Survival Of The Fittest!

Ok, so a little dramatic in title, but this week’s blog comes from a special place in my heart: stress survival! Selfishly I wanted to blog about stress, as this month is a very significant and busy one for me. This can manifest as ‘stress’, if I’m not extremely careful in looking after myself, and so I need to put my experience of food and relaxation to the forefront of my mind.
Like most parents, for me summer brings lots of joy and a rest from the school run and everything that comes with that; traffic jams, toothpaste on jumpers just before you are leaving the house, and searching for socks that match (I can see a nod of heads as I write this and take comfort that I’m not alone!).  Then you look at the calendar and think how am I going to entertain 2 small children for 6 weeks? Stress alert! Coupled with this I need to run my thriving business, get the family organised for a 2 week holiday to Mexico, and pack boxes for a house move that happens 4 days after said Mexican trip.  Where’s the husband in all of this? Just popped to America to work (yeah – cheers for that!) Just typing this makes me feel flush with the thought of ‘how can I survive and keep sane?”
Luckily for me, I know the signs. I wasn’t always cool, calm and collected and actually throughout my 20’s I thrived on stress and enjoyed consistent pressure and deadlines; leading me to a successful career in the finance sector. What happened? Burn out!  Adrenal fatigue kicked in, due to high levels of cortisol (the body’s stress response) and not eating correctly. I used coping mechanisms such as alcohol, cigarettes and chocolate, which led me down a slippery slope of persistent colds, tonsillitis and a general feeling that there has got to be more to life than this? Cue a lightbulb moment, which led me to the path of nutrition, and the rest is history as they say!
Stress can come in two forms from my experience: small bursts or long term. The key here is to analyse what is going on and how you feel. If you’re aware that you need to get through a 6 week busy and demanding period, but that you will return to a more serene existence; it is short term. If your life (like mine in my 20’s) feels as though the demands are continuous, and you feel burnt out, the chances are it’s long term. Short term stress can actually be classed as positive stress, as adrenaline kicks in and you become sharper and focused as a result. Whereas long term stress is a drain on your adrenal glands, which use supplies of B Vitamins and Magnesium to run; result being you become depleted of both of these essential nutrients and begin to feel lack luster and devoid of energy. This in turn has a knock on effect on your immune system and inflammation begins to build.
So if you’re looking to not only survive, but thrive through stressful times, here are a few easy tips to incorporate into your day.

My tips for reducing stress!

  • Reach for stress busting foods such as green leafy veggies, including spinach, kale, watercress, and broccoli. These little beauties contain folate, which produce dopamine, a pleasure inducing brain chemical, with a calming effect
  • Foods containing tryptophan help produce serotonin, the chemical that regulates hunger and the feeling of happiness and well-being. You can find tryptophan in turkey, nuts, seeds, tofu, fish, lentils and eggs
  • Don’t give up the carbohydrates! The right carbohydrates can help the brain make serotonin. Now not all carbohydrates are the same i.e. I’m not talking about reaching for a doughnut here, opt for oats, wholemeal rice or quinoa as they wont compromise your blood sugar levels but will provide energy to get you through those stressful periods
  • Add oily fish to your diet, at least twice a week, choose from salmon, fresh tuna, mackerel or sardines. The omega -3 fatty acids in oily fish have anti-inflammatory properties that help counteract the negatives effects of stress hormones
  • Last but not least, try and stay away from foods and drinks, which spike your blood sugar in some form.  Tea, coffee, energy drinks, soft drinks and alcohol can trigger and aggravate stress, so stick to water and herbal drinks where possible to keep you hydrated. Fast foods, takeaways and sugary foods have the same effect. 

By making these small, but significant changes, you can get through those difficult times.  I’m signing off to make myself a chamomile tea and baked salmon for tonight’s tea, whilst I drown out the noise of my kids squabbling! For more information on the recipe click on my Facebook link and why not say hi while you’re visiting my Facebook Page!
Will be back blogging after my Mexican trip, armed with healthy Mexican recipes to pass on.
Enjoy the holidays all and good luck!

To your good health!