It is no secret that we all experience stress, and indeed, in the current climate we are dealing with a considerable set of unknowns, we have pressures of work, possibly being furloughed or facing redundancy. Many of us are having to deal with financial issues we haven't had time to prepare for, all of this combined with home-schooling, being separated from our loved ones and support network, can result in a situation of feeling stressed out!!
When stress becomes the norm, so do all the associated physical and mental illnesses.
Managing my stress is something I have actively been doing for years, I often get off plan for a few weeks, but on the whole, I know a few things work for me and have seen me through some tough times! So I've been doing some research and put together a short overview which might help others or at least give a few ideas. Remember if you are struggling right now, my best advice would be to make an appointment with your GP.
Diet and health play an important role in stress management and can be used to your advantage to not only reduce stress, but prevent us falling into a pit of doom, and generally feel better about life in general.
There are many ways your diet can both cause and prevent stress. Succumbing to sugar cravings, inconsistent meals, caffeine intake and alcohol are all habits that negatively impact our body's ability to handle stress — and in turn, create even more stress that can lead to indulging in too much alcohol or overeating for example.
What we eat can be used to not only reduce current stress levels but prevent stress from building up in the first place — which is crucial to help prevent us from sliding into a negative mindset.
Here are some practical tips to help you improve your diet in a way that also improves stress levels and hopefully might help with a positive mindset, which is vital for us all at the moment.
Particular foods can help fight stress due to their nutritional qualities. If you can try to include at least one of the foods on this list into your diet, it will help you with the stress-fighting nutrients your body needs.
Salmon provides essential omega-3 fatty acids which have been found to help improve memory and cognition, as well as improve levels of depression and anxiety. Not getting enough has been correlated with higher levels of depression. Omega-3 is not only great for your brain function, but salmon is a low fat, high protein fish. Cashews and other nuts also contain omega-3 among a wealth of other essential minerals, and they are easy to snack on at any time of day.
Poultry contains a significant amount of proteins which contains essential amino acids — the kind your body needs to produce new neurotransmitters in the brain.
Broccoli, cabbage, and kale, these vegetables support liver detoxification, and this helps the body get rid of toxins that when accumulated, put stress on the brain and can contribute to mood instability.
Spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables contain maximum vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B, vitamin C, and magnesium, which are essential for optimal brain functioning, reducing stress and illness, and overall health. Berries also contain a high level of antioxidants and vitamins.
Eating three meals a day is always recommended as a way to regulate blood sugar levels, regular nutritious meals give us the energy and concentration needed to complete daily tasks. When we aren't eating 'properly' and binging on the ' bad stuff', the less concentration and energy we have the more seemingly simple tasks can feel overwhelming and stressful.
Being at home and unable to move as freely as we have been able to due to the lockdown might have had an impact on our eating habits and patterns. The sugar rush from a temporarily satisfying treat quickly wears off, and you end up craving more, feeling more fatigued, and ultimately less focused and more stressed.
Try to plan and have healthy options to choose from.
Many of us still do not get as much as we need, particularly now we aren't sitting near a water cooler at work, or have our usual routines interrupted. Becoming dehydrated, even just slightly, increases your body's production of the stress hormone cortisol.
Dehydration is also a source of fatigue. Next time you crave an afternoon coffee or snack, drink a glass of water first.
When we feel stressed and tired, it is easy to reach for a coffee, or chocolate bar, I know I have drunk far more coffee while I've been at home than I usually do, perhaps because the kitchen is closer, I also know I need to change this next week! While chocolate and sugary foods may temporarily make us feel better, soon after eating them, we experience a drop in blood sugar which leaves us feeling even worse than before.
We have all read or know that exercise helps reduce stress, anxiety, depression, chronic pain and fatigue, and helps with heart disease. It is a cure-all when it comes to improving physical and mental health. But how exactly does it work?
Exercise — physical activity that raises your heart rate — promotes stress-fighting neurohormones. It is the release of these neurohormones that make us feel good after exercise naturally.
But how can you incorporate exercise into your lifestyle, especially in the current lockdown situation and when the very thought of working out is stressful? Start by using the 5-minute trick – 'Today I'll walk for 5 minutes.' Usually, once you get started, five minutes easily turns into longer. And on the days that it doesn't – that is okay too. At least you put in the effort, find something that works for you. It is more challenging now with social distancing and lockdown rules, but a little bit of exercise every day can make you feel a whole lot better.
One thing I have learnt over the past few years is, no matter how bad your current situation feels right now, this WILL NOT last forever… things will change – One day at a time!