Are you struggling with pain in your neck and shoulder? Daily headaches? Or digestive issues?
Or maybe you have trouble sleeping or concentrating… Feeling anxious or rushed… Looking forward to crush in front of a screen… Tired of all the family and social demands on you…
I know that I feel like this from time to time. Every day stress is a lot, kids, work and all! Then a big life change comes, and throws us off the wagon right away.
- going back to work or school,
- an injury or serious illness in the family,
- marriage, divorce or new baby,
- or just bad conflicts at the office or at home…
Chronic stress takes its toll on us, as we all know. But who has time to worry about it, when we can barely keep our heads above the water?
I believe practicing good self-care is very important, specially when we are not twenty years old anymore. Our body can only take so much beating, you know.
That’s why I collected ten simple things you can do today to give yourself the extra support during stressful times.
Part 1: How to help your body to deal with stress
Our body needs a few special amino acids to produce neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, etc.) to deal better with stress.
As a quick example, eating a good-sized chicken breast, brown rice and a salad topped with nuts and avocado should contain enough amino acids for a woman for a day.
Other sources of these important amino acids (tryptophan and tyrosine, if you want to google it) are:
- chicken, turkey, beef, game, fish, liver,
- almond, cashew, peanuts, sunflower seeds,
- soybeans and chickpeas,
- milk, yogurt, cheese, eggs,
- oats and brown rice,
- various fruit and veggies (avocados, bananas, raisins, plums, tomatoes, carrots).
These are best eaten together with complex carbs, and supplemented with vitamin B6, B12 and folic acid, as they needed for the production of the neurotransmitters. (Individuals on low-carb or vegan diet might have to pay extra attention to get all these nutrients.)
Ditch sugar, choose complex carbs
Our brain needs fuel to operate efficiently: an even supply of glucose.
Eating complex carbs, foods with low glycemic index, that absorbed slowly, is the best to have the steady energy supply. It also helps to prevent insulin resistance that comes from our chronically activated hormonal and nervous stress systems.
On the other side, simple carbs (cereal, white bread, white rice, baked goods with white flour or juices) are
- digested very quickly,
- causing a big rise and fall in the blood glucose level,
- leaving us with mental fatigue and low energy.
Have ABCDE supplements plus zinc, magnesium and omega-3
Under stress, we might need more vitamins and minerals. The following are especially helpful:
- Vitamin B group: to reduce anxiety and stress, improve brain function, mood control and energy production.
- Vitamin A, C and E, antioxidants: to fight oxidativ stress.
- Vitamin D: supports the immune system, improves mood, anxiety and depression. During the winter, almost all of us are depleted of it.
- Zinc, calcium and iron
- Omega-3: essential for the health of the brain and the cardiovascular system, and standard western diet contains only the fraction of the necessary amount.
Get a good 7-8 hours sleep
Both of our stress systems, the hormonal and the parasympathetic nervous system, need to rest at night. Sleep prevents them to be constantly revved up and working, and allows our body to recover. Plus, with sufficient sleep, our brain works better, our immune system is stronger, and we can keep our cool easier and bad moods under control. So if you have sleep problems, try to find out what can help you to get more shuteye. (I know, sometimes with babies it is terribly difficult!)
Why zebras don’t get ulcers? asks one stress research book. I think because they just run off the anxiety and stress caused by lurking lions, hyenas and the like! 🙂 Working out will help you relieve tension, get some free endorphins, and sleep better. Even just a short walk outside during your lunch break can do a lot for you, so why not give it a try?
Part 2: How to help your mind to manage stress
Problem with our big brains is that it creates more stress than it can solve! We are always mourning over the past or worried about the future. Try to stay with the task at hand, and look at these ideas to relax your mind.
Talk to a trusted friend or family member
Humans are social creatures. Connecting with others can be a great way to lower our stress level. Studies show, also helps to stay healthier.
Write down your worries
Keeping a diary/journal is a well-know way to deal with stress or trauma. Try to do it regularly, let your words flow and don’t worry about the spelling. I confess I’m not writing every day, but whenever I feel especially upset or worried about something, it is a great relief, and at the end, I’m much calmer and I can see the problem more clearly.
Renew a beloved hobby
Do you know what a state of flow means? When we are so engaged in an activity we love and we’re good at, that we forget about time and the outside world. And it is one of the best things you can do for your happiness.
When I told my friend last year that I started doing meditations, she made a face and then politely said that it is not for her, but if it helps me… 🙂
Anyway, if you experience constantly rushing thoughts or feel that you are just running through your life, meditation might worth trying. And you don’t need to meditate for an hour every day! To have the benefits of calmer mind and body, about 15 minutes few times a week seems enough in my case. For some people, even 1 minute meditation works. Or try walking, drinking tea or washing dishes meditations.
Be grateful every day
Why? Because you are still alive. And because gratitude is one out of the five factors affecting our happiness that is actually in our control.
I started this habit more a year ago, and I find it very helpful. Every time I go for a walk, I quietly think about three things I’m grateful for. Or three things that went well that day. You can also write it in a journal at night, before you go to sleep. It helps us to see that although not everything is perfect, there are many good things in our lives.
Takeaway about stress-relief
Support your body
- Eat protein
- Choose complex carbs
- Have ABCDE vitamins plus zinc, magnesium and omega-3
- Exercise regularly (walk 3 times a week)
- Sleep 7-8 hours
Support your mind
- Talk to a friend
- Write a journal
- Have a hobby
- Be grateful
That’s it, my list of sanity tips for busy women. Pick one for the body and one for the mind, and see how much better you will feel. Take care!