Stress is unavoidable, but sometimes it is necessary. A certain amount of stress is needed to motivate us toward our goals. The healthy, necessary stress is sometimes referred to as eustress. However, when stress totally overwhelms you and all of your thoughts, it has gone too far. Using health and nutrition to make positive changes, you can manage the way you react to stress, resulting in better health.
Stress is a factor in most peoples’ everyday lives. Work, academics, financial pressure, family obligations and personal appearance name only a few daily life stressors. But when negative stress reaches intolerable levels with no relief in sight, mental and physical health are greatly jeopardized.
The connection between stress and healthy habits is strong because your brain functions best when it’s properly nourished. Eating healthy, exercising and keeping consistent sleep patterns can all benefit the way your body reacts to stressors. Studies show that people who feel stressed typically get less sleep than those who don’t. However, the lack of sleep actually makes the stress worse, creating a vicious cycle.
Identifying High Stress
Before you can improve the ways you deal with stress, you must first recognize the stressors in your life and how you generally react to them. Do you skip meals in order to be two places at once? Do you stay up late to meet deadlines, but wake up early to go to work? Do you put others’ needs before your own, even if it means sacrificing your personal well-being?
It is likely that someone under a lot of stress would answer yes to the previous questions. Stress in inevitable, but letting it control your health is not. We will all face times when we know we’ve spread ourselves too thin; it is a common mistake. However, if you live your life moving from crisis to crisis, you will suffer both mentally and physically. Lack of stress management can lead to depression, which can lead to self-medication and addiction. The last thing anyone needs, let alone someone with high stress levels, is unhealthy coping mechanisms and self-destructive behaviors.
Healthy Stress Management
The best way to lower the stress levels and reduce the risk of forming bad habits is to gradually incorporate positive changes into your life. If you make a conscious effort to consistently practice the same healthy rituals daily, your routines will become good habits that benefit your overall health. Start by selecting one or two nutrition tips from the list below, and then slowly add them into your daily routine. Once you begin to incorporate more healthy habits into your routine, you’ll find that stress will become more of a challenge than a burden.
Try these tips to alleviate stress and increase happiness:
1. Always start the day with breakfast.
2. If you know your schedule is packed for the coming week, prepare meals that are ready for on the go.
3. Don’t skip meals; see number 2.
4. Write your schedule down in a planner and include at least an hour of quiet time a day.
5. Reduce sweets and simple carbohydrates; fuel your body with foods that provide long lasting energy, such as whole wheat bread.
6. Take a multivitamin daily.
7. Don’t drink coffee past 3 pm. This will help you sleep better at night.
8. Stick to a strict sleeping schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
9. Drink eight 8oz. glasses of water daily. This keeps organs well hydrated and assists in good digestion, which is the first area to go off balance during stressful times.
10. Eat plenty of raw veggies, carrots, celery, green peppers, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. These foods are not only packed with nutrients, they provide a “crunch” factor, which relieves stress.
11. Try to exercise at least three times a week, even if it’s just a twenty minute walk at lunchtime. Exercising releases endorphins, which naturally relax the mind and body.
It is impossible to remove the causes of stress, but making healthier choices throughout the day will prevent stress from overtaking your mind and body.