Come on, admit it. You LOVE being stressed. Firing off emails in a heady mix of dopamine and adrenaline. But to save yourself from a cortisol crash, here are some tips from medical nutritionist Naomi Beinart PhD…
There’s no doubt that too much of it is bad for us: as well as day-to-day fatigue, irritability and poor sleep, long-term or severe stress has been linked to everything from headaches to irritable bowel syndrome, and depression to autoimmune disease.
But many of us seem to chase stress: we drink coffee to cope with a busy schedule, pack in another exercise class to ‘burn it out’, and when our brain needs a break from work, we log on to social media. By going from one buzz to another, we’re simply adding more stimulation – in other words, more stress.
So, what can we do to break the ‘stress cycle’? Try following these seven stress-busting tips for just seven days, and see if you can rediscover your calm.
1. Laugh it off
There’s truth to the saying ‘laughter is the best medicine’. Research has shown that laughter can lower levels of stress hormones including cortisol and adrenaline, and release feel-good endorphins in their place. If you feel inclined, you can even pay for ‘laughter therapy’ or do ‘laughter yoga’. But why not start by watching a few episodes of your favourite comedy show or a funny film … and feel the stress start to melt away.
2. Go easy on the coffee
What do most of us do when we’re stressed and overworked? Take another trip to the coffee machine, of course. But beware: caffeine actually hikes up your stress levels even more, meaning you’re just feeding into that stress cycle. So, if you’re a caffeine junkie, try swapping some of your cups for green tea. You’ll get a mini hit of caffeine, but also a soothing dose of theanine, a natural amino acid that has a calming effect on the mind and can aid focus and concentration. Hello, tranquillity. Try Pukka Lean Matcha Green tea, £2.79 for a box of 20 teabags.
3. Dip into your herbal toolkit
Look to natural plants and herbs to help rediscover your serenity. Ashwagandha is a herb traditionally used to help balance the effects of stress, calming the nerves and relieving anxiety while also supporting energy. Chamomile is known for its calming and soothing effects too, and fennel can help counteract the effects of anxiety and stress on the gut. Try them together in Pukka’s Relax 7-Day Wellbeing Kit, which contains seven days’ supply of Pukka’s Relax herbal tea and Wholistic Ashwagandha herbal capsules. The perfect accompaniment to your 7-day programme.
4. Don’t sacrifice your sleep
It can be tempting to forgo a couple of hours’ slumber to meet that deadline or finish the housework. You can sleep when you’re dead, right? But sleep is the time when our stress hormones go down and hormones involved with building and repair are released, allowing the body to recover. This recovery time is vital to maintain your energy, immunity, strength and – perhaps most importantly – your ability to handle more stress the next day. Maybe it’s time to set an alarm to remind you when to go to bed rather than when to get up.
This might seem like the tip you hear most often, while also being the most difficult to achieve. But meditation is effective: studies have repeatedly found that mindfulness meditation can decrease anxiety and stress levels. And it doesn’t need to be hard: a regular commitment of just ten minutes a day can be enough to make a difference. Guided meditations can be a great introduction, so download a meditation app today and get started.
6. Get into nature
When was the last time you walked in woodland, or strolled through a leafy park? Research has found that spending time in nature can reduce stress levels and protect against its negative effects. And yet, the only forest most of us walk through in a typical week is one made out of concrete and tall buildings. Schedule at least two 1-hour visits to a forest or your favourite park this week to help break your stress cycle.
7. A weighty issue
Exercise can be great for reducing stress. But the type of exercise can make a difference: if you’re highly stressed or exhausted, an addiction to HIIT classes or spending hours a week trudging on a treadmill could just make things worse. Both endurance and high-intensity exercise give us a buzz of adrenaline and endorphins, but for the same reason, they also feed into that addictive stress cycle and, like caffeine, can have a longer-term draining effect. Instead, try swapping some of your workouts for weight training: it can actually help lower stress hormones… and you’ll get extra metabolism-boosting benefits too.
By Naomi Beinart PhD