In my last post, The Scary Truth About Stress, I discussed the types of stress (acute and chronic), the different forms (physical and emotional), and the consequences of not managing stress (check out the post for details!) Now that we have an understanding of how harmful stress can be to our health, let’s dive into seven stress management strategies! 1. Embrace PFC. Eating in PFC balance is essential not only during stressful times, but also as a preventative measure. When we’re stressed out, it can be easy to put nutrition on the back burner and even give ourselves permission to eat processed, sugar-loaded snacks to help us through the stress. It can even feel helpful because when we get that quick fix it can serve as a pick-me-up. Unfortunately, doing this ends up fueling the fire even more, promoting inflammation and stress in your body. It’s a vicious cycle! Consuming good quality fat (butter, coconut oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut milk) is especially important during stressful times because research shows that restricting calories (which almost always means restricting fat) during times of stress can actually increase cortisol levels even more (if you remember in the last post I talked about how this leads to weight gain). Our cortisol levels are already going to be high in times of stress, so why increase them even more by eating foods that fuel this fire? Another reason to remember that fat is our friend! By including good quality fat, along with a quality protein and carbohydrate source, you’re promoting balanced blood sugar levels which will help you stay focused and energized to push through your time of stress. Don’t let those processed snack foods tempt you—even though they may feel helpful, they only end up making you more stressed in the long run! If the idea of changing your eating habits stresses you out, check out our blog post, Simple Starting Steps, for easy ways to start where you are today. Healthy eating doesn’t need to be stressful! 2. Sleep. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of sleep, especially when you’re stressed! It’s tempting to skip out on sleep to get all the things done that you might be stressed out about, but don’t do it! Sleep is critical because it influences our energy levels, metabolism, daily food decisions, activity level, hormone balance, moods and more. Sleep helps reduce your stress levels and keep you healthier overall. Never underestimate the power of sleep, and make it a priority—especially when you’re stressed out. 3. Talk about it! It’s important to get things off our chest! Find a friend or family member you’re comfortable with, and let it all out! If you don’t feel comfortable sharing with a friend or family member (especially if they are causing the stress), another option could be to check out our PFC Club Membership Community. Many of our members have found comfort and a sense of community in like-minded individuals who are on a similar journey to a healthy lifestyle. Meeting with a health coach is also a great way to vent to a listening ear who isn’t only a good listener, but can also provide individualized evidence-based recommendations. Many of our clients tell us they look forward to their sessions so much because they know they can reveal their real self and struggles without worrying about being judged or shamed. You can always count on us for support, and not just for your food related struggles. We know that overall health is more than just about what we eat! 4. Journaling is also an effective stress management technique. Many of our clients find that although they may have been resistant to it initially (who has time to journal when they’re stressed!?) it helps tremendously. Although they never find this out until they give it a whirl! Take a few minutes in the morning or after you get home from work to jot down your thoughts, frustrations and check in to see how you’re doing. Even if you feel like you have nothing to write about, write that! 5. Learn how to say no. Most of us have too much on our plates (so to speak), hence the reason why we’re stressed. It’s stressful being non-stop on the go, so determine what’s really important to you, and what you can do to clear up your schedule. Saying “no” may seem like a simple solution and we understand it isn’t always as easy as it sounds, but saying “no” can be a powerful way to take control of your schedule. When you’re journaling (hint!), list out your priorities and the things you need to do and the things that would be nice to do. Then prioritize the things that would be nice to do, and as these opportunities arise, begin to cut out the ones that just might cause you stress. 6. Adjust your outlook. Reframing the way you view and think about certain things can drastically affect how you handle stressors. In fact, studies have shown that the more optimistic and positive an individual is, the better they are at effectively managing stress. When you notice a negative thought in your mind, fight it back with a positive one. Work on not allowing negativity to interfere with the positive things you have going in your life. Although adjusting your outlook may not change the cause of stress, it can improve how you handle it, and in turn, how it affects you. 7. Supplement. We recommend real food first, and at the same time we have seen over and over again how beneficial supplementation can be when it comes to relieving stress. High quality vitamins and minerals can promote relaxation and positivity and be a powerful addition to the techniques discussed above. Our top three supplements for stress management include:
- Serosyn: A supplement that’s designed to promote a positive and restful mood through the production of serotonin (our feel-good brain chemical). A general recommendation includes one capsule 3 times per day with food.
- L-Theanine: A naturally-occurring, unique amino acid that may promote relaxation without causing drowsiness. L-Theanine has also been found to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, as well as the negative side effects of caffeine. General recommendation includes 1-2 capsules per day as needed.
- GABA: Gamma Amino Butyric Acid (GABA) is an amino acid complex that may help reduce anxiety, nervousness, or cravings. It contains synergistic herbs that promote sedative effects and provides the brain with the peace and calmness it needs. For anxiety and/or nervousness or cravings, I generally recommend 1 capsule three times a day. For occasional sleeplessness, I generally recommend 1 to 3 capsules before bedtime.
- Stress Arrest: This provides nutrients involved in a normal calm stress response, and calming nutrients including glycine, niacinamide, pantothenic acid and vitamin B6. Just one capsule per day generally does the trick!
- Adrenal Complex: This supplement is ideal for those under chronic stress because it can balance cortisol (your stress hormone) and replenish dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine (your “feel good hormones”). It contains a comprehensive spectrum of B vitamins to support energy production as well. My general recommendation is two capsules per day with meals.