Do you ever feel like you just can’t unwind and switch off after a demanding work week? If the answer is yes, those feelings you’re experiencing are both physical and mental due to stress triggering your body’s flight or fight response. This means adrenaline will be pumping through your body, your blood pressure will rise, your heart will beat faster – affecting your breathing and bodily functions (shaking/sweaty hands, stomach pains etc).
Surely that can’t be good for us? Well, no it isn’t. Often referred to as ‘the silent killer’, research has found that long-term overexposure to stress can lead to an increased risk of damaging your cardiovascular and nervous systems, a higher risk of developing health problems such as weight gain, fatigue, diabetes, anxiety, depression, heart disease and problems with concentration and memory (reference).
That’s hardly a comforting thought, so what do we do when stress strikes? We’re here to offer our top 10 ways to de-stress, recommended by recent studies and experts in this field.
1. Eat a rainbow – having a nutritious and varied diet is key to both a healthy body and healthy mind. The wider variety of fruit and vegetables included in your diet the better, as each different colour possesses different nutrients and health benefits. There are many foods attributed for their properties that reduce stress.These include:
- Blueberries – these little purple powerhouses are bursting with antioxidants. Bluebs are also a fantastic source of vitamin C, which plays an important role in helping to protect and repair your cells in the body during times of stress. They are also one of the lowest sugar fruits so aim for a daily 80g portion to count towards your 5-a-day.
- Avocados – rich in monounsaturated ‘healthy’ fat and a fantastic source of vitamin B, which is essential for healthy nerves and brain cells. Studies have shown that low level of vitamin B can influence feeling of anxiety – so get the guacamole out!
- Spinach – packed full of magnesium which can help regulate cortisol (stress hormone) levels. Throw a handful in your smoothie or scrambled eggs in the morning.
- Asparagus – low levels of folic acid have been linked to depression. However, just a few spears of asparagus can provide you with your daily intake. Sauté and serve as a side dish, throw a handful into your salad or use as soldiers to dip in soft boiled eggs – yummy!
- Oily fish – studies have shown that omega 3 fish oils found in salmon, sardines and trout can help to reduce symptoms of depression. If you’re not a fan of fish you can reap the benefits with our handy TPW omega 3-6-9 tablets. Veggie or vegan? We’ve got you covered with our TPW Vegan omega 3:6:9 tablets, rich in plant-based healthy fatty acids.
- Chicken – rich in the amino acid tryptophan (like seafood, beans, pulses and dairy) which produces the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin. Chicken and other foods like seafood, beans and pulses and dairy are rich in an amino acid called Tryptophan which produces serotonin. Serotonin is often called a ‘happy hormone’ as a decrease in the levels of it have been linked to depression.
- Milk – long regarded as a comforting night time drink to help with sleep, milk is also rich in lactium – shown to lower blood pressure and have a calming effect.
- Chamomile tea – the holy grail of ‘calming’ brews for good reason. A cup of chamomile tea before bed can help calm nerves, promote relaxation and improve sleep quality. A study from the University of Pennsylvania tested chamomile supplements on 57 people suffering from anxiety and discovered that it led to a significant reduction of symptoms. Get that kettle on!
- Supp it up – There are also several vitamins and minerals shown to help fight fatigue and combat stress. These include vitamin B, magnesium and zinc. These can all be found in our TPW Zinc and Magnesium tablets to give you an extra helping hand. Another way to reduce stress is to consume green tea, due to its high content of the amino acid L-theanine, which is found in green tea leaves. Studies show that L-theanine is particularly effective at reducing both the psychological and physiological stress responses. Try our TPW Green Tea Ultra tablets for an easy way to reap the benefits.
2. Go Green – immersing yourself in nature is proven to improve mood and reduce stress – amongst countless other benefits! Being outside in green areas can be hugely beneficial to our health. ‘Eco-therapy’ as it’s known, is proven to give copious benefits to well-being and health. Whether you have a garden or not, you can still reap some of these benefits with caring for indoor plants and having greenery in your home.
Dog lover? The benefits of ‘eco-therapy’ can also be gained from stroking your four legged friend. Studies have shown that stroking dogs decreases blood pressure and heart rate, and increases the immune system defence.
3. Get lucky – When everyday life stresses get in the way, sometimes sex can move to the back burner. However, getting between the sheets (or wherever takes your fancy) is actually the best thing you can do when you’re feeling stressed and starting to fray. Exercise regulates our cortisol (stress hormone) levels and, when the exercise involves something pleasurable—such as dance, yoga, and sex, of course; we release some of this stress while simultaneously activating our pleasure centres, filling ourselves with feel-good hormones. A study of 3,000 Americans found that those having sex rated their general health higher than those who didn’t. It could be argued that people felt healthier as a result of the physical exercise involved, however there are many links between sexual activity, overall well-being and reduced stress. You can even reap these benefits by sending your partner sexual texts (yes, we see you aubergine emoji) if you are feeling stressed or anxious. This is because it puts your focus back on pleasure and triggers your brain to send blood flow to places which make you feel excited and happy rather than anxious and stressed.
