The world can be a stressful place. We all have to deal with the pressures of everyday life, but it can be frustrating when other people seem so much better at managing their stress while you seem to be swimming in a sea of anxiety. People who always seem calm and collected have achieved this level-headedness, whether they know it or not, by implementing different habits to manage their stress. Read on to learn how you can do the same.
We all have heard the saying “you are what you eat,” but few people take the sentiment to heart. People all around the world are substituting whole, healthy foods for processed foods that are usually cheaper, more accessible, and easier for on-the-go lifestyles. The busiest people often have poor diets because they believe they do not have the time to make their nutrition a priority. What they fail to realize is that eating to fuel your body increases your energy levels, makes you more productive, and leads to decreased stress levels.
Past research shows that consuming carbohydrates tells the brain to produce more serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical naturally produced in our brain that regulates anxiety, happiness, and mood. If your serotonin levels are too low, you can feel anxious or depressed, and your mental and physical health can suffer. Carbohydrates signal the body to release more insulin, which in turn promotes amino acid absorption.
This absorption leaves behind tryptophan in the blood, which boosts serotonin levels. Complex carbs are in foods such as whole-grain pasta, beans, and vegetables. Simple carbs include raw sugar and corn syrup. Both complex and simple carbs will give you a boost, but because complex carbs take longer to break down, the increase in serotonin will be steadier and will not lead to a sugar crash afterward, which tends to happen when consuming simple carbs. Therefore, it’s better to eat more complex carbs and limit simple carbs to increase serotonin levels and reduce stress.
Other foods to consider adding to your regular diet include oranges, leafy green vegetables, and fatty fish. Oranges help boost vitamin C levels, which can curb stress hormones and boost immunity. Green leafy vegetables are a good source of magnesium, which has proved to encourage relaxation and sleep. Finally, fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which help prevent surges in stress hormones.
Exercise and Sleep
Exercise produces endorphins, which are hormones secreted within our brain that naturally help relieve stress and pain. Exercise habits do not have to be extreme to reap the benefits. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise per day can stimulate anti-anxiety effects and make you feel calmer.
Sleep disorders are on the rise, and every day more and more individuals are finding trouble maintaining a consistent sleep schedule. What people don’t realize is the extent their sleeping habits have on their overall mood and stress levels. Too much stress leads to too little sleep, and in turn, a vicious cycle can be started. On average, an adult requires seven to nine hours of sleep every night to function properly. According to the CDC, 30% of Americans report getting only six hours of sleep per night. If this describes you, consider making sleep a priority to increase your productivity and lower your stress levels. Some simple techniques to improve sleep cycles are to increase time spent outdoors, turn off screens an hour before bed, and limit alcohol and caffeine consumption throughout the day.
Practicing daily meditation is a great relaxation technique to improve your mood and decrease stress levels. Meditation affects the body in the opposite way that stress does. While stress makes your muscles tighten and increases your heart rate, meditation forces you to focus on physical sensations. Meditation encourages you to work to relax your muscles and slow your breathing consciously. Meditation helps curb our body’s fight or flight response, which is a human being’s natural reaction to stressful situations. Chronic stress puts our body in a permanent state of fight or flight and can lead to severe physical damage. Meditation forces the body to return to a calm state and teaches you how to redirect your thoughts during stressful situations. Not only is meditation a great tool to employ during times of stress, but the consistent practice also builds up resiliency so you can learn to refocus your thoughts before your fight or flight response is even triggered.
Simple habits formed over time have a profound effect on our stress levels. Implementing healthy eating habits, prioritizing sleep and exercise, and implementing daily meditation all can work to help you feel calmer when dealing with life’s daily stressors.