We have all heard that ‘you are what you eat’. While we don’t eat stress, what we do eat can stress the cells in our body and brain, and they do know the difference between what is good for them and what is really just filler material – that most of the time is easier to get and can taste good. If we do not give our bodies what it needs you cannot be at your best, physically or mentally.
First lets talk about healthy food that reduces stress. Our bodies are made up of 70% water yet most people only eat between 5 and 15 percent of water based foods in their diet. Immediately that causes a deficit of the most valuable part of the makeup of your diet. The water you get from drinking water and in fruits and vegetables actually allows you to think better, as the cell connections in your brain are aided by water. Eating foods that are water based, fruits and vegetables as the majority of your diet is the best.
However putting good food in is only one part of the system. Reducing or eliminating the bad things we put in our bodies is also an important step. Here are two of the biggest culprits in our diet that are not healthy choices and will increase the affects of our stress.
Caffeine: hidden in more foods than you can imagine, can make you feel good short term, but can also increase sleeplessness and panic attacks.
Sugar: Looks good, tastes great and is added to more prepared foods than you can imagine, will give you a quick high and then a big let down. The up and down effect can leave you wiped out.
In our busy lives though, eating correctly is one of the toughest choices we have to make. Doing so though will make us feel better physically, mentally and just as important, we will know that we are doing the right thing!
Without getting all scientific on you, there are many reasons that physical activity is great when you are feeling stressed. First when you are stressed out your body produces cortisol and that can make you feel even more nervous and anxious, even to the point of feeling sick. Getting active will use up some of that cortisol and that will help to reduce the nervous feelings.
Just as important the physical activity also produces a chemical – endorphins – that help you feel good! They improve your mood and help you slow down, as well as when you are tired you can sleep better. All of us know of the physical health benefits of exercise, but the mental health benefits are great too.
What is your favorite thing to do? Is it walking, dancing, martial arts, skateboarding, basketball, frisbee??? Any activity can be good and if you make it a habit to get some activity that you enjoy in everyday you will find your stress levels being reduced. But when we sit around or are dormant, or only worry about what we ‘have to do’, then our stress levels will go up.
One warning; Do not let physical activity become a distraction to the point of being an escapism method. Physical activity and especially sports and teams can become overwhelming if we are over achievers and only add more stress to our lives, if we are trying to fit too much in to our schedules. Finding the balance of some physical activity everyday while continuing to work on the root causes of our stress is the best.