Managing Stress Levels

January 12, 2012

Stress levels have shot up -- a recent survey reported that  44 percent of people have said that their level of stress increased over the past five years! Finances, work and family concerns are considered leading causes of this rise, causing a wide range of health issues, from obesity and fatigue to indigestion and headaches. Diet choices and fitness have been proven to have a huge effect on stress levels. Whether by providing a sense of well-being or increasing hormone levels  that fight stress, working out and eating well provide you with tools to manage your response to the hurdles we face each day.  We can't always avoid stress factors, but we can prevent stress from taking over our lives. Diet and exercise are the first big step!

Diet tips for a stressful day.
  • Carb up. Carbohydrates produce serotonin, the chemical that controls the brain's stress-management system and makes us feel calm and in control. Go for whole grains, start off the morning with a bowl of oatmeal!
  • Eat your salmon. Fatty fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.  The omega-3 acids in fatty fish have also been found to ease depression by improving nerve cell communication. Other fish rich in omega3 fatty acids include tuna, sardines, halibut, herring, mackerel, and lake trout.
  • Go nuts! Nuts are an excellent source of B vitamins and healthy fatty acids which play an important role in a healthy diet and can help to reduce stress. Pistachios in particular have been found to have a role aid in reducing stress levels. Look for salt-free or low-salt nuts!
  • Take your C. Studies have found that high levels of vitamin C help ease stress levels.  Start by eating citrus fruits -- oranges, grapefruits, and strawberries.
  • Relax with a cup of tea. Drinking warm tea, particularly herbal teas like ginger or chamomile, have a soothing effect.
  • Don't forget warm milk! Warm milk has been used for generations as a sleeping aid. Rich in calcium and vitamin D, it helps to muscles relax and calm the mind.
  • Have a chocolate treat! Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants, and can lower the level of stress hormones -- and it's an wonderful indulgence!  Indulgence is the key word here, don't overdo it!

Exercise increases your overall health, improves sense of well-being, and offers also has some serious support for stress control.

  • Work-outs increase the production of the brain's feel-good neurotransmitters, endorphins. Each  exercise session results in up to 90 to 120 minutes of 'relaxation response' afterwards.
  • Physical activity improves blood flow to your brain, supporting brain health and improving your response to stressful situations.
  • Exercise improves your self-image and improves your mood, can increase self-confidence and lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety.

Use diet and exercise to control your stress, not cause your stress! You'll be healthier and happier.

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