Samantha Gemmel is a nutritionist at Feel Good Food Packs, an not-for-profit organisation with an altruistic vision and drive to share good food with those experiencing homelessness. Each pack consists of donated and sourced snack, made with highly nutritious ingredients (some even have superfoods!) that provide optimal nutrition and boost to those who need it most. They rely on donated foods, profits made on their fundraising recipe book and social media exposure to be able to run effectively and make a change in the world! To learn more, or to find out how you can help Feel Good Food Packs get more healthy food to people who need it, click HERE
Stress is a part of everyday life, especially in the age of being connected 24/7. But if it's getting on top of you, it's time to engage in some stress-relieving activities.
1. Take a breath
The best way to halt stress at a cellular level is to switch your body from using the sympathetic nervous system over to using the parasympathetic nervous system. Sounds complex, but it takes one simple step – breath in deeply, and exhale slowly. Whether you do this in a meditation practice, as a nighttime ritual, or just when something gets you super stressed, it has the same effect. If you're just beginning, try counting as you breathe – 5 counts as you inhale, hold the breath for 2 counts, and then exhale for 5 counts.
2. Physical touch
Physical contact has been shown to reduce stress levels, and for good reason. It floods our bodies with feel-good hormones that make us feel safe and loved. Whether you cuddle up with your honey, snuggle your kids, or go and get yourself a nice long massage, these will all have a calming effect and have you feeling better in no time.
3. Puppy therapy
Easily the most fun way to reduce stress – cuddle puppy dogs! Or kitty cats if that's your preference. People with pets are healthier and happier people, often thanks to their stress-relieving abilities. Even if you don't have your own, spending a short time with a friend's pooch or puss can reduce anxiety levels significantly and boost your mood.
4. Moderate caffeine
There are definite health benefits in a cup or two of coffee, but for those who are drinking multiple cups daily, the downsides can outweigh the benefits. Caffeine stimulates the production of stress hormones, so if you're already stressed, it can make you jittery, anxious, short-tempered and highly-strung. If it's just habit, try switching every second coffee for a chai. If you can't physically stay awake without multiple hits of caffeine, it's time to consult your health professional.
5. Sip green tea
Now I know I said keep the caffeine intake moderate, but green tea is a special exception. Although it contains caffeine, it also contains a compound that reduces the cortisol levels in your body. So if your body is flooded with stress hormones, a nice cup of matcha will actually help clear those out. Combine with some deep breathing for a doubly effective de-stress session.
6. Magnesium everyday
If there's one nutrient for chilling out, magnesium is IT. Not only does it help your muscles physically relax and release tension, but it also helps you to create your feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain. Unfortunately, our diets are often low in magnesium and we burn through it during periods of stress. Boost up your intake of foods such as leafy green veg, nuts, seeds, and dark chocolate (yum!), and soak yourself in an Epsom salt bath for the ultimate chill-out.
7. Load up on Bs
Make friends with B vitamins – they are cofactors for your happy neurotransmitters and help keep your energy levels balanced. Veggies, legumes and wholegrains are good sources for most B vitamins, however B12 is often only found in significant amounts in animal products, so it's super important for vegetarians and vegans to be on the ball with monitoring their levels, especially during a period of stress.
8. Write it out
Sometimes when you get stressed, the worst part is the voice in your head that just won't stop babbling at you about whatever is wrong. So grab a pad of paper and get to writing – write out what is stressing you, and work towards a solution. Research has actually shown that journalling about stress can help relieve it. If you would rather not focus on the topic right now, just write down 3 things you are grateful for right now – gratitude practices can also help relieve stress and shift perspective.
9. Move your body
Sometimes the best way to get through stress is to work it out. Whether it be a soothing yoga class, or an intense dance session, exercise is guaranteed to get you feeling good. When you exercise, your body produces feel-good endorphins and reduces the level of stress hormones simultaneously. Exercise is also an excellent way to meditate when you can't quiet your mind – by focusing on the task at hand, the stresses of the day fade away into the background.
10. Keep your choices low GI
If you've been hitting the processed, high GI foods lately, you've probably noticed your anxiety is on the rise. Fluctuations in blood sugar levels can make us feel depressed or anxious, as well as causing our adrenal glands to produce more stress hormones. Pack in the fibre rich options like vegetables, nuts, seeds and wholegrains, and include some healthy fats in each meal, to balance out your blood sugars and feel good all day long.
Now that you have this in the your information bank, go find a puppy and do some salsa with it! Puppy- TICK, Physical Touch - TICK, Move your body- TICK.
RELAX TO THE MAX xx