It’s been a stressful 12 months and we’re all preparing for a bumpy ride this year too. So I thought it was a good time to put together a few ideas for managing stress for you to try.
Did you know that stress is not necessarily a bad thing?
Some people thrive on the adrenalin rush as it helps them to meet deadlines or work quicker. However, when you experience stress continually over a long it can lead to more devastating effects, both physically and mentally. Effects of chronic stress include frequent headaches, insomnia, weight gain, increased blood pressure, irritable bowel, ulcers, weakened immune function, anxiety and depression.
Avoiding stress is not always possible, so learning to cope with stress is a good practice for when you can’t avoid it.
Small changes to diet and lifestyle can have a meaningful impact on symptoms of stress and help you to regain control of your life. How does a more relaxed mind, improved energy and restful sleep sound? Appealing? Read on to discover some things you can do to start to address the stress in your life.
When you experience stress one of the first ways your body responds is by increasing your breathing and heart rate. Your breath becomes short and shallow. Not surprisingly then, an effective way to respond to the stress response is to invoke the relaxation response through focusing on your breath.
Breathing techniques are a simple and effective tool that you can master to help you manage stress. Luckily, they are simple to learn and can be done anywhere at any time.
The effects of movement and stress
When stressed, stress hormones are released, your body to responds by increasing your breathing and heart rate; heightening your alertness; and tensing your muscles – preparing you to take physical action. This is a normal response honed in the days when threats were a wild animal or flood and requiring running away quickly!
A good way to use the built-up stress in your body is to move it. Moving it will help to maintain a positive mood. How many times have you dragged yourself out to exercise and felt in a much better mood afterwards?
The best exercise is the exercise that you enjoy and you’re likely to keep doing – turning it into a sustainable, healthy habit! Suggestions include walking, running, hiking, dancing, yoga or pilates, water activities (varying intensities), gardening, cycling, boxing or martial arts. If you haven’t exercised for a while see your GP before commencing.
The exercise doesn’t have to be a lengthy session, a 5 minute brisk walk or set of lunges/squats between meetings or stressful activities can help to relieve tension and clear your mind.
Gut and stress
Did you know that ninety per cent of the body’s chemicals responsible for controlling mood are produced in the gut.
The gut and brain constantly communicate with one another, via the vagus nerve.
So, if one is floundering, the other will suffer too.
If you don’t manage your stress, over time the stress can then affect your gut health, which affects your mental and physical wellbeing.
A few simple lifestyle changes can make a big difference.
Steps to supporting your gut health include:
- Avoiding foods which cause inflammation or irritability
- Include prebiotics and probiotics in your diet
- Eat a wholefood diet including lots of raw and cooked vegetables.
Nutrition and Stress
The food you eat plays a essential role in helping you manage and reduce the effects of long-term stress – the right nutrients support your physical health and mental wellbeing. When under stress it can be difficult to care about your nutrition however simple changes and just by becoming more focused on the foods that you’re eating can be a huge help to the way you think and feel.
When going through a stressful period, try to plan and if possible prepare food at a time when you are feeling less stressful to help make better food choices. Spending an hour or two at the beginning of the week preparing food, will save you time later and help avoid last minute poor food choices. Choose fresh natural wholefoods including lots of green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, citrus fruit, whole grains, nuts and seeds, eggs, and oily fish such as salmon or sardines.
These are a few simple changes that when practiced consistently as part of a holistic approach can nurture you physically and mentally helping to calm your mind and improve your health and wellbeing.
The information is generic in nature, please contact your healthcare practitioner before making any diet or lifestyle changes.
Lifeline – 13 11 14 -Crisis support and counselling services for anyone at any time.
Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636 – Information and support for depression and anxiety.
Headspace – 1800 650 890 -Mental health support for young people with local centres, online and telephone services.