Stress is a feeling we all experience when we are challenged, but aside from the emotion, ongoing stress can have serious impacts on our general wellbeing.
“The majority of stress for most people in the Western world today is psychological rather than physical, and it can be constant and relentless,” says biochemist Dr Libby Weaver, in her book Exhausted to Energised.
Chronic stress can keep our stress hormones elevated, manifesting in a variety of health issues that can be caused when the immune system is overworked.
We all know that reducing the amount of stress in our lives is important to optimal health, but few of us know how to actually cut down.
Reducing stress naturally
Reducing stress is integral to healing and maintaining balance in your life. Here are our top tips for reducing stress naturally and improving your general wellbeing.
Eat whole foods
Stress is not limited to a psychological occurrence. Poor diets that are high in processed foods, sugar, grains and genetically modified foods, can put undue stress on our bodies and our minds. Consuming a diet high in sugar and carbohydrates can cause unnatural spikes in insulin levels, adverse immune reactions – especially in the gut, and can lead to long-lasting damage.
By treating your body to whole foods that are rich in nutrients and nourishing minerals, fibre and vitamins, as well as being as close to the natural product as possible, your body is in the best position to support your mental health.
According to Dr Marc Cohen, Professor of Complementary Medicine at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, when your response to an event is negative or ‘stressful’, your blood pressure rises, platelets become stickier, white blood cells mobilise and cortisol levels increase.
Meditation is an easy way to confront these demons and actively seek to readjust your mindset, and calm your body as a whole.
Whilst it can be hard to tune out negativity, or excitement and overstimulation, factoring meditation into your day can make dramatic improvements to your mental wellbeing.
Eat good fats
Good fats include those labelled monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, with bad fats being the industrially created trans-fats associated with margarines, shorteners, fast food and many other easily accessible food sources. Healthy fats, in particular, those full of omega 3s such as oily fish and walnuts have been proven to assist and aid in the treatment of mental health issues.
Regular exercise is incredibly important to mental and physical health. Incorporating physical exercise into your daily routine is paramount to maintaining proper mental health.
A study in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology found that exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalisation, increased energy and positive engagement, and decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression. Participants also reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity and said they were more likely to repeat the activity at a later date.
However you like to exercise, doing so with other people is likely to enhance the payoff. A study in the British Journal of Psychiatry of 40,000 Norwegians found people who exercise in their leisure time and experienced social interaction at the same time, are much less likely to have symptoms of depression.