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  • Writer's pictureMelanie

Are you ready to discover simple ways to relieve stress?

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

2nd November is National Stress Awareness Day.

'You got this' in chalked writing on tarmac with autumn leaves

Millions of people in the UK experience stress, which can be damaging to our health and wellbeing. For example, at some point in the last year, 74% of us have felt so stressed that we have felt unable to cope, with stress and anxiety accounting for 12.8 million lost working days (Mental Health Foundation). Stress is your body’s reaction that helps you deal with pressure or threats. Small amounts of stress can be useful as it can motivate you to get things done.

However, too much stress, or prolonged stress has negative effects on both our minds and bodies, moving us into a state of fight, flight or freeze. When you are stressed, your body releases stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Over the long term, cortisol can have a damaging impact on the body and on the body’s stress response system, leaving us unable to manage smaller stresses and potentially leading to ill-health.

Short-term symptoms of stress can be mental, physical or behavioural, such as headaches, sweating, upset stomachs, irritability, making mistakes, feeling unable to cope, over or under-eating, sleep problems and avoiding others.

Longer-term impacts of chronic stress include compromise of the immune system and glycaemic system, impaired performance and loss of cognitive function. Chronic stress can play an underlying role in the development of conditions such as cancer, heart disease, dementia, fibromyalgia, CFS/ME, obesity and diabetes.

So what can you do to help manage your stress levels and support your stress regulation system? Follow the steps below and discover simple ways to relieve stress:

  • Limit your caffeine intake. Caffeine induces a stress response in the body, so should be limited to only 1-2 cups a day, and none after 12 pm. Coffee, tea, hot chocolate and energy drinks all contain caffeine. Herbal or fruit teas, hot water with lemon and ginger or fresh mint or milky drinks such as milk and honey with cinnamon and ground ginger are options you could try.

  • Exercise can help to relieve stress and can release the energy that gets pent up when we are angry or frustrated. Find something that works for you, such as swimming, going to the gym, Zumba, joining a running club or attending a yoga class. Getting outside has additional benefits, so if you can combine the two, e.g. jogging in the park, walking the dog or outdoor swimming, so much the better! Yoga not only strengthens the body, but also helps to calm the vagus nerve, so supporting the stress regulation system, it has been shown to be very effective in supporting people with IBS.

  • Sleep is key, and yet is one of the first things that gets affected when we suffer stress. Without sufficient rest, mood and concentration both suffer, and long term it can have a significant impact on both mental health and physical conditions such as cardiovascular disease. Feel free to download my guide on sleep to help you get a good night’s rest (available on the website).

  • Eating a balanced diet is vital to supporting your body to manage stress. Make sure that you eat three meals a day, which all include some protein such as tofu, nuts, lentils, beans, eggs, fish, plus plenty of vegetables and some fruit (aim for 5-7 portions of vegetables and 2 portions of fruit every day). Healthy fats such as olive oil and omega 3 from oily fish or an algae-based omega 3 supplement are also really important to support mental wellbeing.

  • Drink 1.5-2l of water a day (this includes herbal teas). Sufficient hydration is key to enable your cells to function correctly, reduce fatigue and can prevent headaches. It supports digestion and helps the body to detoxify.

  • Do something just for you every day. By making time to look after yourself in a caring way, you reduce the stress load. Find ten minutes to read a book, listen to music, get outside, take a bath, or meditate.

  • Practice breathing exercises; by practising mindful breathing, there are huge benefits to helping you reduce and manage your stress load and responses. The free Breathing App is a good place to start or sign up for a Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course.

  • Certain supplements are also really helpful to support with stress, such as those containing B-vitamins and lemon balm. Always seek advice of a nutritional therapist or medical herbalist before taking supplements as they will ensure that the supplement is suitable for your needs and will not interact with any foods or medication.

As a nutritional therapy practitioner following a functional medicine approach, I can support you to make the changes you need to manage and reduce the impact of stress on your body. If you are keen to know the nitty-gritty science of the impact of stress and what steps you should take to support your body, specific clinical testing is also available. To find out more, contact me to book a free discovery call.

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