Updated: Jun 13, 2019
This post talks about the evolution of stress, and how it is has not been able to adapt for the modern world. I discuss diet and lifestyle suggestions, to help reduce stress. Finally, I have given you an easy technique that you can use to help you when you are feeling anxious.
How changes in nutrition and lifestyle can help reduce Stress
Over 15 million days of work were lost, due to stress and anxiety in the UK, during 2018. Surviving our fast paced, demanding lives can lead to mental or emotional tension, ie, stress. It can cause devastating damage to our health.
A little stress is actually good for us. It boosts our brain power to help us learn, improves our immunity in the short term, and motivates us. But chronic stress can lead to fatigue and anxiety, depression and insomnia. In the long term, it is a major contributor to illness including Autoimmune diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, mental health diseases, and Obesity. Small changes in diet and lifestyle can help manage stress, and thus support health and wellbeing.
In the dark ages, when we came across a saber toothed tiger, physical changes in the body enabled us to run away and stay safe from immediate danger. These include Adrenaline and Cortisol hormones being released to make the heart pump faster, giving an instant energy boost to the brain. Muscles tensed, and stored glucose was released into the bloodstream, so that man could run faster. Our blood thickened and our immune system kicked into action preparing for injury. Digestion and libido were switched off, so that we focused on our escape. This ‘fight or flight’ mode was designed to help us stay safe in the short term.
In the modern world, we are continually dealing with stressful situations (saber toothed tigers), and therefore our bodies are always in high alert. It can begin before we’ve even got out of bed in the morning. We haven’t slept long enough (stress 1) and the alarm goes early (stress 2). The first thing we do is look at our iphone: emails show something went wrong at work (stress 3), instagram shows pictures of a beautiful beach, where we want to be (stress 4), a depressing news bulletin (stress 5). It’s cold (stress 6)..... And these small stresses continue all day, every day, and they add up to increase our stressful load. This constant stress on our bodies becomes toxic, and greatly increases our risk of disease. We can’t eliminate it, but through diet and lifestyle changes we can reduce it, and its effect on our bodies.
Typical symptoms include:
● Digestive Issues
Dietary Changes to help reduce stress
The constant eating of the wrong foods can cause inflammation within the body, and this causes the body stress. It has enormous repercussions on the gut lining and gut bacteria, which in turn affects digestion, hormones, and the brain, amongst others. Here are 3 changes that you can make to your diet, to help reduce inflammation.
● Eat within a 12 hour window: If you have breakfast at 8am, try to have finished eating by 8pm at night. During the fasting time, only drink water or herbal teas. This resting time allows the gut to detoxify and heal from what we have eaten during the day.
● Eat a rainbow every day: Try and make your meals as colourful as possible, using a variety of different fruit and vegetables. This ensures you will be getting a large variety of plant nutrients, vitamins and minerals, to help ensure a healthy gut.
● Eat regularly, and eat protein with each meal (including breakfast):
By eating regularly, the body will have a steady stream of energy. You won’t have sudden cravings for sugary snacks, which will cause blood sugars to shoot up, putting unnecessary stress on the body.
Stress also causes an imbalance of stress hormones, produced by your adrenal glands. A controlled and balanced blood sugar level helps relieve this. Protein is slower to digest than carbohydrates and fats, leaving you feeling fuller for longer, and helping balance your blood sugars.
Lifestyle Changes to help reduce stress
● Bring nature into your life: New research has found that exposure to green spaces reduces the risk of stress, and high blood pressure. Try to spend time outside for at least 20 minutes per day. If that’s not possible, bring nature inside, with flowers, or pictures.
● Sleep: A good and refreshing night’s sleep is one of the most effective ways of reducing stress. A sleep meditation can help if you can’t get to sleep, such as “Honest Guys on Youtube”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79WsgC388DM
● Purpose: A firm purpose in life, just 1 day at a time, leads to less anxiety, and reduces the incidence of stress symptoms.Make a goal for yourself each day, however small.
A simple grounding technique pulls our brain free from the anxiety by grounding us in the present, and helps us to calm down.
Grounding Technique: A particularly stressful situation can leave you feeling overwhelmed and anxious. A simple grounding technique pulls our brain free from the anxiety by grounding us in the present, and helps us to calm down.
Describe to yourself...
5 things that you can see
4 things that you can feel (like the floor beneath your feet)
3 things that you can hear (like traffic noise)
2 things you can smell (or smells you like)
And 1 nice thing about you
Wishing you a calm and stress-free day