The Stress Solution by Dr Rangan Chatterjee
I’ve been an advocate of the concept that we all have our own personal stress threshold for some time. What Dr Chatterjee does is he relates this to ‘micro stress doses’. Having not articulated it like this before it really resonated with me. Micros stress doses can be anything from an email notification on your phone as soon as you wake up, to burning the toast. These all accumulate and can pass our stress threshold.
Stress is not inherently bad for us. Chronic stress is.
Dr Chatterjee’s ‘The Stress Solution’ is all about providing you with ideas and explanations as to how we can minimise our daily micro stress doses and be more resilient to the unavoidable stresses of every day 21st century life.
I am not going to summarise the whole book here, I don’t think I could within a single blog post, nor do I feel it would be fair to all the hard work Dr Chatterjee has put into his book, What I will do is discuss elements of the book which really resonated or inspired me and a few things I’m going to take away from it.
Purpose is discussed quite a bit in this book. To me this is crucial and one I found can really transform your outlook on life. For me hospital work life really didn’t fulfil me with a purpose, it often felt more like a means to an end and a conveyor belt system. Finding lifestyle medicine, connecting with others who share the passion and being inspire by new people almost daily has given me a propose, and I’m now (as my boyfriend teases me about) high on life.
Dr Chatterjee developed a framework called the LIVE, based on principles of ikagai but simplified into actionable tips
L – Doing something you LOVE
I – Doing something with INTENT
V – Develop a long-term VISION
E – Do something that makes you ENGAGE with others
If I related this framework back to me finding my passion of lifestyle medicine I can see it resonates with this framework: I’m doing something I love with intent which has given me a long term vision I’m excited about and it makes me engage with others.
What I really like about this framework is twofold:
1 – It doesn’t have to be your work/what you get paid for. A distinguishing feature from ikagai. This means if you what you love and engages you is outside of work that’s fine.
2 – You can get each aspect from different components of your life. This eases the pressure for an element of your life to deliver all 4 aims.
The section on friendships and relationships really resonated with me. Back at university I learned what would make me happiest in life, it’s the people in it. The chapter on relationships made me realise how much I’d taken for granted in my own.
A lot about the modern Western diet generates stress for our body. I myself have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) which has dramatically improved over the past few years as I’ve prioritised making my life more stress free. I know I’m not along, up to 20% of the UK population are affected by it. One of the many strategies Dr Chatterjee discusses in reducing the stress to your body is by ‘Eating the alphabet’, a target to eat 26 different plant based foods in a month. It’s achievable (far more so than other strategies/advise I’ve seen to increase plant diversity in your diet) and simple. There’s a chart in the book you can use to get tick off food. I thought this would be great if you’re trying to increase the diversity of foods you eat, or your children. You can make it a game, get competitive so it’s fun. Such diversity of plant-based foods will provide a wide variety of fibres, polyphenols and help with generating a healthy microbiome.
Another subject I’m fascinated by and I practice myself which Dr Chatterjee advocates in the book is time restricted eating. I won’t go into it in detail here, but if you want more information on this topic see my recent blog on the topic here: https://emmaatthelifestylepill.com/2019/01/27/time-restricted-eating/
There’s a whole chapter on nature – yes yes yes yes yes! Anyone who’s read my blogs (e.g. https://emmaatthelifestylepill.com/2018/08/25/green-exercise-for-physical-and-mental-well-being/ and https://emmaatthelifestylepill.com/2018/09/23/national-parks-for-mental-health/ ), book reviews (https://emmaatthelifestylepill.com/bookworm/4/) or followed me on Instagram will know my passion for nature. I can’t advocate enough how much getting out in nature does wonders for your physical and mental wellbeing. I was delighted to see it included with such style in a book I’m sure many will read.
Some of Dr Chatterjee’s suggestions for minimising daily stresses I was doing before. For example mindfulness through yoga, surrounding myself in nature, being a hugger and using a blue light filtering app (see https://emmaatthelifestylepill.com/2018/10/14/my-favourite-health-wellness-apps/) in line with the natural day-night cycle on my phone (along with sexy blue-light filtering glasses!). Gratitude is another one, which if any of your follow my daily ‘share a smile’ on Instagram will have noticed me sharing more and more of my gratitude practice. Other things which can provide stress relief to us all I realise I’d taken for granted, connecting with my partner even (or especially) after a busy day, for example.
Not every tip I’m going to take up right now, and that suits me fine. It’s not about perfection and I don’t feel you need to do every suggestion in the book to live a life where stress doesn’t rule. It’s about taking on board those that resonate with you.
Things I’m taking from the book:
- Dr Chatterjee talks about ‘me time’ and a structure for a relaxing and energising morning routine. Personally, I’ve added 10 mins of yoga to wake up with into my morning routine. I use an app but set my phone to aeroplane most so my mindful movement isn’t interrupted. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while but the book gave me the nudge. I’ve been doing this for about 3 weeks and can already feel the difference.
- Putting get-together’s with friends in my diary. Whilst I’m good at prioritising my romantic relationship and family, I’m less good at prioritising my friendships. Dr Chatterjee advises you always have in the diary a date to see your closest friends. I did this recently with a friend, and although it was a couple of months before we both had a weekend free of work or social arrangements we have set the date to see each-other face to face.
- Eating higher-protein, lower carbohydrate meals when on night shifts. This is mentioned in a page of the book covering tips for night shift workers. I read it the week before going onto nights and I have to say I noticed the difference. Sadly, when tired the body craves sugary, high processed foods. This helped minimise these cravings, help keep to my eating time-window during nights and made me feel less nauseous whilst doing them. Definitely going to keep them up for the time I have left in hospitals.
This book as so many more inspiring ideas to help manage your stress, with the science to back up how they help. I couldn’t possibly cover them all here.
It’s easy to read and I feel gives enough variety in suggestions they’ll be something for everyone.