are fearful of failing.

We often feel that we’ll deal with certain things later, but because stress affects us in so many ways, it’s not ideal to keep putting things off. Stress helps us cope in the short-term. 

On the steps people should take to alleviate stress:

I often talk about seven steps to stop stress in its tracks. They are diet, exercise, sleep, screen time, water, vitamin D and mindfulness. With diet, we want to give our body as many nutrients as possible. We want to try and include protein, every time we snack or eat a regular meal. Even if you’re vegetarian and or plant based, obviously there’s plant based proteins.

Exercise is the next key point. This is going to help decrease adrenalin. We want people to help to find something that they enjoy and that’s sustainable for them. Something that you like to do so that stress levels can come down. Exercise also helps to release endorphins so that they naturally feel good.

Sleep is the next key factor. If people are getting a bad sleep, then that naturally stresses their adrenals. We want them to get into healthy sleep routine. Even if they are struggling, getting into bed at the same time every night – even if you’re not tired – helps the body to realise that that’s the routine that they need to be in. It also helps the body just to relax and decrease some of the adrenaline that’s going through the body.

Screen time is very important. When we’re trying to work, having notifications popping up can be very distracting and blue light from our phones increases cortisol – which increases our stress and decreases melatonin. There’s lots of research that says if we are on our phones for anything up to two hours before we go to sleep, it decreases our sleep quality by an hour.

Water – we want to try and stay as well hydrated as possible. This can help to increase our concentration, circulation, digestion and kidney function. Often when we are stressed, we use caffeine or alcohol to try and destress us. Those both have an impact on our adrenals and then dehydrate us.

On implementing steps and the results that follow:

I found within four weeks we get really good results. Stress levels have decreased. I always do a little quiz with people when they start with me. On a scale of one to ten, people rate their stress levels and they decrease – on average – by half. After four weeks, anything up to 75%. Energy levels have increased by 350% on that scale of one to ten. Sleep quality has increased by 600% – with an average of 187%.

If someone is sleeping for two hours a night, we start implementing the healthy sleep routine. Therefore they realise that their body gets into that routine and then naturally they will start sleeping better [and] their energy levels improve. Then, stress levels will naturally start coming down.

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