Healthy Ways to Reduce Stress for Stress Awareness Month

Healthy Ways to Reduce Stress for Stress Awareness Month

There are two types of stress that all people experience: “good” and “bad”.  Good stress can be motivating; such as running a race or finishing your last paper to graduate.  Unfortunately, many Americans are experiencing bad stress on a daily basis - such as financial, relational, or career derived stress - just to name a few. That bad stress that is occurring frequently in the everyday lives of many people is a direct connection to various and abundant health issues.  According to the American Psychological Association, 77% of Americans reported physical health risks due to stress and 73% are experiencing psychological health issues due to stress.
We know that stress can come from a lot of different things and it can be handled a lot of different ways.  Do you overeat or make unhealthy choices when you are stressed? Not eat enough? Experience insomnia?  Experience panic attacks? These are a few of the most common and unhealthy reactions people have to coping with stress.  We are going to take a look at 3 healthy ways that we can combat stress in order to reduce our risk of disease and increase our quality of life!

The first thing we are going to talk about to help reduce that everyday stress is Meditation.  Now, I know what some of you are thinking; I am not a “that” type of person.  Before you write it off, meditation can look different for everyone!  Experts say that meditation gives you the opportunity to remove stress on demand and can help you put everything in perspective.  Meditation has been scientifically proven to lower blood pressure, decrease depression and anxiety, and increase focus, memory and productivity.  Part of meditation is being mindful and selective of the thoughts that you are letting run through your mind; it is not simply trying to clear your mind.  We should be treating our brain like a muscle and just like the rest of the muscles in our body, it needs exercise and repetition to become stronger.  If we would take at least 60 seconds a day to sort our thoughts before we begin our day, it has been proven to reduce stress.  This could mean waking up a few minutes early before your family to be in solitude, incorporating meditation in with yoga or another workout routine, or just simply spending time outside. Those seconds or minutes of relaxing your body, and having a focused and stilled mind can be so impactful on your health!

The second healthy thing we are going to talk about that has been proven to help reduce stress is Food.  As a Dietitian, this is one of my favorite things to talk about so I am very excited to share with you how food can be helpful in decreasing stress levels.  Some of us tend to want to overeat, make bad food choices, or maybe not eat at all when coping with stress.  I’m going to give you some common foods that have a big role in the effects of how they help your body and stress levels.  If you experience a lot of muscle tension due to stress we are going to look at a few foods that are full of magnesium and calcium. These are two minerals that work together to balance nerve impulses and muscle contraction.  A few natural food sources of calcium that will help communication between nerve cells and muscle contraction include broccoli, greens, dairy products, and figs. Avocados, sunflower seeds, and wheat germ are a few natural sources of magnesium, which helps relax muscles. Next, we are going to look at foods that will help increase serotonin levels.  Many of you have probably heard of serotonin, which is mood enhancing and helps you relax and feel more calm.  Tryptophan is actually the amino acid that is instrumental in manufacturing that mood booster and we are going to take a look at the simple food sources that provide us with this necessary amino acid.   It’s as easy as consuming common foods like bananas, dairy products, peas, poultry, and turnips to help improve your mood and reduce stress.  The last nutrient we are going to talk about is Vitamin B6.  This vitamin is responsible for assisting in the manufacturing of brain chemicals that control mood.  It is important to consume foods that are full of vitamin B6 so that we are able to cope with anxiety and stress.  The foods again are common, they include bananas, potatoes, and salmon, and could easily be incorporated into everyday choices. I hope this gives you healthy ideas to help combat stress levels and use food as fuel!

The last thing we are going to talk about that has also been proven to reduce stress is Exercise.  Doctors have said over and over that even just walking for exercise can help people who struggle with stress, anxiety, or depression as much as medication can.  Doctors have also found that physical activity not only helps with all of that, but that you will also feel more energized, and your sleep will actually improve.  So if you are someone that doesn’t sleep when stressed maybe a little exercise is all the prescription you need! To add to the list of benefits you are also helping prevent dementia and and Alzheimer’s disease by choosing to be active.  The benefits of exercise do just as much if not more for our brain and stress levels as it does the rest of our body. 
We don’t always have control of our circumstances, but we can have control over how we deal with them.  I hope these tips have been helpful and that you will take the time for self care and to help yourself be the healthiest version possible!

This medical and/or nutritional information is not intended to be a substitute for individual advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Ashley Bach
My name is Ashley- I am a lover of food, a Dietitian, and a blogger. I attended Michigan State University where I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics. I went on to work in the field of Food Science and then later became a Nutrition Educator. While teaching about health and wellness, I decided to turn this passion for sharing nutrition and healthy recipes with people into a blog in the hopes of reaching more people. My mission is that healthy could be practical for all people! I hope you enjoy and learn something new about nutrition, food, and living a balanced healthy lifestyle!