Six easy ways to combat stress and anxiety

-Jul 8, Jenny Paul, Mind -

We all go through periods of stress in our lives where we feel that things are getting on top of us, but more than ever before it is women who say that they’re suffering with stress-related anxiety. The bad news is that as well as making you awful while you’re younger, stress turbo-ages you resulting in exhaustion, wrinkles and brain fog, so you also feel terrible as you get older. We take a look at why that is and ways to ease stress. 

Research by the Young Women’s Trust has shown that the current generation of younger women are more likely to suffer with anxiety as well as having lower confidence levels. Young women responded that they are feeling overwhelmed primarily by work, housing and financial problems. The study also revealed almost half of young women are worried about their mental health.

Those are pretty staggering statistics; if you have ten female friends then at least five will be grappling with stress, worry and perhaps depression – as well as other related mental health issues. This is bad news, because women tend to feel concerned about the stigma attached to mental health problems, so are less likely to speak up, or seek out help.

If you’re suffering with anxiety, as well as considering a visit to your doctor to talk through the many options which are available to you, here’s SIX easy ways to help combat it.

Boost your serotonin levels

If you suffer with anxiety it is incredibly important to boost your feel good hormone – serotonin – whenever you can.

Dr Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading nutritionist, and author of ‘Natural Alternatives to Sugar’ explains how a few simple changes in your diet can work wonders for your happiness levels:

“The body makes serotonin from tryptophan, which occurs naturally in foods such as dairy products, fish, bananas, dried dates, soya, almonds and peanuts.

“The manufacture of serotonin depends on how much tryptophan is transported into your brain. Combining the foods mentioned above with unrefined carbohydrates, such as brown rice, wholemeal bread or oats, helps the body to release insulin to help tryptophan uptake to the brain.

“A good example would be to kick start your day with eggs and wholemeal toast for breakfast.”

Know when to say no

When you are getting pulled in a million different directions it can quickly become overwhelming. Make sure you prioritise the most important thing in your life, your health.

Marilyn says: “If you feel the symptoms of stress coming on, learn to get your priorities right. There is nothing in your life right now more important than your health. Learn to say no if you feel that you have taken on too much.”

Boost your omega 3 intake

Diet is the easiest way to nourish your brain and body. Shona Wilkinson, nutritionist, explains:

“Oily fish contains DHA, which contributes toward brain health; research has also shown that the omega three found in oily fish helps in reducing anxiety. Anxiety is something which is often peaking at the end of a busy day so by eating this omega rich meal you will be helping to support your body through this period.”

Feed both your brains

Yes, you read that right; there is a strong connection between the brain and the gut, with scientists now referring to the gut as our second brain. Chronic stress can lead to negative changes within the gut, whilst relaxation promotes gut health.

Lily Soutter, a nutritionist and weight loss expert, explains:  “90% of serotonin is located within our gut, with only 10% in the brain. Our gut is jam packed full of bacteria which has a strong positive influence on serotonin production which relays information to the brain. No wonder probiotics can have such an effect on our happy hormones!”

To balance your gut flora include fermented foods in your daily diet. Go for natural yoghurt, miso soup, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha.

Fresh air is key

Around two thirds of people tend to eat more during stressful periods. When we are under stress, many of us go for sugar or high fat (dis)comfort foods to counteract tension. Or, they won’t eat – which means they’re denying their bodies of the weapons they need to help feel their best during a difficult time.

It is important to leave the house and get outside, no matter what the weather, as Lily explains: “Take advantage of any rays of sunshine during the summer months to soak up some vitamin D. Fresh air, exercise and nature can also help to reduce the stress hormone cortisol, which ultimately can boost immunity.” It also slows down the ageing process within your body. 

Balance your hormones

Stress sends your hormones crazy and throws them out of balance; which then leads to more stress and becomes a vicious circle. (Stress produces cortisol which is the fight or flight hormone and can feel like caffeine jitters). Eating a balanced diet which is rich in fresh vegetables, some fruit and quality lean protein is key, as is getting lots of early nights and reducing your alcohol, caffeine and refined sugar intake – which send your blood sugar soaring and crashing. 

Feel calmer and happier – today!

As a footnote, acupuncture and shiatsu – as well as doing regular digital detoxes all help ease anxiety. Long-distance swimmer Beth French told us that she used mindfulness to recover from a serious and debilitating illness which left her bed-ridden and in a wheelchair in her teens. This brilliant self-hypnosis technique will help you learn to feel happier and you can get started in less than one minute. 

This fabulous woman drew her way out of depression by doing one drawing which was based around a positive thought every single day. It went on to become a best-selling book: read her journey to happiness here.

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