Stress Management Strategies: Hydration
Sometimes, one of the most helpful things you can do for your body when you're feeling anxious is to have a drink of water. Human bodies are about two-thirds water, but many people are mildly dehydrated (3 percent to 5 percent below their body weight due to fluid loss) and don't know it.
While severe dehydration (10 percent or more fluid loss) has dramatic symptoms and can even result in death, mild dehydration may go unnoticed and is more likely to occur after intense exercise, in extreme heat, while dieting, and after vomiting or diarrhea, either from illness or as a result of food poisoning or drinking too much alcohol.
When you are walking around without enough water in your body, your body will experience stress, and you'll be less equipped to handle stress from other sources.
Are you dehydrated? Symptoms of dehydration include the following:
Dark urine (should be pale yellow)
Inability to concentrate
One reason people tend to be so often dehydrated is that caffeinated beverages are so popular and widely available. While you feel like your thirst is being quenched when you drink a can of cola, the caffeine is actually acting as a diuretic to flush water out of your system.
Dehydration is very dangerous for infants and small children and is a real danger during periods of gastrointestinal illness. If your child has a dry mouth, sunken eyes, dark urine, seems listless, or has a sunken fontanel (the opening between the plates of the skull in infants), seek medical treatment immediately. Dehydration can also be dangerous for seniors, who may not recognize the symptoms and may not be inclined to drink a lot of water.
The other reason for dehydration is simple: People don't drink much water anymore. While water used to be the main and only practical drink of choice for most people, today it's much easier and, many feel, more pleasant to get a can or bottle of soda, a sugary fruit drink, or a cup of hot or iced coffee or tea. While bottled water is also widely available (and is often safer than the tap water in many areas), some people rarely if ever drink water in its plain, unadorned form.
Yet, water can offer your body many benefits, not the least of which is a stronger defense against stress. If you are dehydrated — according to the statistics, you very well may be — your body can't rally its energy in the cause of stress management because it is too busy trying to compensate for its lack of water.
Drinking more water is one of the easiest changes you can make to help manage your stress. With a well-hydrated body, you'll feel better. Your skin will look better. You'll have more energy. So, drink up!
Like anything else, drinking water is a habit. If you don't get into the habit, you'll drink water for a few days then go back to your five-cans-of-diet-soda-per-day habit. Here are some tips to get into this healthful habit:
If you really don't like the taste of plain water, try a few brands of mineral-added bottled water. The minerals give the water more flavor. Or, add a wedge of lemon, lime, or orange to your water. If you just have to have those bubbles, try club soda instead of soda. Still not charmed? Dilute real fruit juice (not the sugar-added stuff) with half water or half club soda.
Ideally, you should drink 64 ounces, or eight cups, of water each day. That sounds like a lot, but if you space it throughout the day, it's not so much. Have 16 ounces first thing in the morning, 16 ounces with lunch, 16 ounces with dinner, and 16 ounces in the evening. Add another 16 ounces or more if you've been sweating or getting a lot of exercise.
We have become so removed from our natural sensations of hunger that we often mistake thirst for hunger and eat when all we really need is a tall cool glass of H20. A glass of water before each meal and whenever hunger pangs strike between meals should satisfy your body's need for water and help to curb excessive eating.