Staying Healthy When Dealing With Stress

In times of high stress and uncertainty, it’s easy to let our routines and healthy habits fall to the wayside. But if we let anxiety and stress overwhelm us, our health could suffer. This is the opposite of what your body and mind need! Let’s talk about some easy ways to focus on nutrition and mental health during overwhelming times or a crisis.

 

Healthy Eating

It may be tempting to stock up and binge on non-perishables such as chips, cookies and crackers, but these are mostly void of nutritional value. A consistently nutritious diet (with a few treats here and there) is critical for maintaining bodyweight, avoiding illness, and minimizing stress. Here are some food choices to focus on:

  • Healthy fats: avocados, eggs, nuts for satiety and mood regulation
  • Lean proteins: help to balance and boost serotonin levels
  • Bananas: rich in B vitamins for nervous system function
  • Citrus fruits: shown to decrease stress; Vitamin C boosts immunity
  • Dark, leafy greens: regulate cortisol and blood pressure

If you’re spending more time at home with your family, now is a great time to try new foods and recipes. Coming together to create a meal is a perfect way to bond and stay connected.

 

Exercise

If your local gym, fitness center, or group class isn’t accessible, you don’t need to forfeit your physical activity efforts. When you keep with your exercise routine—even if the activity looks different—you’re helping your body and mind. If you don’t have access to your favorite instructors or equipment, try these at home:

  • Take daily walks around your house or neighborhood
  • Use trails for hiking and safe roads for running
  • Strength train using bodyweight or items around the house
  • Take advantage of streaming apps or social media for home workouts

Keeping your body moving lowers stress and risk of illnesses and maintains your bodyweight, all of which are essential to your health. Don’t forget that yard work and other household chores also get your body moving!

 

Mental Health

A healthy diet and exercise are essential, but your mental health is just as important especially in times of unease. If you’re having anxious thoughts and feelings, reacting to stress in a negative way, and are having trouble sleeping, then your mental health may need your attention.

Try some of the following when you’re stressed or anxious:

  • Step outside: fresh air and Vitamin D are good for boosting mood
  • Deep breathing: focused, mindful breathing eases anxiety and stress
  • Meditation: consistent practice can keep your mind calm and centered
  • Stretching: loosens muscles and brings awareness to any tension

There are many ways to address your mental health, some may work for you and some may not. This is okay! Find what works and adopt them into your routine.

Additionally, getting proper sleep is vital to your overall health. When we are asleep, our body is restoring muscles from exercise, digesting the meals we’ve enjoyed, and improving our memory and cognition.

Adapting to a new routine in a time of stress may take some time. Be consistent and patient with yourself. Keeping your body and mind healthy are the best things you can do in a time of uncertainty.

If stress or anxiety is impacting your day-to-day life, reach out to a medical professional right away.

Is Stress Harming Your Health?

Not only is stress a nuisance, it’s harmful to your health. Let’s talk about some common causes and treatments so you can be more present for the important things in your life.

What is Stress?

Stress is a natural response made by our central nervous system. Our brain tells our adrenal glands to supply our body with cortisol and sends us into “fight or flight” mode. This response once helped humans evolve and escape danger, but these days it’s causing an epidemic of chronic stress.

 

Did you know? A reported 77% of people experience stress symptoms every day.

 

Is Stress That Bad?

Short answer: yes. Some stress is good say, when you’re taking an exam or public speaking. But chronic stress, stress that is persistent, can exacerbate any present health conditions and potentially cause new ones such as:

  • Breathing conditions like asthma
  • Increase risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • Upset the digestive system
  • Tighten muscles, particularly shoulders and back causing pain

 

If you don’t treat your stress symptoms, it will begin to harm your health. Constant stress can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and mental or emotional conditions such as anxiety and depression.

 

What causes stress?

There are different causes to stress: routine stress (work, family, relationships, money) sudden changes (loss of job, having to move, divorce, illness) and traumatic events (natural disasters, war/PTSD, serious accidents).

Everyone’s relationship to stress is different. What is stressful for you may not be to someone else. Trust your feelings and if you’re feeling stressed, seek help.

 

How can I treat stress?

As there are many causes to stress and potential outcomes if untreated, there are many ways it can be treated:

  • Recognize your triggers
  • Take time to truly relax
  • Get active and stay active
  • Eat a nutritious diet consistently
  • Talk with friends or professionals
  • Yoga, meditation, and breathing techniques will lower your heart rate

 

Stress is different for everyone and everyone manages differently. If you need help navigating your life through stress, reach out to your DFD primary care provider to discuss a treatment plan.

5 Tips for a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season

It’s officially the holiday season, meant for celebration, unity, and joy. And yet, it can also bring stress and exhaustion, compromising your physical and mental health. Here are five tips for staying healthy and happy during the holidays.

Keep Moving
You may be too tired from all the shopping or traveling, but it’s important to keep active! Science proves that exercising actually gives us energy by increasing blood flow, improving metabolism and releasing endorphins. If you’re feeling run down, take a walk to see the Christmas lights in your neighborhood, have a dance party while cooking, build a snowman—anything to keep moving. You’ll not only feel better, but you’ll also stay on track to meet your fitness goals.

Prevent Illness
This time of year, we come into contact with lots of people—and lots of germs. In order to stay free from the flu and other illnesses, wash your hands, get a flu vaccine, and stay home if you’re feeling unwell. If anyone you’re visiting is sick, stay away! You don’t want to ruin your holiday celebrations by getting sick.

Eat Well
With all the sweet treats around it’s hard not to indulge. But here’s the thing—it’s okay as long as you don’t overdo it. If you go into the season forbidding yourself to eat anything decadent, you’re bound to give in and over-indulge. Stay hydrated, eat balanced meals (vegetables, fruit, clean proteins and grains), and give yourself permission to enjoy your favorite indulges in moderation.

Pro Tip: Don’t show up to a party hungry! You’ll end up eating more and probably not the healthy stuff.

Lower Stress
By visiting all your loved ones, attending celebrations, and meeting everyone else’s needs, taking care of yourself falls to the wayside. Our mental health is incredibly important and determines how we relate to others, make healthy choices, and handle our emotions. Meditation and breathing exercises are great for immediately reducing the feelings of stress, but any way that you choose to practice self-care will help keep your stress low.

Sleep More
You may be staying up late decorating or wrapping presents but don’t sacrifice a decent night’s sleep just to get things done. A lack of sleep can interfere with blood sugar levels and make you crave high-carb, high-sugar food choices that will derail your healthy eating and exercise routine. Sleep helps your body’s immune system to function properly, fending off germs and illnesses and keeps you well rested to better deal with the tasks ahead.

 

By keeping your health top of mind during this busy time of year, you can truly be present and enjoy spending time with your loved ones. Try to incorporate some—or all—of these lifestyle tips into your routine to stay happy and healthy during the holidays.