Four Foundational Steps to Beat Stress
April is stress awareness month, but let’s face it, stress can’t be tied down to any one time of the year, and neither should our plans to tackle it. Whatever the reason: work, kids, money or something else, looking after ourselves and staying fit and healthy to tackle whatever comes our way can make a way bigger impact than you’d expect. Try these four foundational steps to make some simple life changes that can help set anyone up to tackle worry, anxiety and stress with some natural remedies.
Sleep: the number one stress beater
Getting the right amount of high quality sleep can have many health benefits from a decreased risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. But it can also have a major impact on the body’s ability to fight stress and boost mood during times of anxiety. A lack of sleep can trigger the body to produce the stress-fighting hormone cortisol which, in higher quantities, can lead to weight gain and cardiovascular issues. Ideally, try to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night in a darkened, cool room (66 degrees is the goal) and with a regular routine, bedtime. Setting a routine sleep and wake schedule and sticking with it, helps the body regulate energy during the day and can help you feel happier during the day, according to a study by MIT.
Exercise: the stress killer
No doctor will disagree that physical activity has a direct impact on physical health and mental wellbeing. Most recommend daily exercise, or at minimum five to six, 30 minute exercises sessions a week with an elevated heart rate that gets your blood pumping. Even if we can’t for hit the gym every single day, most can find 30 minutes between chores or feeding the kids to dedicate a half hour to working out at home, streaming a class through a club app or dialing into an on-demand class or focused workout to keep us on track and motivated. For optimal stress busting effectiveness, workout in the morning which can help set the mood for your day. And if HIIT in the family room isn’t your thing, try a Fitscope workout, perhaps, designed for your treadmill or stationary bike, or a yoga or Thai Chi class. Working on form and function to strengthen your core will improve posture, while stretch and flexibility help rid the body of physical tension that can be a direct side effect of stress. Even walking on the treadmill or getting outside into the sunshine and fresh air for 30 minutes a day can elevate mood, lower blood pressure and work to manage anxiety.
Eat Right, Feel Good
Our food choices and habits can also help manage stress too. When the body consumes carbohydrates the brain is triggered to produce serotonin, the body’s natural feel good chemical. Wholegrain pastas and breads with additional nuts and seeds are good choices, but a daily bowl of complex-carbohydrate-packed oatmeal, which takes longer to digest than simple carbs, will help us all get a steady serotonin supply throughout much of the day and manage stress levels. Other foods too play a role: oranges for vitamin C to control blood pressure and help produce stress-fighting cortisol. Spinach for magnesium when suffering stress headaches. And fatty fish like salmon twice a week will give us enough omega-3 fatty acids to control surges of stress hormones. For more detailed recommendations consult your doctor, nutritionist or visit the American Society for Nutrition.
According to research quoted in the World Journal of Psychiatry, hydration plays a lesser known role in stress management. On average, all of us should be consuming 0.5 to one ounce of water per pound you weigh anyway to stay hydrated, but doing so, may have real stress-busting benefits. Water is critical for the body to absorb nutrients and stay healthy, but even a 2 precent dehydration can result in fatigue, impaired memory and mood issues.