As many of us know, stress can leave you feeling run down. And longterm worries plays havoc with your body’s immune system, raising the odds of catching a cold. When we are wound up and tense, hormones called corticosteroids are pumped out, which reduce our ability to fight off antigens – cue winter sniffles! In order to sail through the colder months with a clean bill of health, you need to improve your emotional wellbeing.
You need the right fuel
There is a distinct correlation between a change of diet and the onset of stress and anxiety. Scientists are beginning to understand a little more about the role of food in psychological conditions. During the times when your body is under stress, it is common to experience food sensitivities. This is due to alterations in the function of the immune system and can also be worsened by the use of certain drugs prescribed for stress and anxiety, including sedatives and antidepressants. Make sure you eat small, regular meals and always carry a supply of healthy snacks (berries, oatcakes, nuts and seeds, raw veggies and fruits, for example) so that you can top up your energy levels throughout the day. Remember, the more stressed you are, the more energy you are burning, so don’t forget to refuel!
Eat complex carbohydrates
Slow-release carbohydrates act as tranquilizers by increasing the amount of serotonin – the neurotransmitter that calms your nervous system – produced by your brain. Eating a diet high in fruit, vegetables, whole grain and unrefined foods (brown pasta, rice, oats, quinoa, etc.) is helpful for increasing your complex carbohydrate intake. Fruit and vegetables are loaded with vitamins and minerals and are a great source of fiber.
Increase your intake of Tryptophan
Tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin, is found in a wide range of foods and has a calming effect on the body. Try including turkey, eggs, soya beans, and milk in your meals as all of them contain high levels of tryptophan.
Fish, poultry, meat, eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, nuts, seeds, pulses, and soya beans contain important amino acids (the body’s building blocks) and also provide a range of minerals and vitamins vital for health.
Cut down on refined carbohydrates
White bread, pasta and rice, chocolate, cakes and cookies, fizzy or sweet drinks and cane sugar are all refined carbohydrates that raise your blood sugar levels. Switch to wholegrain and check food labels for hidden sugars, they are everywhere.
Try more Fibre
Fibre plays a very important role in efficient digestion. It is found in fruit, vegetables, pulses, and whole foods. Fibre is not digested in the intestines, and passes through intact, adding bulk to feces, and cleansing the digestive tract, if you suffer from constipation or diarrhea, fiber may help to improve your digestion.
Change your internal environment
Positive thinking can reduce your anxiety levels enormously. How you talk to, and about yourself, makes all the difference. If you spend your days berating yourself with negative though chatter such as ‘why do bad things always happen to me,’ ‘I am worthless,’ ‘no one listens to me,’ and so on you are creating that reality each day.
By focusing on how you talk to yourself, you may find that you are actually echoing values and beliefs of a parent, teacher, or other key influencers from your childhood. Once you have established your current thinking, ask yourself whether they are beliefs, judgments, or true? And, how could I upgrade my thoughts to make them more positive? If you are lacking self-confidence, start by listing your best attributes and put your focus on what you do like rather than what you don’t. You can become aware of the abundance in your life by starting a gratitude list. Include anything and everything that makes you grateful: the sun shone today, my bus came on time, the guy at the grocery store smiled at me, the flowers in the park are in full bloom, and so on.
Fill your environment with people who make you feel good, and information that inspires you: listen to uplifting music in the car, watch programs on TV that are entertaining and informative, read books that focus on the positive aspects of life. Be discerning in what you read and watch, and who you associate with – it’s your choice.
Get enough sleep
Not getting enough sleep quickly puts your mind and body under pressure, and over time deprivation can cause a number of health issues and deplete your immunity.
You need to create a healthy bedtime routine. Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning. Drink a mug of warm chamomile tea 30 minutes before bedtime.
If you are uncomfortable in bed, if your bedroom is too cold or too warm, too noisy or even too messy or cramped, or just simply not a pleasurable place to be, your sleep patterns can be severely affected. What you wear in bed can also affect your sleep patterns – try wearing looser fitting garments or nothing at all, and see how this improves or worsens your sleep patterns.
Taking 30 minutes of low impact physical activity every day will improve your quality of sleep, but avoid strenuous exercise (squash, running, or high impact aerobics) within two or three hours of going to bed because these types of exercise cause a rush or endorphins and make it harder to wind down.
Have a light, non-sugary snack 30 minutes before you go to bed. Night time hunger can cause disturbed sleep as blood sugar levels fluctuate.