This is a tricky time for everyone and the pressure of being confined as well as money worries and lack of social interaction, or distraction, can mean a stress overload. Here’s what to do about it.
Managing stress levels is important for your health in the long term because stress is implicated in so many different chronic diseases, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems and asthma.
If you’re thinking you don’t fall into the ‘I’m stressed enough to be making myself ill’ category, then don’t be fooled. The drip-drip-drip of everyday stress can be as damaging as major life incident-related stress (such as death and divorce), so don’t wait to take action. It’s also worth considering that stress makes it very hard to lose weight, and you’re much more likely to store it around the middle. This is because the human body hasn’t evolved much since caveman times, when the extra energy was stored where it was most easily accessed, so it could be used to run away from the sabre-toothed tiger.
Here are my top 5 ways to keep stress under control:
The 10-minute mind trick: Set aside 10 minutes a day for meditation. Simply sit down in a quiet room with your back supported and eyes closed. Try to clear your mind of all worries. Don’t worry if thoughts bubble to the surface, as this is completely normal! The more you resist the more it will persist. Simply bring your attention back to your breath and continue until the time is up. If you’re new to meditation or need more support, find a guided meditation app or CD to lead you through the process.
Eat regularly: Erratic eating times and skipping meals can lead to a dip in blood sugar levels, which leads to the release of the stress hormone cortisol. It’s difficult when routines go out the window, but try to stick to three meals (with two optional snacks) a day and your digestion will thank you for it. Base all your meals and snacks on protein (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, beans and seeds), fruit and vegetables and smaller amounts of complex carbs (brown rice, wholemeal bread or pasta).
Cut back on alcohol and caffeine: I know it’s hard, especially when we may be bored and the days may seem long. “Is it too early….?” can be the familiar cry as alcohol becomes more of a feature in your day. Whilst ditching it maybe out of the question, significantly reducing your alcohol (and caffeine) intake can really help. Caffeine causes a release of stress hormones from the adrenal glands - the last thing you want if you are already stressed! At first, alcohol might help to relax you when you’re stressed out (by promoting the release of GABA, the calming neurotransmitter), but it is quickly metabolised to sugar that can lead to a restless sleep, which leads me onto my next tip.
Prioritise sleep: Get into a sleep routine that includes relaxing practices such as taking a warm bath with Epsom salts, light reading or stretching. Introduce a digital detox at least an hour before bed (that means no phones, no TV, no laptops or tablets), so as not to disrupt melatonin production (the sleepy hormone). A light snack such as an oatcake with almond butter or a banana may help to support undisturbed sleep.
Eat magnesium-rich meals: Magnesium relaxes the nervous system and muscles so eating foods rich in this mineral, such as leafy greens, avocados, sesame seeds and spinach can help reduce stress.
We may be unable to control the root cause of stress right now, but responding to it with some of the measures above may just help you bring a little calm to your life. If the effects of stress get in the way of your efforts to stay healthy and you’d like to do something about it, I warmly invite you to book a FREE 20-minute consultation to help. Contact me now at. https://www.cotswoldnutrition.com/ to make an appointment