Christmas is typically one of the most stressful events of the year but our everyday lives seem to have become increasingly more stressful. We all seem to have been affected in some way by the economic crisis and with the media constantly thrusting doom and gloom down our throats it’s hard to stay calm and maintain a positive outlook.
If you celebrate Christmas the chances are that you are stressed out right now. Stress, especially prolonged stress, is very damaging to your health. It can affect your whole body but your digestion, your immune system and detox system are particularly affected. This is accompanied by increasing levels of acidity in the body which always ends in disease.
Here are my top tips to help you cope with the holiday stress:
Help your body’s chemistry
Your body’s response to stress is a chemical process. Hormones and other elements that control this are affected by your diet and environment. It’s easy to skip meals if you are rushed and stressed. Eating regular meals and nutritious foods that support your hormonal and nervous systems will help you manage stress more effectively.
Minimize the use of stimulants such as coffee, regular tea, chocolate, sugar and food additives.
Eat more fruit and vegetables
Foods rich in the minerals magnesium, potassium, calcium and vitamins B and C nourish your nervous system and adrenal glands which control the stress response. Fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds are excellent sources. Green vegetables are rich in magnesium and calcium while most fruits supply plenty of potassium and Vitamin C.
Eat a variety of colorful foods — greens, reds, oranges, yellows. The vitamins,minerals and other plant nutrients they contain help your body’s restorative efforts.
Balance your blood sugar.
Avoid refined and processed foods that are lacking in fiber and nutrients. These foods place even more stress on the body and the swings in blood sugar levels they cause can make you feel anxious and nervous.
Researchers have found that eating some protein with carbohydrate provides support to the adrenal glands by reducing the stimulation of cortisol, a stress hormone.
Nuts, seeds, beans and lentils are good anti-stress foods as they contain both protein and carbohydrate which helps to keep the blood sugar steady. Alternatively combine carbohydrates with proteins such as brown rice with chicken or eat a few nuts with fruit.
Drink more water
Our body is about 75% water and dehydration affects its ability to manage stress. It’s easy to get dehydrated if it’s cold where you live and you keep the heating on high. Drink a daily minimum of 8 glasses of pure water. Herbal teas, fresh juices or fresh vegetable soups can count towards this amount.
Include Omega 3 fats.
Include good quality, unrefined fats and oils. Foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids help lower the stress hormone cortisol and the inflammation it causes. Foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids are oily fish (eat only low mercury fish), walnuts, flax seeds and hemp seeds.
Reduce alcohol consumption and smoking
These rob the body of many nutrients which are needed to to process them as well as those that support your nervous system and adrenal glands.
Stress seems to make people eat faster. Digestion starts in the mouth. Chew your food really well so you digest it well and get the nourishment from it. Undigested food encourages the bad bacteria to flourish in your gut causing bloating and gas as well as the production of toxins.
Moving your body is a great way to fight stress. Moderate exercise encourages the production of endorphins, your “feel-good hormones.” It helps reduce blood pressure and balance blood sugar levels. Too much exercise on the other hand can increase your output of stress hormones.
If you are very stressed try yoga, Tai-Chi, brisk walking or rebounding on a mini trampoline.
You body produces energy when the carbohydrate you eat reacts with oxygen you breath in. When you are tensed and stressed its easy to shallow breathe. Deeper breathing energizes you and clears your mind.
Try The 4-7-8 Relaxing Breath Exercise
Try to sit when doing this exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of the roof of your mouth just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a
total of four breaths.
- This exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. Do it twice a day.
Get some good quality sleep.
Prolonged stress increases the stress hormone cortisol which in turn can prevent you sleeping well. It becomes a vicious cycle. If this is a problem for you try these things:
- Turn off the TV in the evening. Read a book instead.
- Dim the lights – When your eyes are exposed to lights your pineal gland in your brain will not secrete the melatonin you need for a good night’s sleep. You should sleep in total darkness.
- Listen to relaxing music.
- Take a hot bath with Epsom salts before bed.
- Use essential oils, like lavender.
- Ask someone to give you a foot massage, it is very relaxing.
Think positive, be positive
Everyone has been affected by the economic crisis in some way and it can be hard to think positive but focusing on positive thoughts stimulates the release of chemicals in the brain which support and enhance positive feelings.
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and moan about life with everyone else but finding something positive to think about will make a lot of difference.