It’s no secret that the festive season comes with a lot of added pressure. Be it balancing a jam-packed social calendar, hosting a houseful of guests or trying to find a car park in a crowded shopping centre — for many, Christmas ‘tis the season for stress.
Nature’s Own Naturopath Jodie Langley acknowledges that the festive season is one of the most busy and stressful times of the year, placing undue strain or stress on our systems.
“Under stress, the body has its own natural reaction which may increase your heart rate, decrease your metabolism – you may also notice your muscles tense up and breathing becomes faster or difficult,” Jodie said.
“While some small amounts of stress are not bad for you, long term high stress levels can put too big a load on our bodies and this is when it becomes unhealthy.”
“There are lots of natural nutrients which can easily be incorporated into your diet to help your body cope under elevated stress,” she said.
Here are her nutritional tips and mood food suggestions to help combat the festive frenzy and associated stress:
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JODIE’S TOP 5 SEASONAL STRESS BUSTERS
1. Say no to sugar:
Stressful situations can have us running to the sweet jar as glucocorticoids (also known as our ‘stress hormones’) fly into action to provide the energy needed to combat the perceived physical or emotional stress. While the sugar hit might seem to calm you at the time, it is only a quick fix causing a short term high followed by the all too common low. The best alternative to sugar is a sweet potato snack which will give you the same soothing sensation but without the crash. Plus, they’re also packed with other beneficial vitamins and fibre (which will keep you fuller longer).
2. The simple answer is complex:
In a healthy diet, carbohydrates are necessary for helping to produce energy, but it’s important to differentiate between simple and complex carbs. Complex carbs are found in vegetables, whole-meal bread and cereals, whereas simple carbs are the naughty ones found in white flour and packaged cereals and contain next to no nutritional value. Complex carbs fuel the body and may assist your brain to produce the feel-good chemical serotonin which may keep you calm and positive in stressful situations. Try starting the day with a bowl of oats and if you need a refuel, snack on a grapefruit or carrot sticks.
3. Be pro potassium:
Your blood pressure changes to meet your body’s needs and is affected by varying factors including body position, breathing, emotional state, energy and exercise. Under stress, a number of these factors can change which in turn may raise your blood pressure. Potassium is a key electrolyte which helps regulate blood pressure. Bananas and avocado are both great sources of potassium and will work as a quick fix if you’re under extra pressure.
4. Pumpkin seeds:
Prolonged periods of stress can place strain on the body and impact other areas. When we redirect a significant portion of our energy on worrying we can feel quite flat and become more susceptible to picking up other nasties that are going around. Zinc helps keep the body’s guard up by strengthening the immune system and regulating blood sugar. Pumpkin seeds are high in this nutrient and easily portable in a handbag. Try preparing this healthy snack by tossing salted pumpkin seeds with sesame oil and Chinese five spice powder, then bake at a high heat until crisp.
5. Go mad for magnesium:
This essential mineral is great for relaxing tight and cramped muscles and also helps the release and uptake of serotonin to improve your mood. Magnesium helps to protect the brain and nervous system as well as playing an important role in the adrenal responses. You can up your levels with a supplement powder and through diet. Try activated nuts like almonds, cashews, brazil nuts and pecans for a magnesium rich snack. To activate nuts, soak for twelve hours in salted water, rinse and drain and dry in a low temperature oven or a dehydrator. This helps to break down phytic acid which is an enzyme inhibitor and reduces our body’s ability to absorb the nutrients.
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