Fight stress with these useful tips
Stress and anxiety are things we’re bound to experience at some stage in our lives. These feelings are commonly elevated during times of crisis or uncertainty. The current COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted almost every aspect of our lives, from significantly altering our daily routines to dominating the media, story after story.
It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by this dramatically different new world. It’s natural for our elderly and vulnerable, and those who care for them, to feel particularly strange during times like these. Whoever you are—nurse, doctor, carer, elderly, or the below suggestions will help you manage stress so that you can think more clearly and be more present for your own sake, and for the ones you love.
1. Get enough quality sleep: According to an article published on anxiety.org, the amount of sleep you get helps determine how well you can handle anxiety and stress. “When a person gets too little sleep, the deprivation acts as a chronic stressor that impairs brain functions and contributes to an overload on the body’s systems. This overload contributes to memory loss, brain fog, confusion, and depression, making it more difficult for a person to deal with stress.“
Additionally, impaired sleep affects our hormone levels and this can increase our feelings of anxiety. It can be difficult to get adequate sleep when you’re dealing with anxiety (anxiety is one of the main reasons people have trouble sleeping in the first place), but there are things you can do to make it easier to get your vital rest. Sticking to a regular sleep schedule, practicing an evening ritual, avoiding electronics before bedtime, and ensuring a comfortable bed will make it easier to catch those illusive zzzzz’s.
2. Exercise: Getting enough regular exercise can help greatly with our mental wellbeing. According to mentalhealth.org.uk, “Even a short burst of 10 minutes’ brisk walking increases our mental alertness, energy and positive mood. Participation in regular physical activity can increase our self-esteem and can reduce stress and anxiety. It also plays a role in preventing the development of mental health problems and in improving the quality of life of people experiencing mental health problems.” Luckily, there are plenty of exercises you can do from the comfort of your own home (or within a 2km radius).
3. Eat nourishing foods: Believe it or not, certain types of food can actually assist in lowering your anxiety levels. Eating a balanced diet is important, and although our specific nutritional needs will vary, when it comes to managing stress, the following foods have proven helpful:
Magnesium rich foods: Magnesium can make you feel calmer. Foods that contain natural magnesium include: nuts, spinach, Swiss chard, legumes and whole grains.
Foods containing zinc: Foods high in zinc have been linked to lower stress levels. These foods include meat, nuts and legumes, eggs, and shellfish.
Omega-3s: A 2011 study found that Omega-3 fatty acids can help ease anxiety levels. Opt for foods such as salmon, mackerel, herring, oysters, flax seeds and chia seeds to boost your intake.
Probiotics: A 2015 study published in the journal Psychiatry Research suggested that eating probiotic foods may lower social anxiety. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, pickles and yogurt all contain plenty of gut-loving probiotics.
Asparagus: Asparagus has long been hailed as a healthy and beneficial vegetable, and it may also help to reduce anxiety. Incorporate this powerhouse food into your diet in the form of salads, stir frys, soups, omelettes, pastas and much more.
Say no to caffeine: Caffeine is a powerful stimulant, and even small doses of caffeine can have a significant impact on your body, both physically and mentally. If you’re feeling stressed, choose caffeine-free beverages or limit your intake.
4. Meditate/focus on breathing: Take time for yourself throughout the day to stop and enjoy some mindful breathing. Focusing on your inhales and exhales, the natural rhythm of your body, is a simple and efficient way to balance and reset your mind. Breathing exercises will help bring a sense of calm to your routine and combat stressful feelings you may be experiencing. Mindful breathing can also assist you in falling asleep at night, especially if you’re having trouble keeping anxious thoughts at bay.
5. Connect with friends and family: Look to your friends and family for support during times of stress. A 15-minute conversation is sometimes all it takes to help you feel centred and connected to loved ones. Feelings of loneliness and isolation can be breeding grounds for more negative thoughts, so communicating with those you trust and who care about you can bolster your mood and give you a more positive outlook.
6. Get back to nature: Research suggests that spending time outdoors can help decrease your stress levels. In a 2015 study, “researchers compared the brain activity of healthy people after they walked for 90 minutes in either a natural setting or an urban one. They found that those who did a nature walk had lower activity in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region that is active during rumination — defined as repetitive thoughts that focus on negative emotions.“
If you’re not able to get outside as much as you’d like— you’re still in luck! Surrounding yourself with live greenery to create a natural setting also has a positive impact on our well-being.
As with everything, if you’re feeling stressed or anxious, we suggest talking to your doctor or a licensed professional to find a treatment plant that works best for you. Stress manifests itself differently for everyone, but it’s important to remember that there is plenty of help to be found should you seek it. You’ll find more advice on healthy living on the Aperee blog.