Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the ever increasing demands of life. According to the American Psychological Association, more than half of all women say they're highly stressed, which is an increase of 25% in the last four years. The #1 cause of stress in the United States is job pressures.
How does stress affect your body and mind?
When your brain perceives a threat, it signals your body to release hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to fuel your capacity for a response. This has been labeled the "fight-or-flight" response. Once the threat is gone, your body is meant to return to a normal relaxed state. Unfortunately, the nonstop stress of modern life means that your alarm system rarely shuts off.
The most common physical symptoms of stress include fatigue, headaches, upset stomach, muscle tension, changes in appetite, and dizziness. Many people also experience psychological symptoms including irritability, nervousness, and lack of energy.
Stress Management: Where to Start
Stress management is a necessary skill these days. Start with identifying what triggers your stress, whether it is job pressures, events, relationship issues, or financial difficulties. Then, try to start thinking about ways in which you can reduce your stress levels. You can start with little things, such as turning your phone on silent or turning the television off when the evening news is distressing. Always keep in mind that you are not alone, and your friends and family can provide you with help and support. Going to the gym, yoga, being in nature, meditation, mindfulness, aromatherapy, and tai chi have all been proven techniques to reduce stress.
Scents and aromatherapy are also a great way to alleviate stress. Lavender, for instance, has been proven to lower anxiety levels. Coconut has been shown to reduce blood pressure, soothing our responses to stress. Peppermint can reduce hunger levels and food cravings.
Good news: certain foods have been shown to reduce stress as well. Stress does have the tendency to lead individuals to poor food choices, which can do more damage to your health. Try eating the following 8 healthy options to reduce the stress in your life:
1. Turkey, which contains tryptophan, an amino acid that boosts serotonin and alleviates stress. You can add turkey to some eggs in the morning or to your salad for a lunch or dinner.
2. Spinach, which is a great source of magnesium, a mineral that promotes a sense of calmness. Choose spinach over other lettuce.
3. Salmon, which is full of Omega3 fatty acids, which boosts serotonin production. Omega3s also help promote healthy circulation and inflammation.
4. Nuts and seeds, which are a great source of Omega3s.
5. Oatmeal, which boosts serotonin production. Oats have a lot of potassium and magnesium as well. Add some nuts and seeds to your oatmeal!
6. Citrus fruits, which are a great way to get Vitamin C naturally. Vitamin C helps boost your immune system which tends to weaken with stress.
7. Sweet potatoes and carrots, which are a great source of fiber and carbohydrates, which boost serotonin production They are also sweet which may offset sugar cravings.
8. Don’t forget about a little bit of dark chocolate, which can reduce levels of cortisol and catecholamines.