4. Swerve the snooze button – While it may feel counterproductive to shave 15-20 minutes off your sleep, getting up early has some stress-busting perks. Giving yourself this additional time out of bed before you head off to work can leave you feeling more refreshed and ready for the day ahead. Running around like a headless chicken and rushing out of the door starts your day on a negative and flustered foot – a sure fire way to stress. Use this 15-20 minute to calm and centre yourself, think about your goals for the day or read/listen to something inspirational – so you leave the house feeling collected and in control.5. Sweat it out – exercise is often regarded as the best way to reduce stress and improve mood as it helps your body to produce feel-good endorphins. Even just a daily half-hour walk helps to reduce stress levels, however more strenuous exercise such as resistance training, gives you the maximum benefits that continue long after your workout has ended.
Exercise can sometimes feel like the last thing you want to do when you’re stressed or had a bad day, so remind yourself of how good you will feel afterwards and get those trainers on; you won’t regret it! Attending a weekly class or joining a sports club can also help to combat stress as regular engagement with other people helps to improve mood. Why not try a yoga class? Hailed for it’s stress relieving benefits for thousands of years – tree pose at the ready? “Om”.
6. Tidy home = Tidy mind – When you’re feeling emotionally drained, whipping out the hoover is probably the last thing you want to do. However, tidying your home can also help to tidy up your mind as de-cluttering helps to manage stress. Getting rid of old clothing or unused items provides a sense of order to your physical environment, which encourages feelings of calmness. Start small with an attainable project such as reorganising your wardrobe or the kitchen junk drawer (come on, everyone has one)! Visible organisation that you can see the results from leads to emotional organisation and improved well-being. Bonus!
7. Watch Funny Cat Videos – Seems like those crazy cat ladies are onto something! Studies have shown that watching cute cat videos can boost energy levels and increase feelings of happiness. After a stressful day, looking at something funny actually activates the part of the brain that delivers tranquillity and a calm physiological response. This decreases anxiety and helps tremendously with reducing stress.8. Meditation – It may sound simple, but sitting quietly for 10 minutes daily can really help to manage stress levels. If you’ve never tried meditation before, it’s definitely worth a go – see our article 10-step beginners guide to meditation. Good breathing techniques help to put you in a more relaxed state as they transport oxygen through your bloodstream, helping to calm you and relieve stress.
9. Whey to go – There is abundant research to show that whey protein, especially its main active component Alpha-lactalbumin, can help to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol while simultaneously increasing production of the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin. So, you’ll be getting both physical and mental gains from your post-workout shake!Try our Whey Protein 360 for a superior quality whey blend to get the most out of your shake.
10. And Breathe… – Whether you’re in queue at the supermarket or waiting for a train, take a minute to breathe deeply through your nose into your abdomen. Resting your hands over your lower rib cage or abdomen can help to cue deeper breathing. Breathing deeply and fully into the abdomen brings about a sense of calm because more oxygen is being delivered to the body’s cells, helping the body to relax. This type of breathing also helps to increase what is known as the ‘relaxation response’ connected to the nervous system and involved with calming the body.Reference list:
- Baun, M.M., Bergstrom, N., Langston, N.F.L.T., 1984. Physiological effects of human/companion animal bonding. Nurs. Res. 33, 126–12
- Booij, L., Merens, W., Markus, C. R., & Van der Does, A. W. (2006). Diet rich in α-lactalbumin improves memory in unmedicated recovered depressed patients and matched controls. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 20(4), 526-535.
- Brody S. Blood pressure reactivity to stress is better for people who recently had penile-vaginal intercourse than for people who had other or no sexual activity. Biological Psychology, 2006;71:214-22.
- Charnetski CJ, Brennan FX. Sexual frequency and salivary immunoglobulin A (IgA). Psychology Report, 2004;94:839-44.
- Charnetski CJ, Riggers S, Brennan FX. Effect of petting a dog on immune system function. Psychology Report, 2004;95:1087-91.
- Merens, W., Booij, L., Markus, R., Zitman, F. G., Onkenhout, W., & Van der Does, A. J. (2005). The effects of a diet enriched with α-lactalbumin on mood and cortisol response in unmedicated recovered depressed subjects and controls. British Journal of Nutrition, 94(03), 415-422.
- Myrick, Jessica. (2015). Emotion regulation, procrastination, and watching cat videos online: Who watches Internet cats, why, and to what effect?. Computers in Human Behavior. 52. 10.1016/j.chb.2015.06.001.
- Scrutton, H., Carbonnier, A., Cowen, P. J., & Harmer, C. (2007). Effects of α-lactalbumin on emotional processing in healthy women. Journal of Psychopharmacology.rp.2008.12.008.
- Weinstein, Netta & Brown, Kirk & Ryan, Richard. (2009). A multi-method examination of the effects of mindfulness on stress attribution, coping, and emotional well-being. Journal of Research in Personality. 43. 374-385. 10.1016/j.j
- Witbracht, M. G., Van Loan, M., Adams, S. H., Keim, N. L., & Laugero, K. D. (2013). Dairy food consumption and meal-induced cortisol response interacted to influence weight loss in overweight women undergoing a 12-week, meal-controlled, weight loss intervention. The Journal of nutrition, 143(1), 46-52.