Scheduling in another work deadline, trying to eat healthy and keep up with your fitness regime all the while trying to balance your work, social and home life…?
You’re not alone – research has revealed that four out of five British adults feel stressed during a typical week, while almost one in 10 were stressed all the time. Stress can impact our mental and physical wellbeing, as well as contribute to poor sleeping troubles, poor diet choices, low mood and bad skin.
We’ve spoken to the experts about how we can look after ourselves and put our health first when you’re experiencing stressful situations.
Keep it small
Balancing blood sugar is essential in lowering stress because the crashes in sugar levels which happen through the day (due to going long periods without food and not eating the right foods) stimulates the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol to be released. “Ensure you have a small meal every 2-3 hours that contains protein (eat breakfast, lunch and dinner plus a snack mid-morning and one mid-afternoon). For example, a hard-boiled egg, 10-12 almonds, a small can of tuna and brown rice. This will stop those roller-coaster highs and cravings for sweet foods. Because your blood sugar isn’t allowed to drop, your body will no longer have to ask you for a quick fix. As your blood sugar steadies, so will your mood swings – reduced adrenaline levels will automatically make you feel happier and calmer inside and feel less stressed,” explains Leading UK Nutritionist Dr Marilyn Glenville, author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar.
Take up yoga
Maija Kivelä, Yoga instructor at the new holistic wellness boutique, Maître of Thyme suggests trying Restorative yoga. “Restorative yoga seeks to achieve physical, mental and emotional relaxation. It provides healing for the body and the mind. It is a mellow and slow-paced style of yoga that will have you holding positions for longer. This style focuses on poses that invigorate your immune system and stretch out the aches and pains of the week,” explains Maija.
Keep a bedtime journal
Keep a journal by your bed where you can write down what you need to do the next day at least an hour before bed. “The aim is to stop the dialogue in your head which can end up stopping you from getting off to sleep or else waking you up in the middle of night remembering something that has to be done the next day,” says Dr Glenville.
Get your zzz’s
Another element that can elude us when we’re stressed but is immensely important for our health is sleep. Cassandra explains, “A good night’s sleep can be a great stress-reliever. Unfortunately, of course, sleeping well can be easier said than done when you’re already stressed or anxious. Do what you can to get to bed early enough to get seven to eight hours’ sleep, make sure your bedroom is a calming environment, and set up a good wind-down routine in the evening, such as taking a warm bath.” Our experts recommend taking a magnesium supplement in the evening too. Magnesium is known as ‘nature’s tranquiliser’ as it’s associated with calming and relaxing properties – it may help you sleep as well as cope better with stress. Try Natures Plus KalmAssure Magnesium Powder (£24.50, www.naturesplus.co.uk).
Add a natural supplement
Stress can give you a number of symptoms including mood swings, anxiety, irritability, muscle cramps, digestive problems and food cravings. “You may not be able to control the stress but you can control how it affects you physically,” explains Dr Glenville. “For extra support, try NHP’s Tranquil Woman Support capsules (£24.77, www.naturalhealthpractice.com). These capsules provide nutrients that help with hormone balance, digestion and immune support to help you manage a busy lifestyle,” adds Dr Glenville.
Have a giggle
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying ‘laughter is the best medicine’, but it turns out there is truth to the phrase. Dr Glenville explains, “Having a laugh is one of the best remedies for stress – it triggers healthy changes in our body. Many studies show that laughter boosts our energy, decreases stress hormones, improves immunity and diminishes pain. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the natural feel-good chemicals that make us happier and relaxed.”
Get your heart rate up
If you feel like you can’t escape your worries, it could be worth leaving the house and getting your heart rate pumping. Nutritionist and Fitness Instructor Cassandra Barns explains, “Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, which make us feel happy and relaxed afterwards. Getting enough exercise can also help us sleep better, which then helps us cope with stress.”
However, if you’re very stressed, take care with the types and duration of exercise you choose. It may be best to avoid endurance exercise such as long-distance running, or very high intensity exercise such as spinning classes – unless these involve short intervals of high intensity with longer periods of rest. Intense exercise can have a net effect of raising your levels of stress hormones and making you more anxious, stressed and tired. Good types of exercise to go for can include weight training, interval training with longer periods of rest, moderate intensity aerobic-type exercise such as cycling, team sports where there is a good element of enjoyment too, or relaxing exercise such as certain types of yoga.
Dr Glenville reminds us, “If you feel the symptoms of stress coming on, learn to get your priorities right. There is nothing in your life right now more important than your health. Learn to say no if you feel that you have taken on too much. Being assertive is invigorating and empowering. It also helps to make lists of what is or is not a priority and to tackle the priority tasks first. This will help give you a sense of control over your life.”