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Feeling the heat? How to live healthy in Mideast

Vahdaneh Vahid

Published: Updated:

A survey which quizzed 10,000 people in 13 countries across the Middle East region, was completed by Khaleej Times in January 2013. It showed that 49 per cent of respondents in the UAE reported being stressed or severely stressed, compared to 46 percent from across the region.

The UAE's surge of expats, along with high numbers in other Gulf and Middle Eastern states, has created competitive professional bubbles, where many workers feel the heat. Stress causes more health problems than smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, yet we accept stress to be a natural part of our daily lives. If we knew the real cause of stress and the manner in which it can damage our health, perhaps we would open our minds to the ways in which we can better deal with it.

Stress comes in many different forms; physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. They all manifest themselves identically at the cellular level, causing physical changes to our bodies.

What triggers stress?

Let’s just face it; we are a highly stressed generation. Therefore, our tolerance to heavy physical exercise decreases. In the health & fitness profession, this is one the hardest concepts to comprehend because most people believe they can fix stress by excessive exercise.

Any slight threat will produce the classic biological stress response in the body.

Upon a stress trigger, the body first releases adrenaline and cortisol (both stress hormones) and goes into sympathetic response. We can do something as simple as skip a meal to trigger these stress hormones to rise. As soon as we do this our blood sugar drops. Which is one the worst things a human body can experience.

As your blood sugar decreases, the body goes into a fight or flight response by releasing the stress hormones mentioned above. In this event cortisol can break down muscle, tissue and bone.

People that are Adrenaline driven don’t sleep, they often wake up several times through the night, have bad dreams and wake up in the morning feeling as though they haven’t slept at all. They suffer from chronic fatigue or nervous exhaustion

These people need caffeine to get, or keep, them going and such people also tend to have cravings for sweets.
Due to elevated insulin, these people store fat around their waists and back.

Principles for effective exercise

Many people over-exercise, a great example is people who do a lot of cardio at the gym. They push themselves to do a strenuous amount of draining cardio every day and notice it is harder to lose weight.

These types of people are prone to physical breakdowns, such as pain in the knee and ankles. By over exercising, one doesn’t give their body enough time to repair and regenerate and if this is paired with eating an unhealthy diet, the body will never be healthy enough to bounce back quickly from injury or illness.

The majority of people find that their Sympathetic nervous system is dominant, this keeps the body in a state of fight or flight, meaning the body is not focused on repairing itself or facilitating the process of digestion. It should all be about giving your body a balance and simulating the Parasympathetic branch of the nervous system, which pushes your body into an anabolic state, meaning the body focuses of repairing and building itself.

So we all need a balance, if you’re a Yang dominant person (Sympathetic nervous system dominant and stressed) try to apply some principles into your lifestyle that will bring out your Ying (Parasympathetic nervous system dominant and calm).

This can be easily done by involving oneself with the element of water or wider nature in general; the beach is perfect place to gain balance and allow for calmness. Treat yourself to a massage once or twice a week, take up some yoga classes and slow down a little. Keep your blood sugar balanced throughout the day by eating smaller meals more often. Try to always include a protein & a carbohydrate in your meals. Take time out at lunch time to eat your food slowly outside with nature and use the high temperatures to your advantage. All these simple tips will help to improve sleep, stress and anxiety but can also help promote weight loss for someone who is Sympathetic/Yang dominant.

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Vahdaneh Vahid is a UK-based Personal Trainer who recently moved to Dubai. She has had an interest in fitness from a young age. Her motto is now "Train Don't Drain" and teaches her clients that a balanced understanding of their physical, mental and emotional wellness is key. She can be found on Twitter: @vvfitness

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.