Stress Awareness Month: Top 5 ways to reduce your stress levels
How can we handle stress in healthy ways?
April is the dedicated Stress Awareness Month so, we wanted to share some of our top tips that can leave you feeling less overwhelmed.
Feeling stressed is completely normal. The modern world and day-to-day life throws plenty of challenges our way that can make us feel anxious and stressed, but over the last year, a UK-wide stress survey has found that almost three-quarters of adults (74%) have felt so stressed that they felt unable to cope.
Although stress has its place in life, helping us respond quickly to difficult or dangerous situations, lengthy exposure to stress may lead to mental health difficulties or increased physical health problems. A large body of research suggests that increased stress levels interfere with our ability to deal with physical illness. While no one can avoid all stress, you can work to handle it in healthy ways that increase your potential to recover.
Eat and drink to optimise your health
Many of us to turn to comfort food and a bottle of wine when we are stressed. This is normal and nothing to feel guilty about however, this coping mechanism is actually doing your stress levels more harm than good. Fuel your body with nutrient-rich foods to tackle stress head-on rather than trying to mask it with processed food and alcohol.
Here are some of the best stress-relieving foods: (1)
- Sweet potato: Eating whole, nutrient-rich carb sources like sweet potatoes may help lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol (2). They’re packed with nutrients that are important for stress response, such as vitamin C and potassium.
- Shellfish: Shellfish, which include mussels, clams, and oysters, are high in amino acids like taurine, which has been studied for its potential mood-boosting properties.
- Parsley: Parsley is a nutritious herb that’s packed with antioxidants — compounds that neutralize unstable molecules called free radicals and protect against oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is associated with many illnesses, including mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. Studies suggest that a diet rich in antioxidants may help prevent stress and anxiety.
- Garlic: Garlic is high in sulfur compounds that help increase levels of glutathione. This antioxidant is part of your body’s first line of defence against stress.
- Broccoli: Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are renowned for their health benefits. A diet rich in cruciferous vegetables may lower your risk of certain cancers, heart disease, and depression. Broccoli is also rich in sulforaphane, a sulfur compound that has neuroprotective properties and may offer calming and antidepressant effects (3).
- Chickpeas: Chickpeas are packed with stress-fighting vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, zinc, selenium, manganese, and copper. In a study in over 9,000 people, those who followed a Mediterranean diet rich in plant foods like legumes experienced better mood and less stress than those who followed a typical Western diet rich in processed foods (4).
- Blueberries: These berries are high in flavonoid antioxidants that have powerful anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects (5). They may help reduce stress-related inflammation and protect against stress-related cellular damage.
I know I’ve spoken about this in almost every blog post but, exercise is the most underrated yet important factor in our mental and physical health. I cannot stress enough how even a short walk or light jog will lift you mood and help you clear your head. It pumps up your endorphins, the production of your brain's feel-good hormone (6). If you regularly shed your daily tensions through movement and physical activity, you may find that this can help you stay calm, clear and focused in everything you do.
Stop using tobacco and nicotine products
People who use nicotine often refer to it as a stress reliever. However, nicotine actually places more stress on the body by increasing physical arousal and reducing blood flow and breathing.
Meditation and Mindfulness
This is another stress-buster that I’ve spoken about in this last month’s blog, Top 5 ways to improve sleep quality, but meditation and deep breathing has so many benefits for our mental health, including the ability to de-stress and relax the mind and body. 432 hz is believed to be the vibration for healing. The idea is to breathe in on the first om and exhale on the second om. This fills the lungs to full capacity and helps each cell within your body to become oxygenated. It naturally slows down the heart rate which results in your body to enter a relaxed state as your mind is concentrating on breathing. I would say that this is my top tool that everyone can use for healing, clarity, mindfulness and relaxation to help deal with stress.
Videos to help with mediation:
Tibetan monks chanting om at 432 hz
If the above techniques don’t work for you, there are several natural supplements that you can take that are proven to alleviate some of the symptoms of stress.
Ashwagandha: I would recommend PNI Active’s Organic Ashwagandha. This product is scientifically proven to help with stress and has been used in herbal and natural medicine for centuries. If you want to learn more about this beneficial plant, you can read the Ashwagandha: Its uses, benefits and side effects.
- Vitamin C: The study showed that vitamin C reduced the levels of stress hormones in the blood and also reduced other typical indicators of physical and emotional stress such as weight gain or, loss of weight (7).You can meet your daily vitamin C by visiting PNI Active.
- Magnesium: Magnesium is an essential mineral, similar to calcium and iron, that has widespread effects in the body. It is involved in about 80% of the body's functions (8). Magnesium also plays a vital role in brain health, including stress and anxiety. By blocking stimulating neurotransmitters and binding to calm, restful receptors in the brain, magnesium can help us relax. It also has effects on the HPA axis, the body’s main system responsible for managing and responding to stress, by regulating stress hormones like cortisol. Magnesium acts like the brake of your nervous system, keeping it from being stuck in overdrive. You can find our Magnesium capsules here.
- Zinc: We often associate chronic stress with depression, and research demonstrates zinc’s ability to alleviate these feelings. When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with stress or anxiety, your body uses up your zinc stores faster in an attempt to keep the body functioning at its baseline which has been shown to create depression (9). Taking zinc supplements will maintain a healthy nervous system which can support the easing of stress. We now know that mental health disorders are linked to inflammation in the body and in the brain. Zinc plays a vital role in immune system functioning; if we can ensure that the immune system is functioning well with adequate zinc levels - we can help control inflammation in the body and the brain.
If you’re interested in taking Zinc supplements, you can find our range on PNI Active.
If you would like any help or advice regarding supplements, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.