Stress is a much talked about subject. In small doses it can be motivational but frequently it is detrimental to our health and needs to be managed.
It can be difficult to eradicate stress completely but there are some nutritional and lifestyle changes that you can make which can help.
This Stress Awareness Month Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer tells us how.
Feel alive with Vitamin B5
The family of B-vitamins complement each other really well. However, vitamin B5 stands out from the crowd when it comes to managing stress.
Vitamin B5, also called pantothenic acid, is needed to effectively produce our stress hormones (namely cortisol and DHEA) from the adrenal glands. Our natural ‘fight or flight’ response is an essential bodily function, providing us with the motivation and energy to deal with difficult situations. However, the body doesn’t like to be in this state too much. Too much stress depletes production of these hormones over time, which can make us feel more agitated and stressed.
Foods such as mushrooms, meat, dairy produce, beans, lentils and nuts and seeds are great sources of vitamin B5 and can better help the body deal with stressful events.
Cut down on the agitators
We often reach for alcohol or sugary treats when the going gets tough. However, these are stimulants, which release adrenaline, kicking off the stress response. This then produces the opposite effect of what we actually need which is to feel calmer.
If life is stressful, then the body needs to be treated calmly. Green tea does contain a little caffeine but also has some theanine, a calming amino acid, so try to make some swaps from fully loaded caffeinated drinks.
Additionally, there are many very acceptable non-alcoholic beverages around now, so you don’t have to feel you’re missing out. And why not save the sugary snacks for one treat day per week? Your body will thank you for it.
Make an achievable plan
Many of us write a daily job list and this can feel overwhelming because there is often far too much on the list to be achieved sensibly in one day. However, why not break each challenge down into much smaller tasks, so that one big task looks much more achievable?
It’s always a good idea to write things down that either need to be done or that are causing stress. And then sit quietly with the list and see what is realistic without being over ambitious in what can actually be completed. Just by listing things rather than it all spinning around in your head, can make everything seem rather more doable and less stressful. Plus, it’s a great feeling when you can cross things off the list.
Get some help from nature
Nature has provided us with a wealth of health, from nutrient-packed foods to herbal helpers. Top of the herbs list are ashwagandha, ginseng and rhodiola, which are all adaptogenic herbs. This means they support the body to better cope with stress, helping you feel calmer and more in control.
Additionally, green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, kale, cauliflower and Pak Choi are great sources of the mineral magnesium, which helps muscle relaxation. If you find switching off in the evening difficult, then make sure you include some of these veggies in your evening meal to help calm the mind and body.
Exercise your stresses away
Exercise can be a great way of alleviating stress for many people. And whilst some of us might find doing a big workout in the gym most effective, others may opt for a gentle stroll in the fresh air to blow away stress. Do whatever works for you: if adrenaline is powering through your veins, it needs an outlet and taking some form of exercise can really do the trick.
Another effective way to reduce stress is to do some exercise where you have to concentrate on the game (such as tennis or even table tennis). This keeps your mind distracted from any mental issues, helping the brain unwind and re-set.
So, whilst we can’t completely avoid stress in our lives, we can hopefully minimise its impact with a few lifestyle changes.
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