In today’s fast-paced, high-demand world, there’s little time for relaxation and taking care of your physical and mental health. Luckily, we’ve found ten reliable ways to help you deal with the pressures of daily life. Nutritionist and Naturopath, Teresa Mitchell-Paterson shares 10 tips to help you reduce stress.
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1. Go to bed early (and wake up early)
When you’ve got an ever-expanding to-do list, it can be tempting to stay up late to get everything done. But late nights can rob you of much-needed rest and rejuvenation. A small study at Berkley University, California, found that when you sleep, there is a sharp drop in the levels of norepinephrine, a brain chemical associated with high levels of stress. Make the most of your resting hours, by setting up a good bedtime routine: go to bed at the same time every day, make sure your room isn’t too hot or too cold, and that there’s no light (from outside or from electrical devices), which can affect the quality of your sleep.
2. Set a limit on screen time
It’s not just children who need a limit to the amount of time they spend in front of a screen. This constant exposure to ‘news and information’ is affecting our ability to turn off and chill out. A UK study of 100 people found that those who constantly check their phones, email, or social media have higher levels of stress than those who are less likely to constantly check for updates. If you feel that your phone habit is affecting your health and happiness, try a digital detox by turning off your phone at night, and going without checking your mail at least one day a week. Researchers at the University of British Columbia found that those who reduced checking their email inbox to just three times a day for one week were reportedly less stressed than those who continually refreshed the mail icon.
3. Plan your menu
When we’re stressed we’re less likely to take the time to eat well-balanced, healthy meals. Instead, we grab what we can, when we can, which tends to be the available highly-processed and fatty foods. By ensuring that your meals (at least most of them) contain fresh ingredients, with little or no salt or additives, you’ll be doing your body, and stress levels, a favour. Some foods can help lower your stress (cortisol) levels including:
Oranges, capsicum and blueberries: these contain Vitamin C, which can help lower the stress hormone, cortisol, in the bloodstream.
Salmon, walnuts and avocado: these all contain the healthy fats which lowers the norepinephrine levels
Green, leafy veg, dairy, whole grains: good sources of vitamin B and folate, high levels of which may help you fight stress
4. Ditch coffee
You may think that morning coffee wakes you up, but it could be doing more harm than good. Try to limit your caffeine intake to just one a day, and stock up on some herbal teas instead, which can help relax your mind, while warming your stomach. Chamomile (especially at night), ginger and lemon, liquorice or caffeine-free green tea are good choices.
It can be tempting to work instead of exercising, but even short breaks away from your office, and especially your computer screen can make a difference. Going for a walk in fresh air, and amongst greenery, can do wonders for helping you feel calmer. Exercises such as yoga, swimming or tai chi, or stretching with meditation are all designed to help you calm a racing mind and take some time for you.
6. Keep your vitamin levels topped up
An effective way to offset your body against stress is through adequate vitamin B levels, however as majority of the B vitamins can’t be stored in your body, you need to ensure your supply is constant. An activated B vitamin group, made up of B6, B12, B5, B3 and B1, may help brain function, reduces your risk of anxiety by aiding in the transmission of dopamine and serotonin, and assist you achieve and maintain a calmer mood.
7. Be Relaxed
If you’re feeling teary, shaky, or unable to focus, then your stress levels may be affecting your vitamin B store. Help to keep your levels at a healthy level by ensuring you are eating vitamin B rich foods, including bananas, avocados, zucchini, wholegrains, eggs, poultry, lean meat and dairy. One study found that those who followed a Mediterranean diet, which includes good fats, vegetables, wholegrains and unprocessed foods. This ultimately will bring you to a much calmer and more balanced place.
8. Look after your gut
Ever noticed that you get more stomach aches or cramps when you’re stressed? That’s because our gut microbes can become imbalanced due to the influence of certain natural body chemicals caused by stress. Look for a probiotic which is specifically formulated to help support gastrointestinal health with at least 20 billion bacteria, which may reduce stress-related gastric symptoms. A good probiotic is also important to support a healthy immune system, which may also become compromised through ongoing stress.
9. Go herbal
Certain herbs, and a combination of them, can help to reduce your risk of fatigue, anxiety and nervous tension. Adding KSM-66 Ashwagandha to your daily health plan, may help you through this tough time, by supporting your adrenal health and cortisol levels.
Even just five minutes of mindful meditation every morning or evening can make a huge difference in your stress levels, and the way you respond to difficult situations. A study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine, suggests that mindful meditation can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. And the best part? It’s free and you can do it anywhere, at any time. Download an app, pop your headphones in, and allow your mind to unwind.
Stress and anxiety may be related to serious medical conditions and you should consult your healthcare practitioner to discuss your particular needs to optimise your health.
Always run supplements past a health care practitioner if you are on prescribed medication.