Stress Management


Stress Management

People who don't manage stress well can have headaches, stomach pain, sleeping problems, illness, and depression. You can manage stress by journaling, meditating, exercising, talking to others, or engaging in a hobby.

Stress Management Diet

Stress management can be a powerful tool for wellness. There’s evidence that too much pressure is not just a mood killer. People who are under constant stress are more vulnerable to everything from colds to high blood pressure and heart disease. Although there are many ways to cope, one strategy is to eat stress-fighting foods. Read on to learn how a stress management diet can help.

Stress-Busting Foods: How They Work

Foods can fight stress in several ways. Comfort foods, like a bowl of warm oatmeal, actually boost levels of serotonin, a calming brain chemical. Other foods can reduce levels of cortisol and adrenaline, stress hormones that take a toll on the body over time. Finally, a nutritious diet can counteract the impact of stress, by shoring up the immune system and lowering blood pressure. Do you know which foods are stress busters?

Complex Carbs

All carbs prompt the brain to make more serotonin. For a steady supply of this feel-good chemical, it’s best to eat complex carbs, which are digested more slowly. Good choices include whole-grain breakfast cereals, breads, and pastas, as well as old-fashioned oatmeal. Complex carbs can also help you feel balanced by stabilizing blood sugar levels.

Simple Carbs

Dieticians usually recommend steering clear of simple carbs, which include sweets and soda. But these foods can provide short-term relief of stress-induced irritability. Simple sugars are digested quickly, leading to a spike in serotonin.

Oranges

Oranges make the list for their wealth of vitamin C. Studies suggest this vitamin can reduce levels of stress hormones while strengthening the immune system. If you have a particularly stressful event coming up, you may want to consider supplements. In one study, blood pressure and cortisol levels returned to normal more quickly when people took 3,000 milligrams of vitamin C before a stressful task.

Spinach

Popeye never lets stress get the best of him – maybe it’s all the magnesium in his spinach. Magnesium helps regulate cortisol levels and tends to get depleted when we’re under pressure. Too little magnesium may trigger headaches and fatigue, compounding the effects of stress. One cup of spinach goes a long way toward replenishing magnesium stores. Not a spinach eater? Try some cooked soybeans, or a filet of salmon, also high in magnesium.

Fatty Fish

To keep cortisol and adrenaline in check, make friends with fatty fish. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish like salmon and tuna, can prevent surges in stress hormones and protect against heart disease. For a steady supply, aim to eat three ounces of fatty fish at least twice a week.

Black Tea

Research suggests black tea can help you recover from stressful events more quickly. One study compared people who drank four cups of tea daily for 6 weeks with people who drank a tea-like placebo. The real tea drinkers reported feeling calmer and had lower levels of cortisol after stressful situations. Coffee, on the other hand, can boost levels of cortisol.

Pistachios

Pistachios can soften the impact stress hormones have on the body. Adrenaline raises blood pressure and gets your heart racing when you’re under stress. Eating a handful of pistachios every day can lower blood pressure, so it won’t spike as high when that adrenaline rush comes.

Avocados

One of the best ways to reduce high blood pressure is to get enough potassium -- and half an avocado has more potassium than a medium-sized banana. In addition, guacamole offers a nutritious alternative when stress has you craving a high-fat treat.

Almonds

Almonds are chock full of helpful vitamins. There’s vitamin E to bolster the immune system, plus a range of B vitamins, which may make the body more resilient during bouts of stress. To get the benefits, snack on a quarter of a cup every day.

Raw Veggies

Crunchy raw vegetables can fight the effects of stress in a purely mechanical way. Munching celery or carrot sticks helps release a clenched jaw, and that can ward off tension headaches.

Bedtime Snack

Carbs at bedtime can speed the release of serotonin and help you sleep better. Heavy meals before bed can trigger heartburn, so stick to something light like toast and jam.

Milk

Another bedtime stress buster is the time-honored glass of warm milk. Researchers have found calcium can reduce muscle spasms and soothe tension, as well as easing anxiety and mood swings linked to PMS. Dieticians typically recommend skim or low-fat milk.

Herbal Supplements

There are many herbal supplements that claim to fight stress. One of the best studied is St. John’s wort, which has shown benefits for people with mild-to-moderate depression. Although more research is needed, the herb also appears to reduce symptoms of anxiety and PMS. There is less data on valerian root, another herb said to have a calming effect.

De-Stress with Exercise

Besides tweaking your diet, one of the best stress-busting strategies is to start exercising. Aerobic exercise is the most effective, because it increases oxygen circulation and produces endorphins -- chemicals that make you feel happy. To get the maximum benefit, aim for 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three to four times a week.
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