8 ways to feel less stressed

By naturopath Margaret Jasinska

When you feel bad, it’s human nature to try to feel better as quickly as possible. Whether it’s depression, anxiety, pain or fatigue, feeling unwell can significantly impair your enjoyment of life. The problem is, a lot of people use unhealthy habits in an effort to boost their mood; eating junk food, drinking alcohol, smoking or staying in bed and watching television. These can temporarily distract you from your problems, but may only make things worse in the end.

This is a busy and stressful time of year for many of us. It’s important to take some time to look after yourself, before stress levels get out of control. There are lots of healthy ways to help yourself feel better. Here are some suggestions:

1. Keep your caffeine intake low

A small amount of caffeine can give you some energy and make your mental processes sharper, but overdoing it can leave you feeling like an anxious mess. Caffeine can raise your blood level of stress hormones. If you drink coffee and tea, limit them to 2 cups of coffee and 4 cups of tea a day. Green tea and some herbal teas have calming properties, so they may be a better choice. Please avoid caffeine-containing energy drinks entirely. Just one energy drink significantly raises the risk of heart disease in young, healthy individuals.

2. Eat magnesium rich foods

Stressed and anxious people need more magnesium because it has a calming and relaxing effect on the nervous system, and may help encourage deeper sleep. Nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables are all good sources of magnesium. If you need a more powerful relaxing effect, try taking a magnesium supplement with dinner.

3. Cut down on sugar

Cut down on sugar or get rid of it from your diet altogether. Sugar and high carbohydrate foods can promote mood swings, anxiety and energy crashes. Basing your diet on vegetables, protein and natural fats will have the opposite effect. Unless you have ever removed all sugar from your diet, you will not know the relief from anxiety and tension it can bring. Coming off sugar is far easier if you eat satiating foods, for example salmon, avocado, eggs, lamb and olive oil. Whey protein powder is satiating and reduces cravings.

4. Drink more water

If you are dehydrated you will feel more tired and this can worsen a poor mood. If you drink a lot of water throughout the day you will probably end up eating less and experience fewer sugar cravings.

5. Eat foods rich in tyrosine

They include chicken, turkey, seafood and almonds. Your brain needs tyrosine in order to manufacture the neurotransmitters dopamine and noradrenalin. They help to keep you calm and motivated. Your thyroid gland requires tyrosine for hormone production. You may benefit from a tyrosine supplement.

6. Go outside and get some movement

Regular exercise helps to ward off depression and anxiety, but sometimes it’s difficult to fit it into a busy day. Even a five minute walk down the street can lift your mood. Getting into the garden and pulling some weeds can also help. Doing something physical outdoors is a quick way to lift your mood and calm anxiety. Spending some time in the sun is a great way to top up your vitamin D level.

7. Try to get 7 or 8 hours of sleep each night

Good sleep is very necessary for a healthy and happy life. You will have very poor stress coping mechanisms if you are chronically sleep deprived. If you find it difficult to sleep well, a warm Epsom salt bath, a massage, meditation or yoga before bed may help. You will find lots of helpful suggestions in the book Tired of Not Sleeping.

8. Have a nap

Sometimes lying down, closing your eyes and having a rest for 20 minutes can give a significant boost to your energy level and mood, giving you the strength to get on with your day. Of course this is not always possible, and is individual, as some people feel worse after a nap. The thing is, a lot of people eat when they are tired, not hungry. Having a nap is a healthier way to boost energy.