It’s an unfortunate reality: Our hectic lives and mere mortal bodies (wait… we can’t all be Wonder Woman?) make stress basically unavoidable. The upside is that we all also have plenty of stress-busting resources that are way more within reach than we may realize.
April is Stress Awareness Month, so we checked in with Lifesum nutritionist and wellness pro Frida Harju to get all the details on five stressors we experience in our daily lives — all of which are unexpected, but (good news!) easily remedied. Keep scrolling for more information.
1. You’re not drinking enough water. We all know that it’s important to stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water helps keep our digestive systems healthy, flushes out toxins, wards off headaches, and helps us feel fit and trim — among other physical benefits. But did you know that H2O is important for our mental health, as well? According to Harju, when your body is not getting enough water, it produces the stress hormone cortisol, which can make you anxious, agitated, edgy… you know how it goes. If you’re already feeling tired or stressed, don’t give in to your instinct to reach for another cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Grab that water bottle instead!
2. You’re not eating properly. You’ve probably heard of stress eating (also known as emotional eating), but your eating habits can also affect the way you deal with those negative emotions in the first place. “High fat foods such as meat or cheese thicken our blood, which in turn can make us feel tired and lethargic,” Harju says. “Sugar passes through the bloodstream so quickly that it creates a ‘crash’ effect on the body, leaving you feeling even worse than before.” Those sluggish feelings tend to make us feel just as crummy in mind as in body, so mind your nutrition to limit unnecessary stress. Sweet potatoes and citrus fruits are great stress-busting foods.
3. You’re not getting the right amount of exercise. When you get your body up and moving, you tend to work out a lot of stress and frustration, but it’s possible to overdo it at the gym too. “There is a fine line between working out effectively and pushing yourself too much, which can leave you permanently exhausted and lacking the energy to deal with other things,” Harju says. What’s the perfect balance? Stick to shorter, more intense cardio or aerobic workouts instead of longer, steadier sessions. You’ll sweat out all that pesky negativity without losing all of the energy that helps you stay emotionally grounded.
4. You’re not getting enough sleep. It happens to all of us — a few nights of tossing and turning, and suddenly, you’re basically a shell of yourself, totally annoyed by everyone around you and super sensitive to even the smallest inconveniences. According to Harju, there’s a physiological explanation — and it all comes down (again) to that stress hormone cortisol. Less sleep causes increased levels of cortisol. “In this state, you are more likely to suffer from low moods, increased negativity, and worries, which can then lead to further sleep deprivation as the concerns and stress in your mind prevent you from being able to shut down and sleep properly,” Harju says. Talk about a vicious cycle! Avoid caffeinated food and drink before bedtime, and stay away from screens late at night. You’ll get more shuteye and (hopefully) experience better moods as a result!
5. You’re not sticking to a routine. “Following a routine minimizes the amount of decision-making we must do each day, and it leaves us with energy for other beneficial things, like following healthier lifestyle habits,” Harju says. As much as possible, see if you can establish a predictable schedule for eating, exercise, working out, etc. Your brain and body will adjust to this routine, which will make sleep and other biological functions easier. You’ll feel healthier, better rested, and less stressed out.
What stresses you out? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)