Do you feel mentally exhausted? Are you feeling overwhelmed by the daily grind? Under pressure to support your family during this pandemic? Are your kids running circles around you? Do you reach for that 3pm chocolate fix? Or for your third cup of coffee for the day? Or a bottle of wine as soon as you get home from work? With 3 in 4 Australians saying that stress is affecting their health, it’s fair to say it has affected most of us at some stage, and 2021 is no different! Even though they are yet to measure the impact of this pandemic on mental health during 2020, I personally have seen in clinic, a huge spike in stress, anxiety and depression. So to keep it simple here are some easy tips to help you get through the day without compromising your health:
Eat protein with every meal (including all snacks). This will help balance your blood sugar levels and keep you fuller for longer. Eating high protein snacks will also help you avoid that 3pm crash when you normally need that sugar hit. Some examples are lean grass-fed meat, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, yogurt and hummus.
Here’s a tasty little fact; Stress causes protein to be broken down and uses muscle tissue to sustain the fuel needed for the stress response. Therefore we need protein even more when we are stressed as we don’t want our hard earned muscle mass to be broken down.
Drink plenty of clean water
All of our organs including our brains need water to function properly. Dehydration causes them to work ineffectively, which causes stress in the body. Studies have shown that dehydration leads to higher production of cortisol levels, a hormone that increases during times of stress, making it harder to deal with everyday issues. By staying hydrated you will be better able to deal with stress in your day to day life.
Magnesium helps the body with muscle and nerve function, blood pressure regulation, blood glucose control and protein synthesis as well as improving sleep, digestive peristalsis (the wavelike motion which moves faecal matter through your intestines) and bone health, just to name a few. Magnesium is found abundantly in most fibrous foods though deficiency is on the rise. Many studies have shown that a deficiency in magnesium can contribute to several mental health problems such as depression, stress and anxiety.
Some common signs you may have a magnesium deficiency include muscle twitching and cramps, mental numbness or a lack of emotion, fatigue and muscle weakness, and irregular heartbeat. To increase your magnesium intake, boost your diet with organic green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, run a Magnesium salt bath or speak to me about whether you need magnesium supplementation.
Chamomile tea after a long day can eliminate the need for a glass of wine! Seriously!! Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself. This beautiful flower possesses sedative properties which relieves anxiety, stress and has been found to ease the severity of panic attacks, as well as keeping your cortisol levels at bay. So try and reach for the tea bags and make yourself a cup as soon as you get home from work, or get the kids to bed finally…. You won’t be disappointed.
A lot of people fear the word meditation, they often feel out of their depth. There are many different forms and it can be confusing as to which one is right for you. Really it’s about committing to one even if it’s for 5 minutes and seeing how you feel. But like the gym, practising is essential as it takes time to see results.
Studies have shown that meditation not only reduces stress, it improves our coping mechanisms and how often stress arises. It reduces anxiety, which is great as anxiety and stress are like batman and robin, not often will you see them apart. All you need to meditate is a quiet place to sit, the ability to direct your attention and a simple meditation technique. Even 5 minutes can help you feel happy and recharged. Download the free insight timer app for your phone and you will gain access to thousands of different styles of meditation that can be accustomed to the time you have available and the mood you are in.
Over time as we develop into adults, our breathing can change. Instead of taking full deep breaths and using all of our lung capacity, we grew into shallow chest breathers. Subsequently using 1/3 of our breathing capacity. Most of us typically sit with our shoulders rolling forward & our backs slightly slumped, making it more difficult for each and every cell in our body to receive the energy it needs to do its job effectively.
Time to check your own posture?
In order to breathe correctly we must have good posture. Numerous studies have shown that by breathing from our diaphragm, with little to no movement in our chest and shoulders, we deliver more energy (in the form of oxygen) into our body, and expel more toxins on the out breathe, reducing stress, preventing the manifestation of disease and promoting healing when disease has arrived.
Fresh air or a change of scenery
Long days in the office/or working from home without seeing the sunshine can be detrimental to your health, not to mention affect your mental work capacity. When you feel like you’re running around in circles or can’t seem to make a rational decision, take a walk outside or change your environment. It’s amazing what a bit of fresh air can do. Just remember to breathe it all in!
During isolation and lockdowns we had to find new ways to socially connect. With most restrictions now starting to ease, social connections are more important than ever. Social connection can lower anxiety and depression, help us regulate our emotions, lead to higher self-esteem and empathy, and actually improve our immune system function. Where possible make it a priority to see and spend time with your loved ones. Your whole body will thank you.
Researchers found more mental health distress in people during seasons with little sun exposure and improvements in mental health on days with plenty of sun exposure. One little fact- sunshine has more of an impact on mood than rainfall, temperature, or any other environmental factor. 15 minutes of sunshine exposure a day is thought to increase serotonin production, boosting your mood and helping you feel calm and focused. Take a break, get out in nature, expose yourself to sunshine, find a quiet seat and meditate for 10 minutes……. See what I did there?
Incorporating these little tricks into your daily routine could do wonders for your nervous system and your health. If you would like any more information on stress and anxiety or would like your own personal health assessment please contact me, Aimee Woods via my website www.aimeewoods.com.au or book directly through pH Clinic and start your journey towards better health.
Written by Aimee Woods – Naturopath