Ok, let’s talk about stress...
So we actually need a little bit of stress in our lives, it encourages the body to regenerate and can drive us to produce and create great things.
And the body is well primed to deal with short periods of stress, that's part of being human. But I’m not talking about acute, short-term stress. I’m talking about the chronic, long-term, stress that so many of us deal with everyday.
The constant ping from your email notifications
The arrival of your energy bills
That unresolved argument you had with your family member last week
The laundry pile that you can never get to the bottom of
The food we eat and how we look after ourselves can also contribute to this stress load…think too much caffeine, high sugar snacks, poor sleep and erratic eating habits to name a few.
The problem is that over the longer term this type of stress can really start to play havoc with our health, and you may start experiencing a range of symptoms:
Weight gain or loss
And the list goes on!
I know because I’ve been there and got the T-shirt! If you’re thinking you don’t fall into the ‘I’m stressed enough to be making myself ill’ category, don’t be fooled. The drip-drip-drip of everyday stress can be as damaging as major life incident-related stress (such as death and divorce), so don’t wait to take action.
Managing stress levels is important for your health in the long term because stress is implicated in so many different chronic diseases, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems and asthma.
The good news is that there is lots you can do to rebuild your body’s resilience through diet and lifestyle changes that can make the world of difference. Here are 5 of my top tips to get you started:
Tip #1: Eat Regularly
Erratic eating times and skipping meals can lead to a dip in blood sugar levels, which leads to the release of the stress hormone cortisol. It’s difficult when routines go out the window, but try to stick to three meals (with two optional snacks) a day and your digestion and blood sugar will thank you for it. Base all your meals and snacks on protein (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, beans and seeds), fruit and vegetables and smaller amounts of complex carbs (brown rice, wholemeal bread or pasta).
Tip #2: Cut back on alcohol and caffeine
I know this is a tricky one, as caffeine and alcohol can often become our crutches when life gets stressful, but try avoiding (or significantly reducing) your alcohol and caffeine intake. Caffeine causes a release of stress hormones from the adrenal glands - the last thing you want if you are already stressed! At first, alcohol might help to relax you when you’re stressed out (by promoting the release of GABA, the calming neurotransmitter), but it is quickly metabolised to sugar that can lead to a restless, poorer quality sleep. Alcohol also affects your brain chemistry and can contribute to anxiety and depression when consumed excessively.
Tip #3: Prioritise Sleep
Sleep is so important for promoting regeneration and healing in the body and reduced sleep drives up our key stress hormones, including cortisol, in order to keep us going the next day. Get into a sleep routine that includes relaxing practices such as taking a warm bath with Epsom salts, light reading or stretching. Introduce a digital detox at least an hour before bed (that means no phones, no TV, no laptops or tablets), so as not to disrupt melatonin production (the sleepy hormone).
Tip #4: Eat magnesium-rich meals:
Magnesium, often referred to as ‘nature’s tranquilliser’, relaxes the nervous system and muscles so eating foods rich in this mineral, such as leafy greens, avocados, sesame seeds and spinach can help reduce stress and promote better sleep.
Tip #5: Get to the cause
Look at the root cause to any stress in your life, and think about how you respond to it. If the effect of stress or just general busyness gets in the way of your efforts to stay healthy and you’d like to do something about it, I’d love to help. Book a FREE 20 minute, no obligation health and wellbeing review call to discuss how together we can get you back in tune with your body and back to your best self.