Strategies to Combat Stress and Anxiety
Though ensuring adequate energy intake and proper nutrition is the corner stone to successfully dealing with stress and anxiety; it is important to remember that there are other ways that we can nourish our body even outside of meal time. Establishing a self care routine in which you nourish yourself through various mindful activities, meditation and relaxation techniques will not only benefit you physically but will also be of benefit emotionally and mentally as well, especially during times of stress.
Stress, though not exactly a measurable ailment can absolutely affect measurable disease states and symptoms. What most of us fail to recognize is that stress both psychological and physiological can have negative impacts on our health. The release of cortisol, the hormone released during times of stress, can directly affect the immune system, blood sugar regulation, blood pressure and even blood lipid levels. Not to mention the negative impact it can have on our cravings and overall food choices. Whether we fall victim to stress eating or we find ourselves skipping meals when stressed, both instances can have impacts on our health and nutritional status.
For those that are drawn to overeating during times of stress, there is a physiological explanation not just poor will power. The organ in which our body produces our primary stress hormone, cortisol, is our adrenal glands which utilize high amounts of fats and salt (sodium) especially when extra cortisol is needed. This might be an explanation behind why some notice an increased drawing towards fatty and salty foods, like maybe french fries, when stressed. Also it is our body's biological duty to ensure we have adequate energy during times of stress which used to mean running from a wild animal, but now might be the equivalent to working a 12 hour long work day 5 days a week on little sleep. To ensure adequate energy the body can send physiological cravings for sweets and carbohydrate rich foods, like chocolate and baked goods, to spike blood sugar and provide a quick source of needed energy. Also keep in mind that our body does not always recognize the difference between positive or negative "stress" and often both types affect the body similarly. It is absolutely imperative to establish a healthy self care routine or strategies to adequately protect the immune and endocrine system from stress, and promote optimal nutritional status and ideal body weight.
There is Power in your Thoughts
Never underestimate your body and your mind. Your actions as well as your thoughts hold great power and influence over your physical and mental being. Most of us can relate to negative self talk to which we allow negative thoughts regarding our selves and our lives to play on repeat in our mind. The more space these negative thoughts hold in our mind the more likely we are to fulfill these negative thoughts or beliefs. We now know that we have the ability to affect our actions and even gene expression just by taking control of our thoughts. This is powerful news! Next moment you recognize that you are experiencing negative thoughts or fears during times of stress or anxiety begin by asking yourself, "Is this useful?" or "Are these fears or negative thoughts useful?". The answer is an obvious no! There is never a time when negative self talk is useful. Focus your attention instead on something positive and useful. You might even consider using a positive affirmation or mantra. Accept that your mind might wonder back to the negative self talk but then redirect back to your personal positive affirmation or mantra without guilt or judgement.
Using Self Care to Combat Stress and Anxiety
Ensure your body has adequate energy
If starved of macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients our body lacks the energy to withstand the physiological effects of stress. Will power is no match for a lack of energy. Ensure your diet is full of smart fats like coconut oil and grass fed butter and nuts and sees. Also fill your plate with 4-5 oz of high quality protein at every meal. Don't forget that half of your plate during meal time should be leafy greens and non starchy veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, tomatoes, zucchinni etc.).
Practice being present and in the moment rather than focusing on past mistakes or future possibilities. Use a positive affirmation to play on repeat in your head to take the space of any negative self talk. Remember that your body and mind is always eavesdropping on your thoughts.
Candle or Light Therapy
A candle fills a room with light and can also work to fill the void internally during time of stress or anxiety. Light your favorite scented candle in a low lit or dark room to promote feelings of calmness and clarity.
Music or Guided Meditation
Consider setting aside 10 minutes per day to meditate. Either by sitting in silence or using guided meditation or even by listening to music that does not evoke stress or anxiety.
Use of a Journal to export negative thoughts onto paper
Sometimes we allow these thoughts to have power in our mind but once we see them written out before us the same thoughts seem pointless or carry less weight. The use of a journal helps to export negative self talk, self doubt and negative thoughts that play on repeat in our mind. Replace these negative thoughts with positive thoughts and or gratitude. Focusing on these negative thoughts provides no benefit and actually can be harmful.
Use essential oils during times of acute stress or anxiety
This is an inexpensive way to provide a spa like atmosphere to your bathroom or even your bedroom or office. Try using an organic peppermint essential oil to curb sweet tooth cravings or ginger for energy, lavender for relaxation. Use oils by diluting with carrier oil such as almond or olive oil and rubbing onto wrists, temples or neck. Essential oils are great to use the shower or bathroom too along the floor and walls to infuse during your shower or bath or you can put them into an oil diffuser. Nourished yourself with an Epsom salt and essential oil bath! Check out my blog on Essential Oils for Everyday Use.