5 simple ways to reduce stress
We’re heard it all before, negative stress can impact our health and wellbeing in many ways, and we should try and reduce our stress levels.
I’m going to introduce you to a concept. Our stress levels vary throughout our lives. This is due to our DEMANDS and RESOURCES varying. Our demands are the tasks or responsibilities we have, with work, family, friends, etc. Our resources are the ‘things’ we possess which enable us to meet our demands, for example, time, money, energy, mental capacity, a car. In an ideal world our resources and demands would be equal… leading to a balanced lifestyle, however for many people, sometimes their demands out weight their resources, leading to this state of negative stress.
Let’s be honest, for many of us, reducing our demands can be nigh-on impossible, our jobs remain, the family still need to be fed and watered, yet we find ourselves becoming less able to deal with everyday tasks. Below are 5 simple ways you can try to INCREASE your resources this summer.
- Get a good night’s sleep
This may sound simple, yet many of us neglect our sleep as our demands increase. However, sleep is SO valuable for our bodies as this is our time to rest, repair, restore and grow. Think of it as the time when the night staff swoop in to clean and replenish a building after a busy day, ready for the next.
Having a lack of sleep itself actually puts your body under significant stress and therefore will be impacting many bodily systems from your energy levels, weight and sex drive (Wu, et al, 2014; Wright et al, 2015)!
Adults are recommended to get around 7-9 hours of high quality sleep per night, with less than 6 hours suggested to be more detrimental to health. Trying to hit the hay that hour earlier may make a huge difference to your mental and physical abilities tomorrow – so something to think about tonight.
- Get to the forest!
Research has shown that being in a forest environment (compared to a city environment), significantly reduces our levels of cortisol, our stress hormone (Park et al, 2010). The benefits were shown by simply sitting and taking in the views, and by walking within the forest. So next time you are planning a walk or break, try and opt for a forest or field, over the busy city streets or roads. Even 20 minutes has shown to benefit at reducing our stress hormones.
With a rise in the interest of meditation, many people are turning to this as a way to help manage stress levels. Whilst many have been practicing this for years, the easy access to Apps such as Headspace and Calm has sparked new interest for many other individuals. Research has shown that after 4 days of meditation, medical students significantly reduced their levels of stress hormone (Turakitwanakan et al, 2013). There are many different types of meditation styles and practices, so explore different avenues and find whats right for you. Trying the Apps mentioned above may be a good starting point as they can be performed anywhere and anytime!
- Balance blood sugar levels
During times of stress, we product cortisol (our stress hormone), which increases our blood sugar levels. This is a survival mechanism, as many many years ago, the main stressors humans faced were being confronted by a tiger. The increase in blood sugar levels enabled us to either fight the tiger or run away from it – hence the “fight or flight” phrase you may have heard before. Our bodies are extremely clever, however our bodies will still react this same way to stress, whether we are confronted by a tiger or stressed by our forever growing email inbox.
Not only does being chronically stressed drive our blood sugar levels up, consuming a diet high in refined carbohydrates (white bread, white pasta, sweets, cakes, biscuits) and sugars can further attenuate the whole process, by putting your body under more stress. Increased blood sugar levels can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart diseases.
A way to negate this is to balance your blood sugar levels through your diet.
Aim to combine complex carbohydrates (such as whole grains, root vegetables, quinoa, vegetables) with a source of protein (chicken, chickpeas, eggs, fish) and healthy fats (nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil) to promote a slow breakdown of carbohydrates and release of energy into your bloodstream, and avoid the blood sugar rollercoaster! Aim for blood sugar balancing meals and snacks throughout the day.
- Magnesium rich foods
From contributing to energy production, being an essential part of chemical reactions and mineral balance, magnesium is an essential mineral required for every organ and most cellular function within the body. During times of stress, magnesium can be used up at an increased rate (Tarasov et al, 2015), which then increases the stress burden on the body even further. Ensuring you’re eating magnesium rich foods is essential to try and avoid deficiency, especially at times of increased stress. The most magnesium rich foods include: pumpkin seeds, legumes, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, tofu, Brazil nuts, cashew nuts, almonds and pine nuts.
Women require 270mg daily and men 300mg. 30g of pumpkin seeds contain about 79mg.
*** This blog post is not intended or implied to be a substitute for seeking professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Information provided here is general and is not intended to treat, diagnose, prevent or cure any diseases or conditions. Please contact your GP or private health consultant if you have any personal health concerns, or consult a registered nutritional therapist for personalised dietary and lifestyle advice and guidance.
Wright Jr, K.P., Drake, A.L., Frey, D.J., Fleshner, M., Desouza, C.A., Gronfier, C. and Czeisler, C.A. (2015). Influence of sleep deprivation and circadian misalignment on cortisol, inflammatory markers, and cytokine balance. Brain, behavior, and immunity, 47, pp.24-34.
Wu, Y., Zhai, L. and Zhang, D. (2014). Sleep duration and obesity among adults: a meta-analysis of prospective studies. Sleep medicine, 15(12), pp.1456-1462.
Park, B.J., Tsunetsugu, Y., Kasetani, T., Kagawa, T. and Miyazaki, Y. (2010). The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan. Environmental health and preventive medicine, 15(1), p.18.
Turakitwanakan, W., Mekseepralard, C. and Busarakumtragul, P. (2013). Effects of mindfulness meditation on serum cortisol of medical students. Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand= Chotmaihet thangphaet, 96, pp.S90-5.
Tarasov, E.A., Blinov, D.V., Zimovina, U.V. and Sandakova, E.A. (2015). Magnesium deficiency and stress: Issues of their relationship, diagnostic tests, and approaches to therapy. Terapevticheskii arkhiv, 87(9), pp.114-122.