Stress isn’t good for our mental and physical health. It can get in the way of our weight loss by messing with our appetites, our choices and energy levels.
The way we deal with stress is an important part of keeping ourselves fit and healthy, so here’s our top tips to help you manage your stress levels.
Eat a healthy diet
Definitely easier said than done, but so vital for our wellbeing. When we’re stressed, many of us seek out foods we find comforting, that aren’t always the best choices. Those quick fixes, often filled with sugar, fat and caffeine might give us a temporary lift but will soon send our blood sugar levels crashing and the scales going up. Both outcomes will result in increasing our stress levels in the short and long term.
Aim to eat the recommended 5 pieces of fruit and veg a day. Load up on foods containing magnesium and vitamins B and C to support brain function, such as citrus fruits, bananas, nuts, seeds, oats, brown rice, meat and fish, and leafy green vegetables.
Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and drugs
These provide a temporary respite from stress but all cause long term health problems. Over time, these will elevate stress levels too. Try to cut out or cut down your consumption, it will have a positive impact on your stress levels and your overall health. If you’re struggling, start by speaking to your GP.
Exercise helps us with stress in many ways. Firstly, it offers us a distraction from our worries and headspace to take time out and simply be. Challenging our bodies physically creates endorphins, the feel good hormones that help decrease anxiety and depression and increase feelings of vitality. It can help our body shape change and lose weight as well as aid good sleep.
The NHS recommends we aim to do 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week. Remember, this is only a guide, every bit of activity you do will be beneficial. Try and find something you enjoy and you’ll be more likely to stick at it.
Most things are more stressful when we’re tired. Ironically, it can be tricky to sleep when we’re stressed. If you’re having trouble getting the sleep you need here are some things you can try to improve your sleep:
- Aim to rise and go to sleep at the same time each day
- Avoid heavy meals, alcohol and caffeine in the evening
- Daily exercise helps ensure we’re physically tired when it comes to bedtime
- Turn your screens off at least half an hour before bedtime
- Wind down with a bath or gentle yoga session
We know it’s hard but if you can, try not to fixate on sleep. If you find yourself unable to sleep, chances are that counting down the minutes until your alarm goes off isn’t the answer. Accept that your body is at rest even though you’re awake and listen to a podcast or read a good book for a while before trying to drift off again.
Reach out and talk
The old adage ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ holds true. The act of talking things through can help manage stress by offering perspective and clarity.
A good support network of friends or family can help us find solutions to our problems. If you can’t, or don’t want to confide in those you know, there are fabulous organisations who you can contact in complete confidence. The Samaritans are always available to listen.
Develop your time management skills
Time pressures and constraints can be stressful. Efficient time management is a way to make deadlines less daunting and more attainable. To-do lists are your friends. Set reminders to prioritise the most important tasks and break work down into smaller, more manageable chunks.
Rest if you’re ill
If you’re feeling under the weather, it’s absolutely ok to allow your body to rest. Pushing it to extremes will likely make stress levels rise further and compromise your physical health too. A short period of rest will allow you to recover more quickly than if you force yourself to carry on at suboptimal capacity.
Take time for yourself
Both at work and at home, you are of value. You need to look after yourself and ensure you’re not overloaded with responsibilities and demands. At work, try to manage your workload and speak out if it becomes overwhelming.
At home, try to take some time for yourself every day to do a relaxing activity, such as reading, gardening, yoga or meditation. Practicing meditation can help us clear our minds and to release ourselves, in mind and body, from the tensions of the day. Invest time in hobbies you enjoy when you can, this will boost your mood too.
Take a deep breath
Focusing on the breath helps to calm us and retain focus and clarity. Deep breathing decreases the heart rate and lowers blood pressure.
- Sit up straight, placing your hands on your belly and lose your eyes.
- Breathe in slowly through your nose, allowing your tummy to slowly expand, feel the air running through your body.
- When your lungs are near full capacity, push the air out through your mouth with a bit of pressure, releasing all your built-up tension.
Practicing this a couple of times a day can be beneficial to managing your stress levels.
Don’t be afraid to take further action
If you feel swamped by stress and nothing you’re doing is making it better, it’s time to seek help with your GP. They’ll assess your symptoms and circumstances and recommend a course of treatment which may include medication or other remedial help.
Stress is part of everyday life, but living with chronic stress can lead to long term health problems. A good diet, exercise and sleep routine can all help you cope with stress. Try to be mindful of your stress levels and make adjustments where you can.