180 Nutrition: As you reach for your third coffee and fourth biscuit of the morning, you’ve zoned out to everything that’s going on around you and, laden with caffeine and sugar, you’re struggling to focus.
You’ve got a lot of stuff going on in your life, and the stress means you’re not coping too well. As a result, you’ve thrown your healthy habits out of the window, and you’re doing whatever you can just to get through each day.
Excessive caffeine, sugary snacks for an afternoon boost, and increased alcohol consumption are all standard go-to methods to help someone who is stressed get through the day and sleep well at night. When things are going wrong, life is no longer about a healthy eating plan; every day becomes about survival. If you’re going through a less than average time in your life, it’s likely that the last thing you want to think about is a healthy eating regime. However, this is exactly the time that you should be more focussed on sticking to your health goals. When you are under stress, not only do you have external factors working against you, but your body is also fighting against you too.
A prolonged period of stress leads to the release of excess cortisol into your body which has adverse effects of its own. Weight gain, blood sugar imbalance, gastrointestinal problems, insomnia and increased inflammation which can result in serious chronic disease are just some of the additional problems your body can encounter.
Here are six simple rules to try and stick through during times of stress to help keep on track and not let life get the better of you.
1) Keep a regular sleeping pattern
While this is easier said than done in a lot of cases, a good night of slumber promotes a healthy body and mind and makes you better able to cope with whatever life is throwing at you. If you’re struggling to sleep, check out Stu’s top tips for the best sleep ever. If you find that you’re unable to stay in a regular sleeping pattern during your time of stress, at least make the effort to rest. Switch off your devices and relax into some meditation or deep breathing. Clearing your mind will help you relax, and the sleep will follow naturally.
A good night’s rest will clear the fog that you feel the next day which will give you more clarity of thought and help you cope better with problems. It will also stop you reaching for those sugary snacks and caffeine which you need just to get through the afternoon.
While you might not feel like pumping iron at the gym during a stressful time, it will help you if you can move your body daily. Whether that’s a walk around the block or a hardcore HIIT session, exercise promotes the release of the feel-good hormones, endorphins. Regular movement also increases blood flow, increases energy levels throughout the day and tires your body out to help with number one – getting a good night’s sleep.
3) Drink lots of water
When your body is under stress, it increases the production of harmful toxins and it’s important for your wellbeing to keep these moving. Exchange your coffee and soft drink for water, water and more water to stay hydrated and get the toxins out. Between two and three litres of water is recommended but vary this depending on your level of activity and perspiration.
Put the muffin and convenience food down! While your body naturally craves sugar when you’re tired and frazzled, this will only give you a short-term pick-me-up which leads to an almighty crash. Not to mention the weight gain. Arm yourself with carrots, hummus, fruit and raw nuts for the times when your body gets hungry and feels like giving in. These snacks are all packed with nutrients and are kind to your body when all it feels like doing is falling in a heap.
It can also be tempting to reach for takeaways and processed ‘convenience’ food when you have a lot going on. Fight the impulse. Your body will thank you for nourishing it with healthy protein and vegetable based meals rather than filling it full of junk that it struggles to process.
5) Avoid alcohol
While it’s extremely tempting to knock back a couple of beers or a glass of red to help you relax after a hard day, this has the opposite effect than the calming result you’re hoping for. Alcohol contains preservatives which wreak havoc with your sleeping patterns. While you might feel good in the short term, long term consumption of alcohol lowers serotonin levels leaving you feeling tired, anxious and depressed. It’s just not worth it.
6) Take magnesium
Magnesium reduces stress hormones, reduces inflammation, stabilises blood sugar. relaxes the nerves and lifts depression. Long-term stress can lead to magnesium deficiency so it’s important that you keep your levels up. Magnesium is an essential mineral so if you’re under stress take a supplement to ensure your nervous system remains all-functioning.
There is no getting away from the fact that stress will impact us all at some stage or another but keeping a few wellness factors in play will mean that your body needn’t suffer unnecessarily. Good sleep, good nutrition, and a strong body are the most effective weapons to take into battle; don’t let life defeat you by letting those key pillars suffer.