How to Conquer Stress In Your Life
Diet and Food Intolerances
Did you know that your diet and nutrition can play an influential role in how you feel? Simple lifestyle changes can make quite a profound difference to the internal chatter in your mind. If you think this may be a problem for you, a great place to start is eliminating gluten, dairy and refined sugar from your diet. Replace these foods with real foods such as vegetables and fruits, nuts, eggs, small fish, meats and gluten free grains. If you commit to this for 6 weeks it will allow you to gauge if you have an intolerance to the foods that you eliminated. After all, if you didn’t notice a difference you can always add them back in again after the 6-week trial period!
I’m not exaggerating when I say this simple dietary modification changed my life. I didn’t think it would make a difference at all, and was highly surprised to find that my mental health and mood improved dramatically from this change alone. It turns out I had an intolerance to gluten and dairy, along with a sensitivity to refined sugar. While everybody is different, it’s important to understand that food can play a big role in how we feel.
If you want to learn more about certain food intolerances, and potential effects on mental health, I recommend starting with the book “The UltraMind Solution” by Dr Mark Hyman.
Supplements and Nutritional Deficiencies
Due to increases in agriculture around the world, the soils are actually a lot more depleted than even 100 years ago. This means that we get less vitamins and minerals from the foods we consume, compared with in the past. This can lead to deficiencies and imbalances within the body, some of which can actually contribute to stress and anxiety. There are many things that can misfire here, and it absolutely makes sense to see a trained clinical nutritionist or naturopath to take a look at your bloodwork and see if anything is amiss. If you are suffering from stress or anxiety in particular I would highly recommend you get your copper levels checked. Copper Toxicity is a problem effecting a lot of people at the moment, and unfortunately it simply isn’t on the radar of most medical doctors. When looking for a clinical nutritionist or naturopath make sure you find somebody who is well versed in Copper toxicity, MTHFR, Heavy Metals and other gut issues, since these can all impact a person’s stress levels. Once you’ve seen a professional they will likely prescribe you some supplements based on your own unique deficiencies and imbalances. This is better than just randomly taking supplements, since you may actually be making your imbalances worse unknowingly. Zinc and Magnesium are particularly important minerals for controlling stress and anxiety within the body.
Please note that if your doctor said your blood levels are OK it’s still worth getting them checked by a clinical nutritionist. The reason for this is that the acceptable levels of certain vitamins and minerals with your GP are quite low, and some really important minerals such as magnesium aren’t checked at all on a standard blood test. Seeing a nutritionist can help you to optimise these levels, rather than just having them at borderline OK range. This can make a big difference!
Below are some common supplements that are helpful to a lot of people:
- Vitamin D
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids
- Zinc, Magnesium, Calcium and Selenium
- Kelp Capsules
- Digestive Aids
Please be sensible when it comes to taking any supplements, and as mentioned above make sure you see a professional first, so that you know you are giving your body what it needs. A balanced and measured approach is always best.
Controlling the breath when stressed is the best thing we can do to calm down. The next time you are feeling stressed or anxious, focus on your breathing and pay attention to what it’s doing at that present moment. I can all but guarantee you that your breath is shallow and quite rapid during stressful times. Physiologically this is the natural reaction to stress, anxiety and fear. You will be doing this subconsciously and probably not even be aware of it. Now what’s really interesting is what happens to that fear and anxiety when we make an adjustment to our breathing.
You can try the following deep breathing exercise:
Breath in while counting to 4
Hold your breath while counting to 4
Breath out while counting to 6
Pause and Count to 2
You’ll notice quite quickly that the anxiety and stress that felt present in your body quickly vanishes. Your breathing will move from shallow and rapid, to slow and deep. The best thing about deep breathing is that you don’t need to believe that it will work. As long as you focus on the breathing exercise your physiology will take care of the rest. I’ve included the above breathing sequence because I find it very effective, but there are numerous breath exercises out there that can be beneficial. Have a play around and find what works best for you.
Sometimes when we feel stressed or anxious, it can actually be caused by energetic or physical blockages in the body. An example of this can be when the liver becomes overworked trying to eliminate something from the body, and which can result in the person feeling stressed or anxious as the backlog of toxins runs rampant through out the body.
Reflexology actually balances the channel system of the body, this works because all of the major acupuncture meridians turn around at the hands and at the feet. This makes these places the easiest to relax or energize the subtle flow of energy through the acupuncture meridians. If this doesn’t make any sense to you, don’t stress, the great thing about reflexology is that it will work even if you have no idea what you are doing!
Firmly press on various points or areas on the top, bottom, sides and toes of your feet. You can do this on the hands as well, although I generally find that it works best on the feet, and direct most of my attention there. I usually do 10 minutes in the morning (5 minutes per foot) and again in the evening. You can have a play around and see what works best for you.
While this may sound a little odd, it is extremely effective, and a powerful tool in the toolkit for alleviating symptoms of stress and anxiety and supporting detoxification.
Meditation and Insight Timer
There is a reason that meditation is always mentioned when it comes to dealing with stress and anxiety. It’s because it works. Now rather than talking meditation techniques, which I’m sure your aware the internet is littered with, I thought I’d talk about practical ways of incorporating meditation in your daily life, so that you stick with it.
A great way to do this is by incentivising yourself to meet your daily meditation goals. Say that you want to commit to 20 minutes per day, you’ll need to keep yourself accountable so that you are forming the habit or meditating. The best way to do this, that I’ve found, is using the mobile application “Insight Timer”. I have no affiliation of any sort with this app, I’m recommending it because I use it myself, and can speak to its efficacy.
When you download the app and open it there is a “timer” section where you can set up a meditation practice for 20 minutes. Once you’ve done this you can go in daily and perform your meditation according to that predetermined time limit. The great thing about this app is it keeps track of consecutive days that you’ve meditated in a row. As you chalk up more and more consecutive days of meditation you will find that your daily meditation becomes habitual in your brain, and easier to stick to. The bigger your consecutive day streak gets, the more likely you’ll be to keep doing it since you don’t want to lose your streak and start again. This is great because generally when we stop doing something beneficial we have no intention of actually stopping, it’s more that we get distracted for a day and miss a session, which then snowballs in to more missed sessions and eventual termination of the habit. Insight Timer prevents this from happening.
It’s important to note that meditation as a method for dealing with anxiety or stress is a bit more subtle than some of the other methods suggested above, and is more of a slow burn. Chances are you’ll likely not feel too different when you start meditating but over time you should start to notice some subtle changes. I find that meditation helps with my mental clarity, and stops me from wasting time on things that aren't productive.
While there are many methods out there for dealing with stress and anxiety, the five listed above have been particularly useful in my own life, and I’m sure will be useful to you also.
Disclaimer: All information presented in this article is for informative purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.