Stress. No one is immune to it. Stress is a natural part of life. It can be brought on by all sorts of triggers such as family problems, problems at work, health issues, financial difficulties, caring for aged family members or the death of a loved one. No one is immune to stress. Fortunately, there are ways to deal with stress instead of allowing it to compromise our mental and physical wellbeing. Two proven ways to battle stress are healthy eating and meditation. Here’s a look at the benefits of incorporating these two stress reducers into our lives.
Proper nutrition is essential for keeping our bodies properly fueled to cope with stress. In fact there are a number of foods that have been shown to have stress relieving properties. Foods rich in vitamin B, such as lentils, clams, chick peas and quinoa have been shown to exert a calming and mood enhancing effect on the body. Yellow and orange pigmented fruits and vegetables, such as papayas, contain folic acid, vitamin A and vitamin C, which nutritionists also claim have mood enhancing properties. The same nutrients are also found in red bell peppers, which are said to help repair stress damaged cells and provide extra energy. Stress-reducing herbs such as basil and arugula give healthy dishes better flavor while also providing folic acid. Mood enhancing vitamin E and folic acid are also abundant in sunflower seeds.
Dietary changes that can help reduce stress include:
Proper hydration – Studies have shown that drinking water can contribute to reducing stress. This is due to the fact that a dehydrated body produces cortisol, a stress hormone that, among other things, signals that the body needs more water. Drinking plenty of water reduces stress by reducing cortisol production and release.
Cutting out caffeine – Along with contributing to dehydration, caffeine can cause anxiety and raise stress levels by stimulating the central nervous system. Alcohol intake can also increase the stress response and create other issues that contribute to stress, so it’s best to consume alcohol in moderation.
Eating healthy meals and snacks throughout the day – Blood sugar peaks and lows caused by simple sugars can contribute to stress as insulin works to bring blood sugar under control. Eating several healthy meals throughout the day, such as whole-grain breads and pastas that contain complex carbohydrates and fresh fruits and vegetables helps reduce stress by keeping blood sugar at more even levels. In addition, foods such as salmon and soybeans are rich in magnesium, which can help to combat stress.
Natural body relaxation techniques can be very effective at reducing stress. Sitting in a quiet room and picturing tranquil settings while listening to soft and calming music can help relieve stress. Taking a relaxing bath with Epsom salts is also a great relaxer. And stress-relieving massages performed by professionals can work wonders. But one of the best ways to reduce stress is through practicing meditation, either alone or in combination with the mind-clearing stretches and slow body movements of yoga.
Many people shy away from meditation because they feel that it will be too time-consuming. But the reality is that there are a number of simple relaxation techniques that can be very beneficial in boosting a stressed immune system, restoring emotional balance, reducing stress and producing an overall sense of peace and calm, all in as little as fifteen minutes a day.
The benefits of meditation are backed by scientific research. For example, a study out of Ohio State University demonstrated that daily meditation can boost the production of natural T-cells that can help to fight off viruses. In a study published in the journal Health Psychology, researchers determined that regular meditation leads to reduced levels of cortisol, a natural stress hormone. Research also shows that those who meditate tend to lead more productive and contented lives and are kinder towards others.
Unfortunately in today’s busy world, many people turn to prescription medications in an attempt to combat anxiety, sleeplessness and other symptoms brought on by stress. But drugs are merely Band-Aids. Not only don’t they treat the underlying causes of stress, they come with their own undesirable side effects—some of which can actually compound the problem.
Maintaining a healthy diet, along with meditation is a very effective and natural way to alleviate, if not totally eliminate stress from our lives.