6 Healthy Ways to Deal With Stress
Stress is the body’s natural response to challenging or dangerous situations. It can be a useful by helping us to perform at our best, but what happens when that stress becomes too much for our bodies and minds to cope with?
We asked holistic health expert, Ali Cavill from Fit Fantastic, for some of her top ways to deal with stress.
“Stress can be a big part of our lives. Competing deadlines, busy lifestyles and the fast pace of the modern world doesn’t leave much time to focus on ourselves and if you’re living with any of these or other stressors, you’re putting your well-being at risk. Stress can wreak havoc on your emotional equilibrium, as well as your physical health and can narrow your ability to think clearly, function effectively, and enjoy life.
Controlling stress is an active process and it’s important to experiment and find out what works best for you. The following stress management tips can help you do that.
Exercise ramps the production of endorphins, natural feel-good chemicals in the brain, so it stands to reason that if your body feels better, so does your mind. Exercising regularly will not only help to keep you physically healthy, but also uses up the hormones and nervous energy produced when you are stressed.
Exercise helps to relax the muscles that tense during stress, and, as exercise increases the blood flow around the body, it can help you to think more clearly. It also improves the ability to sleep. Virtually any form of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, can act as a stress reliever. If you’re not an athlete or even if you’re out of shape, a simple walk outside in the fresh air can go a long way toward stress management.
If you’re stuck at work, keep moving. Break up your sitting time throughout the day to allow your muscles to contract for some important processes in the body to occur. Try standing when using the phone, take the stairs instead of the lift or go for a walk around the block when the opportunity arises. If you’re at work, walk to a colleague’s office or desk to talk to them instead of sending an email. It’s important to get up to move around for few minutes or so every hour.
Repetitive movements or sustained and incorrect postures can cause muscle imbalances and tightness or discomfort at work. Take regular break opportunities to stretch opposing muscles, stretch the whole body during the day, as well try to incorporate exercise into your weekly routine by googling yoga routines. This will also enhance your feelings of wellbeing through increasing your body’s endorphin levels, making for a happier day!
Eating a well balanced, nutritious diet with foods that release sustained energy will help have a calming effect on the body. Avoid reaching for alcohol, fatty foods or foods that are high in sugar. Sugary treats are often our go-to when stress situations strike but the instant energy hit comes with crash and can increase nervous feelings and anxiety. By focusing on eating well you can stabilize your mood, improve your focus, and boost your brain health and manage your weight.
Eating small amounts regularly is a good way to provide your body with a sustained source of energy.
Some top foods to help beat stress are:
- Green leafy vegetables such as spinach are rich in magnesium which helps to calm and relax the body.
- Turkey breast is rich in the amino acid tryptophan that promotes serotonin production.
- Avocados are a good source of monounsaturated fats that help stabilise blood sugar levels.
- Blueberries are rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants that help improve the body’s response to stress.
- Dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao is high in both magnesium and l-theanine, a natural relaxant that helps calm but keep you mentally alert.
- Nuts and seeds such as almonds, walnuts and pumpkin seed are a good source protein and antioxidants. Pumpkin seeds and almonds are high in magnesium while walnuts naturally contain melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate our sleep/wake cycles
- Herbal teas such as chamomile, peppermint, lemon balm and passionflower are an ideal natural option to calm the mind and relax the body.
4) Drink more water
Keeping the body hydrated helps the heart more easily pump blood through the blood vessels to the muscles, helps the muscles work efficiently, and allows you to focus and concentrate for longer periods.
Ease up on your consumption of caffeine particularly found in coffee, fizzy soft drinks. Excess caffeine tends to heighten arousal and increases “jittery” feelings; it can also impair your concentration and may keep you awake at night.
Try to limit alcohol intake. Although providing a degree of short term relief and enjoyment alcohol can interrupt your sleep, impair your memory and negatively impact relationships, all having the adverse affect of contributing to your stress levels.
Sleep is a physiological need and essential to not just reducing stress but maintaining overall good health. Ideally, we should all be getting six more hours of sleep each night to allow the body to recharge its mental and physical stores. If getting to sleep is a problem, ensure that you have at least a half an hour break from stimulating activity such as screen time, exercise and eating prior to going to bed. Instead adopt relaxing habits such as taking a bath, listening to music, reading non-work related material or meditating.
6) Relax & Breathe
Relaxation techniques such as meditation can help you fall asleep, or at least help calm the mind. Spend a few minutes each day to stretch out, relax and breathe. Try to clear your mind of negative or busy thoughts. Try downloading a meditation app for inspiration.
If you notice that you are starting to feel stressed try some breathing exercises. Deep breathing is a great way to reduce stress in the body as it sends a message to the brain to calm down and relax. Belly breathing is an easy exercise to start with.
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable position
- Put one hand on your stomach below your ribs, and the other on your chest
- Take a deep breath through your nose and let your stomach push out your hand.
- Breathe out through your lips like you’re whistling and feel your hand on your stomach lower as you use it to push all the air out.
- Try this 3-10 times and take your time with each repetition.