Everybody is affected by stress; some people more than others and at different times in life. However, the one thing we all have in common is that our reaction to stress will determine whether stress has a negative impact on us or not. After all, we cannot remove all stress from our lives, but we have the power to change what stress means to us and choose how we deal with stress.
Some signs you are under stress…
- Short temper and irritability
- Low mood
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Poor appetite
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Change to weight especially weight gain around mid section
- Getting sick often or unable to shake colds/flus
- Poor energy and brain fog
- Upset sleep and waking unrefreshed
- Muscle tension and pain
6 Ways to fight back against stress…
Nourish your body (and mind!)
Eating a low calorie diet or a low ‘nutrition’ diet, both of which do not supply the body with the resources it needs to carry out basic functions, is a stress on the body. When stressed it can be easy to skip meals and snacks using ‘too busy’ as an excuse. At the time you may think you are doing yourself a favour but in the long run, poor nutrition will lead to poor stress tolerance. Make sure to prioritise diet and nutrition because otherwise our body will rely on our stress hormone cortisol to get us through the day. Its particularly important to avoid relying on quick sources of energy such as sugar and instead opt for meals and snacks rich in protein, health fats and complex carbs to help supply your body with a sustained release of energy.
Magnesium rich foods
Magnesium is a mineral, which our body churns through during times of stress and can easily become depleted. Magnesium is critical to the functioning of the nervous system and adequate magnesium allows us to better handle stress. If you are going through a period of stress, its important to boost your diet with magnesium rich foods such as avocado, cashews, almonds, legumes (lentils, chickpeas, black beans, red kidney beans etc), tofu, seeds (hemp, chia, flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds), wholegrains (quinoa, brown rice, freekeh, buckwheat), leafy greens and cacao or dark cocoa. If stress is particularly bad, speak to your health care professional about whether a magnesium supplement may be of benefit to you.
B vitamin rich foods
Similar to magnesium, our body uses B vitamins during times and stress and its important to replenish our supply via diet. Specifically, B vitamins help the body convert the food we eat into energy, acts as a co-factor to make neurotransmitters needed for a healthy mood, plays a role in memory and concentration and supports nerve health. Food sources of B vitamins include beef, bananas, turkey, tuna, chickpeas, fish, nuts, seeds and wholegrains. If supplementing the diet with B vitamins, make sure to take as a B complex because all of the B’s work in synergy.
Swap cardio for heart rate lowering exercise
Exercise is a stress on the body so engaging in high intensity exercise can compound the effects of stress. Instead of your usual cardio routine, opt for heart rating lowering exercise, which focuses on the breath such as weights, pilates and yoga. Its important to not let your exercise routine drop off when you are time poor as exercise is one of the most effective ways to relieve stress and even a short work in nature has been shown to lower our stress hormone cortisol.
Try an Epsom salt bath
There is nothing more relaxing than shutting yourself off from the world and soaking in a warm bath! If you aren’t familiar with Epsom salts, they are rich in magnesium and are a great way to replenish this mineral. They are also beneficial for reliving muscle aches and pains and can be a great tool to help you get to sleep if stress is affecting sleep. Soaking for as little as 12-15min can offer benefits. If you don’t own a bath, try booking yourself into a float cave for a similar experience.
Change your mindset
Mindset has a major impact on how we handle stress and at the end of the day; we choose how stress affects us. During times of stress it’s important to keep things in perspective and if an email can’t be sent or event attended, is it the end of the world? In addition, let go of the need to achieve everything all at once, select 2-3 things to achieve off your list each day and be ok with doing your best.