BITS 'N' PIECES
Eating a balanced and healthy diet is key to helping our bodies to manage the physiological changes caused by stress.
- Choose whole, natural foods and ensure a minimum of five portions of non-starchy vegetables per day – and eat a rainbow!
- Start the day with a balanced breakfast. Avoid sugary cereals, pastries and too much caffeine.
- Prioritize protein. When chronically stressed the body has an increased demand for protein. Protein requirements are estimated at 0.7-1.8g per kg body weight daily. Choose lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds in each meal. Protein helps to slow the release of sugar into the blood stream.
- Try not to skip meals. Ensure that you eat regularly, taking healthy snacks as necessary. Small, regular meals will help to maintain energy levels and mood, while decreasing tiredness and irritability.
- Avoid highly refined foods such as white bread, pasta, chocolate, biscuits, sweets or foods with added sugars. Hidden sugars are also in many cereals, breads, tinned produce and processed or packaged foods. Replace processed foods with the unrefined foods such as brown bread, rice, oats and rye. Note that excess alcohol can also cause imbalanced blood sugar levels.
- Watch the caffeine. Stimulants such as tea and coffee may provide a temporary energy boost, but consuming too much may reduce energy levels and deplete nutrients in the long term. Aim to drink at least 1-1.5 litres of filtered water throughout the day and try incorportating herbal or fruit teas instead of caffeinated drinks.
- Emotional eating. Try not to reach for food when you are in a stressed state. Stress diverts blood flow away from your digestive system, which you don’t want when you are trying to digest your food. You may experience bloating, gas and become prone to discomfort.
Other ways to reduce stress
- Meditation is a great way to calm your mind, plus it’s free and you can do it anywhere, anytime.
- Yoga may help with practicing mindfulness – not only is it a great form of exercise but it incorporates meditation to slow down and calm the body and mind.
- Get outside for fresh air and to connect with nature.
- Good quality sleep is of utmost importance for long term health and regeneration. Few people can function properly with less than seven or eight hours of sleep per night.
- Regular, gentle exercise is very beneficial for relieving stress and decreasing negative emotions such as worry or anxiety. However, for people with significantly depleted adrenal hormones, intensive cardiovascular exercise may further deplete adrenal reserves.
- Regular relaxation needs to be built into daily life. Reading, having a bath, getting a massage or listening to music are great ways to promote relaxation.
- Counselling or other therapies may be beneficial for those having to cope in the face of severe stressors.