Are you feeling stressed? Even when on holiday, many don’t leave their laptops behind to enjoy the benefits of a relaxing and healthy break. If you’re one of the many people with a stressful lifestyle with too much to do and not enough time, it may be worth considering a tropical vacation in the sunshine and if that’s not possible right now, to think a little about ways in which you can address that stress.
Not enough time?
One of the best ways to beat stress is with effective time management. Running around without planning is stressful in itself. People with effective time management skills set aside time for relaxation, contemplation and have a clearer sense of what they need to do for the day ahead. For example, building activities into a busy schedule that help to reduce stress, such as listening to soothing music, meditation or quiet reflection, or simply sitting down to enjoy a leisurely cup of tea, are not a waste of time. In fact they will recharge and energise you and allow you to cope better with the stresses that the day may bring.
Practical steps for effective time-management
- Make a to-do list.
- Prioritise tasks. Get the important ones out of the way first.
- Use a planner, either a phone or a diary, to help you keep on track.
- Allocate enough time for each task. Don’t rush.
- Learn to say no! Do the tasks that you enjoy. Don’t commit to too many things.
- Schedule time for yourself to recharge.
- Delegate! You do not have to do everything yourself.
- Nourish your adrenal glands
It’s important to identify and reduce the cause(s) of stress. As well as a busy work load and emotional stress, the body interprets physiological stressors, such as imbalanced blood sugar levels, lack of sleep or intensive athletic training, in the same way as psychological stress due to divorce or bereavement for example.
Providing nutrients to support your adrenal glands is crucial in managing your body’s ability to cope with stress and to avoid burn-out.
Stress busting diet
This doesn’t mean reaching out for a chocolate bar at 3pm or getting a quick energy boost from yet another cup of coffee. Eating to manage your stress involves ensuring that your blood sugar levels stay steady throughout the day as adrenal function is significantly influenced by blood sugar levels. When the blood sugar level drops too low the body starts pumping out stress hormones. Stress uses up many nutrients such as vitamin C, magnesium, B vitamins and zinc, so ensuring your diet is packed with these nutrients is crucial.
- Never skip meals! Ensure that you eat at least every 3 or 4 hours, taking healthy snacks as necessary. Small, regular meals help to maintain energy levels and mood, while decreasing tiredness, irritability and fat storage.
- Avoid highly refined foods such as white bread/ pasta/ rice, chocolate, biscuits, sweets or anything with added sugars. Replace processed foods with the unrefined foods, such as wholemeal bread, brown rice, oats and rye. Note that excess alcohol can also cause imbalanced blood sugar levels.
- Limit your intake of tropical fruit (melon, grapes, banana etc), dried fruit and fruit juices as they are very sugary, therefore eat small portions of these at a time. Back home snack on cherries, berries, apples and pears, which are less ‘sweet’.
- Ensure you eat plenty of protein, such as lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. This will slow the release of sugar into the blood stream and is needed for adrenal hormone formation.
- Stimulants such as tea, coffee and cigarettes may provide a temporary energy boost, however these not only deplete many essential nutrients, but always reduce energy levels in the long run.
- Aim to drink at least 1 – 1.5 litres of filtered/ bottled water throughout the day, including herbal teas, such as chamomile.
- Eat in a relaxed environment and chew thoroughly to promote optimum digestion and absorption of nutrients.
- Eat foods that specifically support the adrenal glands. Vitamin C is found in most fresh fruit and vegetables. Magnesium is dramatically depleted in times of stress, and symptoms of a deficiency often include fatigue, anxiety, insomnia and a predisposition to stress. Include plenty of dark green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds to supply adequate levels. The B-complex vitamins can help to support adrenal function, particularly vitamin B5, which directly supports adrenal cortex function and hormone production. Sources include whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Quality of life – finding the balance
Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial for long-term health and regeneration. Few people can cope with less than 7 or 8 hours of sleep per night. If you under-sleep you’ll be less efficient, not more. Make your bedroom a place for lovemaking and sleeping only. The bedroom isn’t a place for working. It should be your haven of relaxation.
Regular exercise is very beneficial for relieving stress and decreasing negative emotions such as worry or anxiety. However in people with significantly depleted adrenal hormones, intensive cardiovascular exercise will further deplete adrenal reserves. Gentle exercises such as yoga, pilates, swimming and brisk walking are all excellent alternatives and are often calming in themselves.
Have a think about how much time you actually set aside for the fun, sensual and relaxing things in life. Focus on building relaxation into your day. Soak in a bath with essential oils and candles, listen to soothing music, try deep breathing exercises, meditation or join a yoga class. Simple things like taking a lunchtime walk to the park, or quietly sitting under a tree appreciating nature, can do wonders for reversing the build-up of daily stresses. Life is all about finding the balance. Make time to play and laugh and build satisfying relationships, bring more mindfulness into everything that you do, relax, take a deep breath and appreciate all that you have.
Article by Jo Rowkins dipNT MBANT, nutritionist, founder of awakening health and executive health adviser of The Spa Resorts.