The best food and activities to beat stress.
Did you know that ignoring signs of stress can be a more dangerous risk factor for cancer and heart disease than either cigarette smoking or eating high-cholesterol foods? The experts tell us there are numerous ways to reduce stress, including daily exercise, relaxation techniques and smart eating strategies. But where to begin?
We’ve made it simple by gathering six tasty stress-fighting super foods and six easy moves. Make them part of your routine, and you’ll feel more relaxed, rejuvenated and ready to take on the world.
What to Eat
Stress-Fighting Nutrients Vitamins E and B
Health Benefits: Vitamin E strengthens the immune system and helps fight cellular damage from harmful free radicals linked to chronic stress. B vitamins stabilize mood by stimulating production of serotonin, a key neurotransmitter that sends calming signals to the brain and helps fight anxiety. They also build up protective fat around brain cells, which gets depleted under stress.
Stress-Fighting Nutrient Vitamin C
Health Benefits: Vitamin C, like Vitamin E, helps regulate and stabilize blood-sugar levels. It also strengthens the immune system, fights free radicals associated with stress and lowers stress hormone levels.
Stress-Fighting Nutrients B Vitamins and L-tryptophan
Health Benefits: With the help of B vitamins, L-tryptophan, an essential amino acid, converts to serotonin, which improves mood and mental health, and melatonin, which aids in sleep.
Salmon, Mackerel, Herring, Lake Trout, Sardines and Albacore Tuna
Stress-Fighting Nutrients Omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins
Health Benefits: Omega-3 fatty acids prevent increases in stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, and they help produce serotonin. (There is also evidence that Omega-3s may reduce depression.)
Stress-Fighting Nutrient Calcium
Health Benefits: Calcium alleviates tension and decreases muscle spasms. It may also lessen some symptoms of PMS , including anxiety, mood swings and irritability.
Stress-Fighting Nutrient Magnesium
Health Benefits: Magnesium helps prevent increases in blood pressure and relaxes tense muscles.
What To Do
It may seem like a no-brainer, but controlling stress depends on getting enough regular, restful slumber. Aim for at least seven or eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. And if you’re feeling tired, grab a 15-30 minute power nap mid-day.
Get a Massage
When you get a massage your whole body relaxes, including your mind. Swedish massage, which soothes with long, gentle strokes, circular motions and kneading, is believed to alleviate stress by reducing stress hormones in the body, such as cortisol. Other benefits include bringing oxygen to tissues, which improves circulation; relieving muscle tension and pain; increasing flexibility; and removing lactic acid and other waste, thereby reducing stiffness and pain. You can also try a hot stone massage or an aromatherapy massage, which employs essential oils such as lavender to reduce anxiety. If you’re crunched for time, try self-massage techniques.
Strike a Pose
Yoga focuses on the breath as you move through specific poses, reducing stress and anxiety and also developing strength, balance and flexibility. Here’s one relaxing stationary posture: Balasana, or Child’s Pose. Kneel on the floor with your big toes touching and your knees hipwidth apart. As you exhale, bend forward to lay your torso between your thighs. Place your hands palms up on the floor alongside your torso and allow your shoulders to slump toward the floor, pulling your shoulder blades apart. Remain in this position for at least 30 seconds (and up to several minutes).
If your work or living space is messy and unorganized, it’s a safe bet that your mind is too. Start by organizing one limited area, such as your desk, kitchen or purse. That way you won’t feel overwhelmed with the thought of cleaning your entire house. (Yikes!)
This relaxation technique is easy to learn and can be practiced virtually anywhere. When you feel the muscles in your neck start to tighten and your jaw begin to clench, follow these steps: Sit comfortably with your feet on the floor and your hands in your lap (or lie down) and close your eyes. Think about a serene place such as a warm beach or a peaceful meadow. Breathe slowly and deeply from the abdomen. Continue this mindful breathing for five to 10 minutes, focusing on full, cleansing breaths.
Draw Yourself a Bath
We all know that soaking in a steamy tub is relaxing, but adding 2 cups of Epsom salt, which contains the natural stress reliever magnesium, to a warm bath will ease muscle tension and help the body eliminate harmful toxins.
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