Feel good, stress less: 3 easy life tweaks to reduce stress
Getting rid of stress shouldn’t be, well, stressful. Here are 3 practices to prioritize to keep your mind cool, calm and collected.
Stress is as old as humans are. We needed high-stress levels to survive but today, our anxiety looks like an entirely different monster: bosses, bills and global pandemics.
Whilst stress is an essential human emotion, it doesn’t need to be around all the time. Instead of self-doubt, bad habits and pressure to meet demands, we should be creating space for us to decompress every day. Simply put: make an effort to keep yourself calm and in the moment. For us, this comes down to three things: things that make you feel good, food that makes you feel good and thoughts that make you feel good.
1. Do things that make you feel good
When we say ‘good’, bear in mind that we don’t mean distracted. Often we think the things that make us feel ‘good’ are actually just making us feel a bit numb and zoned out from the world. This is fine and definitely warranted on occasion (hello six-hour Netflix binge) but it isn’t going to really help you unwind and bring a genuine pleasure to combat sneaky stress.
Maybe it’s cooking, writing, golfing or driving. It could be helping others or hiking or learning a dance. Who cares? You shouldn’t. Do these things to give you that childlike feeling - the things that you could do for hours without feeling begrudging about it. This gives you something to pour your frustrations into and bring yourself into a content state.
Check it out: Hiking in Johannesburg during lockdown.
2. Eat things that make you feel good
It’s been really exciting to see how people are starting to recognise how the gut is connected to the brain. Some even call the gut the second brain because of how connected the two are. Stress can cause hugely damaging effects on our gut, causing inflammation and bad bacteria. Many scientists are now discovering the link between an inflamed gut and mental health diagnoses like anxiety and depression. Everything really does go full circle.
What we put in our bodies plays a huge role in our anxiety and stress levels. We know that eating more bananas doesn’t take your looming deadlines away but it does give you more energy than the shake-inducing energy drink you turn to for convenience.
It’s also about knowing what doesn’t make you feel good in the long run. It feels really good, in the moment, to inhale your slab of chocolate before lunchtime but the crash always comes. Often, you won’t realise how these things contribute to your stress levels before you remove them and compare them. Things like caffeine, alcohol and processed sugar can deplete your good bacteria, making it harder for your body to fight off anxiety and stress response.
Here are a few foods that are going to support your gut through times of stress and give you enough healthy gut bacteria to feel really good.
Omega 3 healthy fats
Fish, flaxseed, nuts and chia are great sources of Omega 3 which helps to fight gut inflammation.
A welcome addition to any meal, bone broth is a cheap and sustainable way to protect your gut. Bone broth supports the immune system and is filled with minerals, collagen and glutamine.
Unfortunately not the jelly made from a packet, no. Gelatin can be used as a stock in any hot meal and puts a whole lot of amino acids into your body.
Probiotics are imperative for a healthy gut, so getting a dose of fermented dairy or live cultures into your gut will improve your stress response and lower your cortisol levels.
Coconut soothes the intestinal lining because it contains lauric acid, and also fights inflammation.
3. Think of things that make you feel good
The state of your mind is so, so important. By not paying attention to our thoughts or by paying too much attention to them, we become lost in a cycle of self-made worries and anxieties. Setting time aside each day to practice being grateful even in the midst of stress (especially in the midst of stress, actually) will shift your perspective. It really will - as will taking time for being mindful.
Bear in mind, these mindful moments can be practised anywhere at any time. You don’t need a guru or zen space. In your car in the school drop-off zone, in the shopping line after a granny just grazed your ankle with her trolley, or in your favourite armchair. You can always, always benefit from taking a mental step back and acknowledging your thoughts, feelings and stress from an objective perspective.
These steps are to manage and deal with stress and will be beneficial to anybody looking to find a healthy routine to gain some perspective and find some release. These steps do not constitute as a treatment for serious mental health disorders, for which there is plenty of help available.
Yours in comprehensive insurance,