In recognition of Stress Awareness Month this April, here are a few nutritional strategies to help support your wellbeing:
- When overwhelm hits, drink water. Taking time to fill a glass with water and have long slow sips may give you a chance to take a few deep breaths and you may notice just how thirsty you were!
- Keep caffeine for the morning. And stick to one or two caffeinated drinks or less if you are prone to feeling jittery, or try calming green tea. Try decaffeinated alternatives or calming teas such as chamomile, rooibos, rose, lavender, or passionflower.
- Swap your sugary treats. Refined sugar gives you an instant hit but then leaves you with an energy slump and creates inflammation which can contribute to anxiety and depression. A couple of squares of 85% dark chocolate may hit the spot and some brands contain alternatives to refined sugar such as coconut nectar. Other swaps to try include 2-3 dates or apple slices with almond butter, fresh berries with walnuts, or find a recipe for a paleo mugcake online which takes minutes to make.
- Try cinnamon. If you regularly crave sugar, try adding cinnamon to porridge, smoothies or stews, sprinkle on lattes or drink cinnamon tea to curb your cravings.
- Get your greens in. Including a broad range of fruits and vegetables of all colours will benefit your health overall, and green leafy vegetables are especially good sources of B vitamins including folate, as well as magnesium and iron which are all needed to support your nervous system.
- Include plenty of essential fats. Oily fish and flax seed oil are well known sources of omega 3 fatty acids, essential for many bodily processes and vital for nervous system health. You also need some omega 6 fats best sourced from nuts and seeds, and also omega 9 fat which is found in olive oil. If you struggle to get 3 portions of oily fish in per week, consider a fish oil to meet your needs.
- Eat whole grains over refined carbohydrates. As well as providing fibre for better digestion, they are great sources of slow release energy, B vitamins, zinc and magnesium.
- Test for deficiencies. If you often feel like your moods or energy are below par, you can ask your GP for a blood test to check for any insufficiencies of vital nutrients such as iron, vitamin D and folate. Ensuring that you are getting plenty of these nutrients in your diet or supplementing if you are deficient may help restore some balance to your health.
- Consider supplementing B vitamins and magnesium. It is often best to get all your nutrients through consuming whole food but if you’re eating all the right foods and still have high stress levels or bouts of anxiety, you may have a higher requirement for B vitamins and magnesium.
- Mind the alcohol. If you are holding out for a glass or three of wine or beer most evenings, then you are not alone! Like sugar however, alcohol has an immediate relaxing effect for us but also depletes our bodies of hydration and nutrients such as zinc and B vitamins. It reduces our sleep quality and leaves us fatigued and ill equipped to cope with the challenges of the following day, causing a vicious cycle. Try keeping alcohol for once or twice a week in moderation and try some other relaxing strategies such as gentle yoga, meditation, reading, taking a bath, massage or a hobby such as colouring.
Victoria Bell is a CNM qualified Registered Nutritional Therapist. Find her on facebook at Victoria Bell Nutrition. To book an appointment with her call 07873 121616 or email firstname.lastname@example.org