According to research, four out of five British adults feel stressed during a typical week, while nearly one in 10 feel stressed all the time.
And when we’re stressed, it’s really easy to let things slide. We’re prone to lapse into poor sleeping patterns, make bad diet choices, and suffer from low mood and bad skin.
But, according to the experts, there are ways we can stay on top of things when it comes to wellbeing – even when we’re stressed.
- Eat little and often
“Balancing blood sugar is essential in lowering stress because the crashes in sugar levels (which happen through the day due to going long periods without food and not eating the right foods) stimulate the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol to be released,” says nutritionist Dr Marilyn Glenville, who is the author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar.
“Make sure you have a small meal every 2-3 hours that contains protein (eat breakfast, lunch and dinner plus a snack mid-morning and one mid-afternoon).
“Have a hard-boiled egg, 10-12 almonds, a small can of tuna and brown rice, for example. This will stop those roller-coaster highs and cravings for sweet foods. Because your blood sugar isn’t allowed to drop, your body will no longer have to ask you for a quick fix. As your blood sugar steadies, so will your mood swings – reduced adrenaline levels will automatically make you feel happier and calmer inside and feel less stressed.”
2) Increase your intake of omega-3s
“To help prevent life getting so stressful, you need omega-3s – especially DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid),” says nutrition and weight loss coach Pippa Campbell.
“You won’t get the same mood boost from the omega-3s (Alpha-Lipoic Acid or ALA) in flax, walnuts and soy though, so eat about two servings a week of wild salmon or other oily fish.
“In addition, research shows that people who take a daily omega-3 supplement (containing DHA and EPA or Eicosapentaenoic Acid ) reduce their anxiety by up to 20 percent.”
3) Try ‘medium’ breathing
“Deep breathing is more like yoga breathing, which is fine for a yoga class but if you are stressed you can end up over-breathing and feeling dizzy,” says Pippa.
“I call medium breathing 4-1-6 breathing. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 1 second and breathe out for 6 seconds. Really try and breathe so that you can see your belly filling with air. Try and practise this even when you are not stressed as it can take some practice to make your ‘out’ breath longer than your ‘in’ breathe. Do this for 5 minutes whenever you can.”
4) Get your heart rate up
“If you feel like you can’t escape your worries, it could be worth leaving the house and getting your heart rate pumping,” suggests nutritionist and fitness instructor Cassandra Barns.
“Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, which make us feel happy and relaxed afterwards. Getting enough exercise can also help us sleep better, which then helps us cope with stress.
“However, if you’re very stressed, take care with the types and duration of exercise you choose. It may be best to avoid endurance exercise such as long-distance running, or very high intensity exercise such as spinning classes – unless these involve short intervals of high intensity with longer periods of rest. Intense exercise can have a net effect of raising your levels of stress hormones and making you more anxious, stressed and tired.
“Good types of exercise to go for can include weight training, interval training with longer periods of rest, moderate intensity aerobic-type exercise such as cycling, team sports where there is a good element of enjoyment too, or relaxing exercise such as certain types of yoga.”
5) Eat more protein
Research from the Association of Comprehensive Neurotherapy has found that increasing your protein intake can help to alleviate feelings of anxiety. Tryto include protein with every meal and add protein-rich snacks to your diet, such as Greek yoghurt, eggs, almonds and tuna. To get an extra boost of protein, Natures Plus Vegan Power Meal is a great addition to your morning smoothie.
6) Get more sleep
“A good night’s sleep can be a great stress-reliever,” says Cassandra. “Unfortunately, of course, sleeping well can be easier said than done when you’re already stressed or anxious. Do what you can to get to bed early enough to get seven to eight hours’ sleep, make sure your bedroom is a calming environment, and set up a good wind-down routine in the evening, such as taking a warm bath.
“Take a magnesium supplement in the evening too. Magnesium is known as ‘nature’s tranquiliser’ as it’s associated with calming and relaxing properties – it may help you sleep as well as cope better with stress.”
7) Keep a bedtime journal
“Keep a journal by your bed where you can write down what you need to do the next day at least an hour before bed,” adds Marilyn. “The aim is to stop the dialogue in your head which can end up stopping you from getting off to sleep or else waking you up in the middle of night remembering something that has to be done the next day.”
9) Have a good laugh
“Having a laugh is one of the best remedies for stress – it triggers healthy changes in our body,” says Marilyn. “Many studies show that laughter boosts our energy, decreases stress hormones, improves immunity and diminishes pain. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the natural feel-good chemicals that make us happier and relaxed.”
10) Take control
“If you feel the symptoms of stress coming on, learn to get your priorities right,” Marilyn suggests. “There is nothing in your life right now more important than your health.”
“Learn to say no if you feel that you have taken on too much. Being assertive is invigorating and empowering. It also helps to make lists of what is or is not a priority and to tackle the priority tasks first. This will help give you a sense of control over your life.”