Long-term exposure to stress can have detrimental effects on our health. It is known to increase our risk of chronic disease, impede productivity, increase weight gain, affect mood and therefore relationships, and prevent us from maintaining healthy habits such as regular exercise and proper sleep. Here's how to release stress and feel better.
Caffeine increases the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline. Caffeine consumption is linked to anxiety issues and should be avoided by anyone who suffers from anxiety or low mood. If you do still want to drink caffeinated beverages, ensure you don't have them past lunchtime because they can affect sleep duration and quality
During times of stress, the adrenal glands (that secrete the stress hormones) need support. Vitamin C is used to produce cortisol, and so in times of stress, the body can become very depleted. Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially citrus and leafy greens to top up on your vitamin C and its co-factor mineral, iron. B vitamins aid adrenal function, especially B5, and are found in nuts and seeds, and whole grains. The adrenals also use lots of magnesium during times of stress, and deficiency can mimick and worsen stress symptoms. Top up your magnesium levels by eating leafy greens, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Blood sugar levels also significantly impact adrenal function. Cut out processed sugary junk foods and beverages, simple carbs such as refined flour and sugar, and alcohol.
It is a well-known fact that exercise boosts the body's ability to handle stress. When you exercise, your brain releases feel-good hormones, known as endorphins, which make you feel happier. Exercise aids the removal of toxins and waste products, reduces fatigue and brain-fog, and helps the body to function correctly.
If you don't know where to start with exercise, or you want guidance and accountability, download the 30 Day Fitness app. There are many different challenges to suit any goal and fitness level. You can learn how to perform the exercises correctly with expert video tutorials, track your progress, and receive personalised workout plans. Getting into a regular exercise routine has never been easier or more fun!
Stress is often caused by not being present - worrying about the future or regretting the past. By bringing your attention to the present moment, you eradicate those unnecessary stressors, allowing stress hormones and symptoms to decrease. It doesn't only provide this immediate benefit, though. Regular mindfulness practice helps to build resilience to future stress, providing a protective element. It helps you to become more aware of your thoughts and emotions so that you can see the situation for what it is, pause and choose your reaction, instead of reacting automatically.
A simple way to practice mindfulness is to close your eyes and focus on your breath. You can either count the breaths, repeating cycles of 1-10 or simply notice the physicality of the breath - where you can feel it in your body and how those sensations feel.
You can bring mindfulness to your everyday actions too. Practice being 100% present while you are performing tasks, walking outside or even just eating and drinking. Focus on the activity with non-judgmental curiosity, noting its effect on your senses - what you can feel, taste, smell, hear etc. Try to do this as much as you can. Not only will you be reducing stress in the moment, building resistance to future stress, but you will also experience more satisfaction and joy, every day.
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