Life tends to throw curveballs which can make functioning at your highest potential a challenge. Whether it’s a tough day at work, difficult relationships with family or money problems that are dragging you down, it’s hard to prepare your mind and body for unexpected pressure. Stress not only affects your mood but can also harm your health and wellbeing. Constantly feeling anxious causes your body to produce stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, at higher levels with less time to recover. Learning how you nourish your body and balance your stress hormones will help you worry less during life’s most challenging moments.
Select foods that are high in antioxidants
According to Medical News Today, Eating foods that contain antioxidants can help reduce stress by protecting your body against free radicals, which are molecules your body produces when your body breaks down food or when you’re exposed to toxins, like tobacco smoke or radiation. It’s important to balance antioxidants with free radicals for proper body function. Some examples of antioxidant-rich foods include:
- Whole grains
Exercise is one of the best ways to maintain stress levels. According to an article by Harvard Health Publishing, any type of aerobic exercise can have life-changing benefits such as increased metabolism, better cardiovascular health and stimulating the body’s natural painkillers and mood enhancers. It’s not necessary to complete several hours of physical activity per day to see stress-reducing results, even just 15 to 20 minutes of light walking can put you in a better mindset.
A sedentary lifestyle is a cause for concern when discussing stress levels, yet many individuals don’t have a choice when it comes to how long they sit each day. On average, most Americans are sedentary for 21 hours of the day between work, travel and sleep according to Cision. Making an effort to move when you have free time can improve stress levels compared to what they would be on a day with little to no movement. The Mayo Clinic goes on to say that almost any type of physical activity can help relieve stress. The best way to incorporate movement into your routine is by doing activities you already love. Some examples of lighter activities that can help increase fitness levels while reducing stress include:
- Stair climbing
- Tai chi
Add omega-3 fatty acids to your diet
In a study found in the National Library of Medicine, those with higher levels of cortisol and an increased heart rate had lower levels of omega-3. Omega-3 fatty acids are important to brain function and help reduce stress. Omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is the type of fatty acid most prominent in the brain, so when oxidative stress causes a depletion of substances in the body, the brain doesn’t function to its full extent, causing more apparent stress in this area of the body.
The best way to replenish the body with omega-3 fatty acids is by eating foods high in these substances or by taking a supplement containing these nutrients. Some foods high in omega-3 include:
Get plenty of sleep
The CDC states that 1 in 3 adults don’t get an adequate amount of sleep. Adults ages 18 to 60 should be getting a minimum of seven hours of sleep per night to maintain healthy mental function and reduce the risk of high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Stress is one of the largest contributors to sleeplessness, but not sleeping enough can cause increased stress. It’s a dangerous cycle if one doesn’t take the necessary steps to correct bad sleep habits. Making sleep a priority will help reduce stress levels significantly. Sleep Foundation recommends implementing the following habits in order to develop a sleeping routine that works best for you.
- Limit exposure to bright light in the evenings and shut down electronics at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Stick to the same sleep schedule every day. This means even on weekends or during vacations too. Doing this will help regulate your circadian rhythm which is our body’s natural process in charge of regulating the sleep-wake cycle.
- Establish a relaxing bedtime routine. Listening to calming music, practicing meditation or stretching right before bed helps put your body in a mellow state of existence and releases any tension leftover from the day.
Drink more water and less caffeine
You might not want to hear this, but your morning coffee could be contributing to increased levels of stress. Healthline states that while caffeine provides the body with a short burst of energy, this quick fix can cause an increase in cortisol and adrenaline levels in order to block adenosine, a chemical in the brain that makes you feel tired.
Drinking too much caffeine can also lead to problems sleeping since adenosine is continually being blocked. Choosing to consume caffeine in moderation is acceptable, but prolonged consumption will lead to sleeplessness. Start with reducing caffeine consumption to reset sleeping patterns. Once you can focus on correcting your sleep, stress levels should be more manageable.
Dehydration is closely linked to stress and caffeine only speeds up the dehydration process, according to The Healthy. If you notice symptoms of stress, try consuming more water. When stress takes over, the body produces fewer hormones, like aldosterone, which is responsible for replenishing electrolytes. Fewer electrolytes in the body mean a greater risk of dehydration. A dehydrated body is stressed as is and will perform at a lower function in order to conserve the nutrients existing in the body. Drinking more water and staying away from caffeine when possible puts your body in the best position to function properly.
