Feeling a little (or a lot) stressed?
Join the club: 35% of Australians experience regular stress, and another 26% experience accompanying anxiety (1).
Stress is not an isolated condition: stress impacts the body on a physiological level, leading to higher than normal levels of stress hormones and can lead to the development of unhealthy behavioral coping mechanisms.
72% of Australians feel that stress negatively impacts their physical wellbeing, while 64% of Australians suffer mental duress (2).
Experiencing high stress on a consistent basis can lead to anxiety and depression, reduce the efficacy of the immune system, and increase risk for chronic disease. While situational stress is a normal part of life, stress management is a crucial part of maintaining physically and mentally healthy.
If you suffer from consistently high stress, these five tips will help you manage your stress and associated symptoms.
1. Get Moving
Exercise increases levels of endorphins - “feel good” chemicals in the brain that help combat high stress, while regular exercise has also been shown to improve mental health (3).
Even if you’re feeling lethargic or would rather head home and Netflix binge on the couch, hitting the gym could be just what you need. Working out reduces cortisol, improving immune health, which often takes a hit in periods of high stress.
2. Prioritise Sleep
Abnormally high levels of stress can disrupt your normal sleep cycles, leaving you lying awake long after turning in for the night. Unfortunately, being overly tired only exacerbates stress, increasing the stress hormone cortisol further. Focus on creating and maintaining a bedtime routine that focuses on stress reduction: sleep in a cool dark room free from electronics and noise.
If you struggle to fall asleep, consider talking to your doctor about a natural sleep aid or supplement. Supplements like passionflower extract may help improve the quality of sleep by regulating circadian rhythm. (4,5).
3. Reduce Inflammation
Chronic stress increases cellular inflammation, increasing risk for various diseases, including cardiovascular disease (6).
A study of 222,000 Australians found that those struggling with high levels of stress were 18-40% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than those with normal levels of stress. (7).
Reducing the inflammation that comes as the result of long periods of stress may help lower your risk for serious chronic diseases, cardiovascular disease included.
Focusing on a diet low in added sugar and high in whole foods can help reduce inflammation by increased consumption of antioxidants. In studies, Vitamins C & E, and Omega-3 fatty acids have all been shown to reduce inflammation (8,9,10,11).
4. Correct vitamin and mineral deficiencies
Did you know that your mood and stress response may be influenced by the nutrients you take in? Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can influence your body in a variety of ways, which may include symptoms of low mood, stress and anxiety.
Deficiencies of magnesium in particular have been shown to increase symptoms of stress, including anxiety and depression. In severe cases, a magnesium deficiency may cause increased agitation and irritability, confusion, sleep disturbances, and headaches (14). If you suffer from severe stress, talk to your doctor about supplementation to determine whether or not you may benefit.
Always choose a high quality supplement, and remember that vitamins and minerals are available in different formats and concentrations. Magnesium, for example, is better absorbed in certain forms than others, with magnesium diglycinate better tolerated and absorbed than magnesium oxide(15).
Always speak to your physician before consuming vitamin/supplement products, as some supplements can interact with other supplements and medications.
5. Start Your Day Right
A surprising 56% of Australians skip breakfast on a regular basis (16). Unfortunately, skipping breakfast is associated with an increased risk for stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as a high BMI (17,18,19).
While it’s tempting to jet out the door on an empty stomach, slow down and grab a quick, healthy bite to eat on your way to work. A piece of fruit, a boiled egg sprinkled with turmeric, or a green smoothie with greek yogurt will give you the Vitamin C, Curcumin, Vitamin E, and/or protein necessary to aid in inflammation reduction and power you through your busy morning.