Stress is a force that we all face at various times in our lives. The past 2 years have been particularly challenging with the pandemic and its impact on our health and daily lives Stress, especially when chronic, affects many aspects of mental health including our mood, sense of well-being, mental energy and ability to focus and concentrate. Stress also hampers immunity and is associate with many chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. Finding ways to manage stress is key for our physical and mental health. Here are some of my top tips to help take the edge off stress in your daily life:
Stress Busting Foods
Our diet most definitely have an impact on our mood and ability to deal with stress. Food provides nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and essential fatty acids that support the nervous system and help the body deal with stress. Among my top foods that provide the body with stress-busting nutrients are bananas, artichokes, Swiss Chard, fatty fish, eggs, legumes, and slow-release carbs like quinoa and sweet potatoes. Adding these foods to your daily diet will help provide your body with valuable nutrients needed to better manage stress.
What we eat also impacts the health of our gut microbiome. Considering 90% of serotonin receptors (serotonin is our happy hormone) are located in the gut, taking care of your gut health is paramount for your mental health. Adding yogurt and fermented foods such as kefir, kimchi, tempeh and Kombucha will help encourage the growth of the friendly bacteria that make up your microbiome. Pre- and probiotic supplements can also help support better gut health.
The B-vitamins, known as stress vitamins, support the adrenal glands and nervous system. They are found naturally in whole grains, leafy greens, legumes, and eggs. Inadequate levels of B-vitamins may heighten the effects of stress. People that are at risk of deficiency of the B-vitamins include those following low-carb or keto diets, picky eaters and those taking medications that deplete the B-vitamins such as diuretics, steroids, hormones and anti-inflammatories. Supplements can play a supportive role in helping the body deal with stress and improving energy levels.
Magnesium is a mineral that is vital to the health of our nervous system. It helps regulate the release of stress hormones and works to promote relaxation. Magnesium is found naturally in legumes, avocado, nuts, seeds, dark chocolate and tofu. It is often lacking in our diet and a deficiency can worsen stress and anxiety and also cause muscle cramps and spasms. A one ounce serving of chocolate provides approximately 65 mg magnesium – so it’s a comfort food that can help mood. Consider a Magnesium Relaxation Drink before bed to help calm the muscle and the mind and promote a better night sleep.
Herbal Remedies for Stress
Certain plant-based medicines can help promote calming and relaxation. A few that have been clinically studied include passion flower and lemon balm. Passion flower has muscle relaxant, sedative and calming properties. Studies show it helps boost levels of GABA – a neurotransmitter that slows down activity in the nervous system and can help with anxiety and stress. Lemon Balm also helps with anxiety, stress and had mood-enhancing properties. Look for these herbs in a combination product as they work synergistically.
Natural Remedies vs. Prescription Sedatives
Natural remedies, including magnesium, Passion flower and lemon balm are generally very safe and better tolerated. These remedies have more subtle effects on promoting relaxation. Prescription sedatives work fast and have more pronounced effects, but they carry risk of side effects, including sleep disruption, heightened anxiety and short-term memory loss.
Consider adding these lifestyle strategies to your daily routine to help support your mind and body:
Regular exercise such as walking and cycling can help clear your mind and improve both your physical and emotional well-being.
Meditation is a powerful tool to help with stress and emotional well-being.
Deep breathing – taking 5 slow deep breaths, can have a profound effect on promoting relaxation.
Avoid alcohol and sugary foods…alcohol worsens anxiety and hampers sleep, sugary foods cause mood swings and can also trigger anxiety and impact our ability to focus and concentrate.