Avoid eating genetically modified foods
Genetically modified foods usually contain high concentrations of glyphosate which kills off bacteria necessary for gut health, according to ScienceDirect. Gut bacteria help contribute to mood-regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Without these neurotransmitters, stress-inducing hormones are more likely to take over. Glyphosate consumption alone can increase the risk of anxiety and depression.
The best way to avoid genetically modified foods is to read labels at the store and focus on eating organic foods when possible and eating free-ranged meats to avoid ingesting synthetic hormones and fertilizers that are found in genetically modified foods.
Natural foods that are not genetically modified provide your body with the resources it needs and will bring more satisfaction to your day. Consuming natural foods rich in vitamins and nutrients are what help to energize the body and lead to a better state of mental health. The following recipes will help do just that as they include ingredients that promote brain function and fuel the body.
Healthy Salmon Avocado Boats
- 2 avocados, halved
- 2 cans Chicken of the Sea® Skinless & Boneless Pink Salmon in EZ-Open Cans
- 2 tablespoons green onion, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced
- 2 tablespoons parsley, minced
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- ⅛ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- Optional: sriracha, to taste
- Slice open 2 avocados and remove the pits. Set aside.
- Then, mix together the rest of the ingredients in a medium-size bowl.
- Fill each avocado half with ¼ of the salmon salad. Top with sriracha and a squeeze of lemon.
Thanks to Fit Foodie Finds for this omega-3 and potassium-packed recipe! These ingredients can help reduce blood pressure and keep your stress hormones at ease.
Raw Coconut and Brazil Nut Truffles
Ingredients for Filling:
- 1 cup Brazil nuts
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons cashew butter
- 4 tablespoons shredded coconut, plus more for sprinkling
- 1/2 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out (or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract)
Ingredients for the Chocolate Coating:
- 1/2 cup raw cacao butter
- 3 tablespoons cacao powder
- 2-3 tablespoons maple syrup
To Make the Filling:
- Start by adding the brazil nuts to a food processor. Pulse to a flour-like consistency. Add the rest of the filling ingredients and mix until everything is well combined. It’s fine if it’s not a completely smooth mixture, as you do want some lumps from the coconut to come through.
- Once the mixture has reached a wet dough-like consistency, do a taste test, and pop it in the freezer for 15-20 minutes so it can set.
- The mixture should now be firm enough to handle, so line a tray with baking paper and, using your hands, roll out your mixture into balls and place them on the tray. Pop that back into the freezer for a few minutes so you can prep your chocolate shell.
To Make the Chocolate and the Truffles:
- Gently melt the ingredients in a double boiler. Keep stirring until everything is melted and chocolate-y.
- Take out your truffles from the freezer and dip them in the chocolate sauce using a toothpick and place them back on the tray. After you’ve done all of them, sprinkle some shredded coconut on top and place them in the fridge for 30 minutes to set.
- Transfer to an airtight container.
This recipe from One Green Planet contains anti-inflammatory elements like selenium. According to Healthline, selenium helps regulate metabolism and thyroid function and contributes protection against oxidative stress.
Identifying when stress levels are critically high can be challenging as stress is a natural part of life. Hormone Health identifies the following signs of stress:
- Fatigue, depression
- Chest pain or pressure, fast heartbeat
- Dizziness, shakiness, difficulty breathing
- Irregular menstrual periods, erectile dysfunction (impotence), loss of libido (sex drive)
When you notice one or more of these symptoms, it’s best to make a lifestyle change in order to reduce the risk of other health problems linked to increased stress.
At KC Wellness, we offer different treatments to help you live your life to the fullest. Our Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) for men and women helps to restore hormone levels to keep you feeling youthful and operating at your full potential. Unlike synthetic hormone treatments, BHRT replicates hormones found in your body at a younger age, comprised of the identical chemical structure helping to reduce your health, vitality and function. Learn more about KC Wellness hormone services by calling us at 816-214-5276.