Are you under stress and struggling to get through the day? Be honest, how many of you use sweet things and/or caffeine to keep you going, alcohol and/or smoking to help you ‘relax’, skip meals because you are too busy or too tired to cook? Life is a drag and you struggle to get from one end of the day to the next without some help or something to look forward to. One minute you’re firing on all cylinders, the next you can barely focus and are reaching for the next lot of stimulants to get you going again or you skip meals and need something quick and easy to eat.
So because we’re stressed we reach for things to help us cope, but unfortunately the things we use to help us cope with our stress can often cause us even more stress! When we’re stressed our body does some really odd stuff. First of all it mobilises resources to allow us to cope with the perceived ‘danger’ by releasing adrenaline and cortisol to give us extra energy so we can run away or fight the danger. Unfortunately, cortisol also makes us hungry so we can replenish our energy levels and often creates cravings for sweet, carbohydrate foods. As we give into these cravings and fill ourselves with lovely sweet foods we increase our blood sugar levels too much, so our body takes the extra sugar away and stores it for future use in our fat cells. Great so we have some extra energy tucked away for later, but then we crash as all the sugar in our bloodstream has been stored away and we need more. A vicious cycle starts up leaving us reaching for sweet stuff, getting the energy we need, then crashing and needing more stimulants. Then because we are so wired at the end of the day we treat ourselves with a glass or two of wine to help us relax. The problem with this is that unwittingly, we are contributing to the overall levels of stress we are experiencing. Where we categorise stress i.e. emotional, physical our body doesn’t. So eating too much sugar, caffeine, skipping meals, smoking and drinking alcohol too often can also create stress and contribute to everything else that is going in our lives and stressing us out.
So how can we manage our daily stress more naturally? Here are some tips to help you cope in cope in a gentler, more nurturing and natural way:
- Eat regularly – at least 3 times a day. Eat foods that take longer to digest so that sugar is released into your bloodstream more slowly i.e. porridge with seeds or whole fat bio yogurt with seeds and berries for breakfast, salad with protein of your choice and a piece of fruit for lunch, protein based soup with a salad on the side
- Always include a protein food whenever you eat such as meat, fish, beans, seeds, nuts, dairy
- Chew your food well – this will help you to digest your food properly as digestion can be impaired when you are stressed
- Learn to breath properly – often we hunch ourselves up when we are stressed and forget to breath deeply enough
- Eat as wide a range of foods as possible, keeping them as near to their natural state as you can in order to supply your body with a wide range of nutrients
- Keep sugary refined carbohydrate foods for treats. Most of us like cake, but eat it in moderation. Practice 80/20 where 80% of the time you eat healthful, healing foods and 20% of the time you can have a treat, such as some cake!
- Eat fat – but the right kind. We need fat to help us make all the hormones we need, to help us repair ourselves and for energy. It also helps to keep us feeling fuller for longer. Avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, oily fish (Mackerel, Salmon, Sardines etc), nuts and seeds and even a small amount of saturated fat (so you can eat butter, just make it organic!) are all sources of the good fats we need
- Exercise in moderation. Exercise helps us balance the stress hormones and sleep better, but make sure you enjoy what you do. There is no point going out running if you absolutely hate it as you won’t get the same benefit from it and don’t overdo it. Too much exercise can just add to our overall problems. If you find it hard to find time to exercise just go for a walk, particularly if you work in an office, even if it is round the block. Doing it regularly will really help as it gives us a break and time away from whatever we are doing to relax
- Keep well hydrated. Even a 2% drop in our hydration can cause us to feel fatigued and to lose concentration. Water and herbal teas are best, but tea or coffee in moderation all help and don’t forget that we can get up to 20% of our hydration from the food we eat, particularly when we eat a lot of vegetables
- Ask for help. We can’t always do everything ourselves.
- Say NO!! This can be a difficult one as you don’t want to let anyone down, but at the end of the day all you do is make yourself ill so you can’t help.
- And last, but by no means least – SLEEP. I put this in capital letters as it is really important to get enough sleep. I appreciate it isn’t always possible, but sleep is the best healer there is. Take time to create a space that is relaxing and calming, have a bath with some lovely essential oil and magnesium flakes, do some yoga or deep breathing, listen to some soothing music, switch off all your electronic devices at least an hour before you go to bed (and don’t take them with you to bed!) and if you have something on your mind, write it down so you can remember in the morning
I must be honest, I do have a cup of coffee from time to time if I need a boost and to be extra alert, but it is black, good quality, not very strong and definitely no sugar and if I need an energy boost I reach for some nuts and a small piece of fruit or some good quality dark chocolate to keep me going until I eat again.