The link between stress, cortisol and poor health is now well known. Many people notice a correlation between stress and their eating patterns – either under or over-eating, or eating unhelpful foods depending on what kind of a ‘day’ they’ve had.
The problem is, many of us lead extremely fraught lives under the weight of multiple responsibilities and anxieties – never more so than right now! It is therefore absolutely critical that we learn to eat for strength and resilience rather than feeding our emotions.
If you’re anxious, you are living in the future, If you’re angry, you’re living in the past. One simple (yet not easy) solution for this - that has science to back it up – is to bring your thoughts back to the present. Mindfulness training is helpful for our health in so many ways, I plan to devote an entire blog post just to that topic! But if you are feeling over-whelmed right now, it can be helpful to focus on your breath. Take several long, slow deep breaths, in through the nose and out through your mouth. Close your eyes if that helps. Take note of sensations around you – is it warm? Can you feel the seat under you? What noises in the background can you hear? Go back to your breath.
Are you angry and tearful? Then try a warm shower, cry if you want to, and let the water literally wash away your feelings.
Another favorite tip of mine for de-stressing is to look after yourself with a warm bath at the end of a tough day. If you have magnesium bath salts at home or that can be delivered, even better. Not only will a soothing mineral bath help you to unwind but absorbing the magnesium into your body may help you sleep a bit better. Quality sleep is absolutely critical to good health and a strong immune system, so we’ll take a deeper dive into that topic in a separate, follow-up post.
Finally, it’s worth remembering that in ‘normal’ life, most of us are ‘over-scheduled’. As a busy working mom I can relate to the tendency to prioritize other responsibilities over your own needs, endlessly. As a trained Health Psychologist though, I can tell you that the data are clear - taking a moment for yourself each day is super-important. Give yourself permission to take time out, even if it’s just 20 minutes to breathe quietly and practice gratitude – you’ll feel happier instantly whilst taking those cortisol levels down a couple notches. Make sure that this time out includes taking a break from the news and social media – there is nothing more sure to raise your stress levels than another breaking story that’s all doom and gloom!