Being busy and feeling “stressed out” has become the new normal for many. Sometimes we don’t even notice, which is kind of scary, right?! But ongoing stress has a dark side and is more than just a by-product of a so called productive lifestyle. Although stress starts in the brain, it affects the entire body and can over time cause some serious disruptions to our body’s natural balance by messing with our hormones, skin health, sleep, digestion, mood, weight and appetite!5 Compared to just a decade ago, I feel like there’s an endless amount of stimulation going on. And it can be so hard to disconnect from it all… From work emails coming in all hours of the day, to cell phones and social media – stress can be hard to avoid and can impact our health and wellbeing in so many ways.
I recently felt she sting of stress in a way I have never felt it before, and after it started to impact my sleep I realised something had to change. So today I’m sharing my favourite ways to fight off stress. Being healthy is not just about what we eat – its about the whole body and having that overall balance that in turn makes us feel and look awesome. I hope this helps you!
1. Eat plenty of stress fighting foods
Research suggests that chronic stress often results in “stress eating”, which involves a greater intake of high energy and sugar rich foods4. Unfortunately these foods do not helps the body in any way but instead often worsen the burden of stress by depressing out immune system even more and causing further hormone imbalances (yes, sugar can absolutely mess with our hormones!). So focusing on stress fighting foods is essential and will help your body on many levels. These foods include, leafy greens (think; spinach, kale, arugula, and chard), omega 3 rich foods (fish, chia seeds, walnut, flax and fish oil supplements), brightly coloured foods full of antioxidants (including; berries, bell pepper, sweet potato, butternut squash, pomegranate) and easy to digest foods, such as avocado, smoothies, stews and soups, are helpful because they don’t require much digestion but contains plenty of readily available nutrients to energise your body. In short, any plant foods are amazing for combating stress as they are full of nutrients that support and protect the body against the damaging effects of stress.
2. Chew your food well
My stomach is one of the first things to play up when I’m feeling stressed. Feeling stressed makes me feel rushed and not very mindful when I’m eating, so reminding myself to chew my food properly is absolutely key and one of the best things I can do! No matter how healthy your food is, if you’re not chewing well your body likely won’t absorb all the nutrients as effectively. Meanwhile, any undigested food particles will only worsen your digestive stress more. As an easy rule to remember, try and chew until your food till its liquid. And never eat when stressed or while multitasking… in other words, try to avoid eating in front of the TV, your phone and computer. Research actually shows that when eating distracted in front of the TV or our phone, we not only impair our digestion but also end up eating more1.
3. Watch your caffeine intake
…and out crowd your coffee and black teas with herbal varieties instead. Herbal teas are caffeine free and soothing to the entire body. Many of them aid digestion as well, and while caffeine from coffee and black teas are irritating to the gut, many herbal teas have calming and healing effects on the stomach. Ginger, peppermint, liquorice and chamomile tea are among my favourites.
4. Go for a walk and prioritise time outside
Sometimes taking a brisk walk outside will is better for reducing stress than a run on a treadmill in a busy and stinking gym. In my experience, simply being outside have such an calming and de-stressing effect on my body, so if even its just for a short time, prioritise getting outdoors.
5. Turn on some music
Listening to your favourite music can be a very helpful tool for managing stress. Research shows that listening to music helps lower the body’s response to stress, making it an easy way to help yourself de-stress2. Another study researched the benefit of relaxing music as compared to silence. Interestingly, results showed that listening to relaxing music was able to stop cortisol (stress hormone) levels from rising, while silence had the opposite effect3.