Stress is part of every day life so finding ways to effectively manage it is crucial. While many people turn to comfort foods, alcohol or other means to cope, these strategies often compound the problem at worst and do very little (if anything) to help it.
A successful program for managing stress is one that includes a holistic approach, namely stress relievers, dietary modifications, exercise, sleep, and nutritional supplements. In this blog I give you some practical tips on how you can not only survive stress but achieve better quality of life.
Stress Management Strategies
Identify Your Stress Triggers
Take note of the events, people or places that make you feel stressed. Whether it is traffic or situations at home or work, it is important to look at your stress triggers and think of ways to better cope. It could be a matter of avoiding certain people or situations, improving time management or resolving conflict with family members.
The Power of Positivity
Positive thinking lessens stress and can improve your overall feeling of well-being. Start off by saying positive things to yourself each day: things you like about yourself, your achievements, your family, or your plans for the day. When feeling stressed, take time to reflect on all the positive things in your life.
Take a Deep Breath
The simple act of taking slow deep breaths can bring on the relaxation response. When you’re feeling stressed, take a few moments to close your eyes and take a few slow deep breaths. Meditation is also a great way to promote peace and relaxation. It takes a little practice, but it is worth the effort.
This Chinese healing technique has been used for thousands of years to manage many health conditions. Modern medicine suggests that acupuncture can alleviate stress by releasing endorphins (the natural pain-killing chemicals in the brain), improving circulation lowering blood pressure and relaxing the muscles.
Exercise to De-stress
Regular physical is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress. In fact, research suggests it is more powerful than any prescription drug, helping to ease stress and cut the risk of almost every chronic disease. Exercise improves blood flow to the muscles and can help relax tense and sore muscles. It also improves sleep quality, and getting a good night’s sleep is critical for coping with stress. Find an activity you enjoy whether it is walking, biking, Yoga or Pilates and try to devote at least 30 minutes each day to being active.
Food for your Mood
Our nutritional choices can have a significant impact on how we react to stress and our overall mood. A proper diet will provide your body with sustained energy and the nutrients it needs to recuperate, regenerate, and repair. Here are some nutritional tips to consider:
- Eat breakfast. It will set the tone for how you feel, physically and emotionally throughout the day. Try oatmeal with cinnamon, yogurt and berries, or poached eggs with spinach and feta cheese.
- Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day. This will keep you energized and in a better position to deal with stress.
- Choose high-fiber, low sugar carbohydrates such as quinoa, brown rice, fruits, and vegetables. These foods break down slowly into sugar so they keep you feeling full longer as well as provide essential nutrients needed to help the body deal with stress.
- Ensure adequate protein intake. Protein provides sustained energy, and is required for muscle repair and growth. Choose lean poultry, fish, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
- Drink lots of purified water and calming herbal teas including chamomile, lemon balm, and passionflower.
- Eat more fish, flaxseed, hemp, and chia seed. These foods contain beneficial fatty acids that are necessary for proper brain and nervous system function.
Avoid high amounts of caffeine (coffee/soft drinks), sugary foods and fast/processed foods. These foods lack nutritional value and contain chemicals that can heighten stress and anxiety.
Supplements can help by supporting the body, promoting relaxation, reducing cortisol levels, and improving sleep. Here are my some to consider:
Multi+Antioxidants: consider this the foundation of your supplement program. A multi is a great way to ensure your body gets the essential nutrients it needs to function optimally. A good multi contains therapeutic levels of the B-vitamins that are essential for the proper functioning of your nervous system as well as antioxidants such as vitamins C, E and grape seed extract to quench free radicals produced by exposure to stress, exercise and environment.
Omega-3 fatty acids: these essential fatty acids are required for the health and function of the brain and nervous system. They influence how cells communicate and support neurotransmitter function. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish and seeds (chia, flax, and hemp seeds). Fish is the preferred source because it contains higher amounts of the biologically active fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Omega-3 fatty acids may help with the management of stress, and they also benefit heart health.
Ashwagandha Extract: also known as Withania or Winter Cherry, this herb has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine. It helps to restore balance in the body and is used to help in the management of stress and fatigue. Research suggests Ashwagandha works by reducing levels of the adrenal hormone cortisol, which becomes elevated during times of stress. It also helps to improve sleep and support the function of the immune system. Look for products that contain the clinically studied form of Ashwagandha, known as KSM-66.