In this modern world, there are increasing pressures placed on us, both at home, and at work. Stress levels can quickly build, and once you begin to feel frazzled, keeping on top of daily tasks can seem impossible, making you fall further behind, and adding to your stress. It is a negative cycle and can take hold at any point.
When you find yourself in this negative cycle, you need to take action to avoid slipping further and further into a hole, and one of the best ways to support your body when you are stressed, is through the food that you consume.
As much as you may want to reach for the biscuit tin and hide yourself away from the world, this will only give you temporary comfort, and in the long run, is likely to make you feel worse. Your body is a machine, and if you give it the nutrients that it needs, you will be able to rebuild your health more quickly and resume normal functioning.
What is stress?
The physical attributes that you experience when you are stressed are actually based on primitive functions. When you perceive a threat, your body goes into what is known as Fight or Flight mode. In ancient times, this was a very effective way of combatting dangers, such as an encounter with a predatory animal. Your body would begin to release adrenalin and cortisol (the stress hormone), and all the energy would be diverted away from your non-essential processes like digestion, whilst boosting systems like the respiratory system that would enable you to run faster, fight harder etc. Once out of danger, your body would return to its normal state, allowing you to recover.
There is no doubt that this stress function has served us well, however it is less appropriate in a modern day world. Pressures such as huge responsibilities and inadequate time can lead to stress, creating the stress response within your body, but as the pressures don’t go away, this can mean that your body is in this state over a longer term and this can become dangerous.
It is therefore vitally important to take control and return your body to its normal working state.
Exercise and stress
One way of doing this is through exercise, as this can help to relieve some of the built up adrenalin and energy. However, take care not to overdo it, as putting additional pressure on your body could be counter-productive.
Attitude and stress
Another effective way of combatting stress is to change the way you deal with certain situations. If you are the type of person that gets wound up as deadlines draw closer, try taking a different approach and taking the attitude of what gets done, and if things are not done, or if deadlines have to be moved, then it is not the end of the world. In fact, this happens in corporations all the time, so it is often unnecessary to believe that missing your deadlines are going to cost the company so dearly. You need to learn that your health is far more important.
Diet and stress
Finally, supporting your body through your diet will help you to return it to its normal state, and allow you to function at the top of your game. This is more likely to help you to achieve those deadlines that a persistent state of stress, and the minor changes to your diet are therefore well worth it.
Oily fish is one of the most effective stress busting food types. The reason for this is that not only does it contain omega-3, a fatty acid that our bodies are unable to manufacture and therefore must be consumed, and that has the very important function of restoring a healthy nervous system, reducing anxiety, and keeping the cells within your body healthy. Sardines and salmon are fantastic examples.
Other food types include red meat such as beef and lamb. They contain zinc, which is known to have calming effects. In addition, zinc can help with the digestion of other minerals, enabling us to unlock even more of the goodness from the food we consume.
Chicken and turkey are rich sources of tryptophan, which is required to support the production of seratonin, the happy hormone! This can be useful to balance and regulate your mood, counteracting the depression and anxiety associated with stress.
Superfood broccoli is a fantastic source of many different nutrients, including immune system supporting vitamin C. Both the mental and physical symptoms of stress can be treated with sufficient vitamin C intake.
Tofu and soy beans are also good providers of tryptophan, as well as omega-3, and zinc.