One of the biggest challenges companies and their people in the 21st century is that of stress, it is increasingly becoming a global epidemic and something that is likely to feature in all of our lives, at some point, in one form or another. Unfortunately, a major paradox is at play because when we are feeling stressed we seem to be far less likely to make choices that support the stress response. Rather, we reach for another cup of coffee or a muffin as we run from one meeting to the next. I therefore passionately believe that companies have a key role to play in arming their employees with the right information and knowledge they need to help them make nutritional choices that support their mental health and physical wellbeing. Furthermore, I think companies need to dig deep when asking themselves whether what is on offer when their people walk through the office door is helping to boost a positive & calm mindset, rather than stoking the stress fire. However, despite compelling empirical research demonstrating the role nutrition plays in regards wellbeing, performance and stress resilience, it is only just starting to feature within health related programmes. If this is the case within your organisation, then I encourage you to challenge the business owners for these areas to understand what they are doing in this space and to reach out to specialists, such as myself, who can help to push the agenda forward!
In the meantime, whilst we wait for many companies to catch up, here are some suggestions to help support your response to stress via nutritional means:
Top 5 tips to calm the stress response
- Reduce your caffeine intake; Giving this up can be a big ask for people, especially on those cold winter morning when it can seem even harder to get going. Unfortunately, coffee is packed with chemicals that aren’t great for our system and it also causes a spike in adrenalin. This creates a temporary boost in energy but what goes up must come down, leaving us slumped over our desks an hour or so later. The good news is there are some healthy alternatives to coffee that can also provide a bit of a kick. One of my absolute favourites is Matcha Green Tea, a very concentrated form of green tea which is a long standing tradition of Japanese culture. Whilst this does contain caffeine, it is accompanied by an amino acid called L-Theanine which helps to balance out the negative effects of the caffeine. Therefore, this provides an energy boost combined with a sense of calmness, a win win! Click here for a link to my Matcha Green Tea Latte recipe.
- Eat ¼ protein with every meal; this is absolutely key to balancing blood sugar as imbalanced blood sugar is one of the most stressful things for the body. Protein also includes lots of B vitamins which are vital to when supporting the stress response. You can achieve this by eating more oily fish or organic, grass-fed meat. Don’t also forget to try plant based sources of protein which include lentils, nuts & seeds, quinoa, buckwheat, nutritional yeast, beans, tofu and tempeh
- Eat a rainbow of colours in terms of fruit & veges; this will ensure you are getting high levels of vitamin C which allows the body to quickly clear out cortisol, a primarystress hormone that increases sugars in the bloodstream. Vitamin C therefore helps to regulate cortisol and prevent blood pressure from spiking in response to stressful
- Increase your magnesium levels; magnesium is nature’s relaxant and we burn through this at a rate of knots when stressed. It is also required for over 300+reactions within the body so you need to ensure you are getting an adequate dose on a daily base. Green vegetables and oats are also magnesium rich, as are nuts & seeds. Another great way to get this in to your system is by having an Epsom salt bath a couple of times a week but make sure you soak for a good 20 minutes to ensure maximum effect!
- Sleep, sleep, sleep; Sleep and mood are closely connected; poor or inadequate sleep can cause irritability and stress, while healthy sleep can enhance well-being. Research demonstrates that chronic lack of sleep (6 hours a night or less) may increase the risk of developing a mood disorder, such as anxiety or depression. We therefore need to remind ourselves of the importance of prioritising 8 hours a night. Ultimately, it’s about being kind to ourselves and allowing our bodies and minds to repair and restore.