Did you let stress consume you in 2019? Sometimes stress can be unavoidable when it comes to personal matters, but we’ve put together a list of 6 ways to help you stay healthy in 2020 when you’re stressed!
1. Eat well
“When we’re overwhelmed, it’s easy to reach for a quick fix in the form of sugar-rich food and drink,” says Azmina Govindji, a registered dietitian and a member of the British Dietetic Association. “This gives you an instant spike in serotonin, the body’s feel-good chemical, but it won’t last – and neither will the fast rise in your blood glucose levels, which also gives you a temporary high.” Instead, opt for complex carbohydrates such as porridge or wholegrain bread, which will give you the energy you need to face a difficult day.
Taking 10 minutes to eat lunch away from your desk will reduce stress levels and prevent unhealthy snacking. “Eat mindfully,” Govindji urges. “Get away from your desk, chew your food slowly and savour the flavours.”
According to research from the American Psychological Association, a third of Americans reach for high-fat, high-calorie foods when stressed. “To avoid this, plan your meals to give you structure and control.” It is unrealistic to expect people to meal-prep during periods of high stress, but a very easy meal plan of porridge and berries for breakfast, a wholegrain sandwich for lunch and vegetable pasta or fish with potatoes and broccoli for dinner is achievable and healthy.
Many of us are guilty of an all-or-nothing mentality when it comes to fitness and when life gets in the way, our fitness goes out of the window. However, exercise is a powerful natural stress-reliever that will flood your body with feel-good endorphins. To motivate yourself remember how good you feel after you exercise, you’ll almost always feel better!
If you can’t make it to the gym, there are plenty of free home-based workouts that can be squeezed into a few minutes. Write down a cardio circuit of five exercises – three high-intensity exercises, such as running on the spot or squat jumps, and then two ab exercises such as planks or crunches – stick a timer on for 45 seconds and do each exercise for two rounds. And don’t feel guilty about taking time out to exercise!
3. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help
If you feel you are approaching burnout from stress, your first port of call should be your GP. Almost every part of the body is affected by experiencing constant stress, as humans are not designed for stress.
You can develop coping mechanisms to put into place to reduce the impact stress is having on you. Some coping mechanisms could be exercise, reading, or socialising. Often if you don’t have these coping mechanisms, what happens is that you develop bad coping mechanisms, such as drinking coffee to stay awake, or drinking wine to help you sleep.
4. Try to get enough sleep
When you are stressed, your sleep often suffers. But staying up late in order to tackle a growing to-do list is counterproductive. “If you are suffering from poor sleep, that will make your stress levels higher,” says Dr Guy Leschziner, a neurologist and the author of The Nocturnal Brain. “Getting as much sleep as possible when you’re feeling overwhelmed will help to manage your stress.”
5. Get smart about how you cope
Develop your support structures. Who are your potential allies? It may be family or friends. When people open up, they’re often overwhelmed by how much support is available to them.
Problem-solving approaches will mitigate extreme stress. Sometimes tackling things head on will help deal with the stress instead of putting things off which adds to the stress.
6. Remember that your job does not define you
We live in a society that fetishises overwork and excessive workloads are one of the main sources of stress. Reducing yourself to the sum of what you do and identifying yourself so fully with your work won’t do your work any good in the long term. Ask yourself what you really care about? Ask yourself what your real priorities are? If they are health and happiness then maybe your 60 hour work week needs to change to achieve that!
Not only are we entering a new year, with a fresh start for healthy habits and being stress-free, we are also stepping into the next decade which should be the ultimate motivation for changing your habits to reduce your stress levels. Life is too short!