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Article: How to Eliminate the Effects of Stress and Look and Feel Your Best!

How to Eliminate the Effects of Stress and Look and Feel Your Best!
Mental Health

How to Eliminate the Effects of Stress and Look and Feel Your Best!

Chronic stress can affect almost every aspect of life – from mind and mood, to appearance and overall wellbeing. Whilst there’s little we can do about exposure to stressors, the way in which we manage stress and the impact it has on our lives can help to protect our physical and mental health. Read on to discover six healthful habits that will help you cope with stress and minimise its impact on how you look and feel, for a happier and healthier you! 

Balance your Biology with Adaptogens

Stress is always going to play a part in our lives, there’s little we can do about that! But remember, sometimes the things which cause us stress are also very rewarding and important – arranging a wedding, going for that big promotion and buying a house are all good examples.  So, it’s unrealistic to think that anything will take stressors away – instead we need to make sure that our body is best equipped to deal with stress. What’s more, we need to make sure that stress is managed before it accumulates to become chronic stress. Using adaptogens is one way you can help to fine-tune your body and optimise your biology to cope better with the many effects of stress. Let’s explore… 

1. What Are Adaptogens?
– The clue is in the name! Adaptogens are powerful plants and functional foods which help to re-calibrate the body’s natural state – helping it to adapt to its environment. They are natural botanical medicines that have been shown to have therapeutic effects in relation to stress – directly influencing the adrenal glands which produce stress hormones. Adaptogens are used with the aim of achieving something called ‘homeostasis’ our natural state of balance, stability and equilibrium. 
    Ashwagandha Adaptogen Powder
    2. Biohacking Botanicals – It may sound extreme, but biohacking is all about optimising your biology to become the best version of yourself. Forget dermal implants and robotic limbs – biohacking is far less crazy than it sounds! There are simple things we can do each day to fine-tune our body and help it settle into its natural state – that homeostasis we mentioned earlier. A natural and effective method of biohacking is to use adaptogens. Research has found that using adaptogens creates an adaptive response to stress, which in turn minimises the harmful effects it would otherwise have. The physiological effects of stress cause an increase in stress hormones, reduction in immune function and also disrupt gut health, it is these things which adaptogens can help to target and restore. 
      3. Prevention is Better than Cure – Boosting your health and wellbeing using botanicals could be the stress solution you need, taking a preventative and natural approach to your health and treating the root cause rather than just the symptoms of stress. Recognising and utilising the benefits of adaptogens can help you to nip stress in the bud, before it has the chance to accumulate and grow into the problem that is chronic stress. As with any condition or illness, seeing the symptoms early and addressing them right away can have major benefits in the long-term! Why suffer when you can adapt?! 

        Using adaptogens will work best for those who follow a healthy lifestyle – getting the right nutrition, rest and exercise – which leads us nicely into the remaining healthy habits! 

        Nourish to Flourish!

        We all know the importance of diet for overall health and wellbeing, but what we eat can also directly influence how we respond to stress. Aside from functional botanicals such as adaptogens, there are also some changes you can make to your regular food intake to reduce stress. Optimising nutritional status is one way you can minimise the effects of stress on the body and mind, here’s how… 

        1. Food for Thought – Many nutrients have been shown to have brain-boosting qualitites. Things like Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals all help to improve memory, cognition and focus – minimising the impact of stress on brain performance and preventing stress-related conditions such as brain fog. The right nutrition can also help to improve decision-making and problem-solving ability, something which often suffers at the hands of chronic stress. 
          2. Avoid Emotional Eating – Comfort eating, or emotional eating, is a common response to stress. In the UK, working women are almost twice as likely as men to resort to emotional eating to deal with stress. Whilst food can be a welcome distraction and provide a source of pleasure in the short-term, binge-eating wreaks havoc with blood sugar levels and is strongly linked with weight gain in the long-term. Following a healthy, balanced diet, with the odd tasty treat now and then, can help you to avoid the detrimental effects of stress on mood, mind and appearance. 
            3. Stabilise Blood Sugars – Chronic stress over-activates our adrenal glands, causing them to secrete harmful levels of stress hormones. As adrenal function is significantly influenced by blood sugar levels, stabilising these can help to minimise the many negative impacts of stress. Choosing whole foods which are minimally processed and avoiding junk foods crammed with refined sugars can help to maintain normal blood sugar levels. Not only will this keep a lid on the amount of stress hormones you produce, but it will also protect against Type 2 Diabetes. 

              Make Sleep a Priority

              Think of sleep as your physical and emotional reset button! As you drift off into the world of nod, your body begins to banish stress hormones, rest and rejuvenate. In the modern world sleep deprivation has become the norm, with many an Instagram influencer proudly proclaiming, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” In fact, around 60% of women regularly fall short of the recommended 7-9 hours’ sleep per night. Stress has been shown to decrease both sleep duration and quality of sleep; and lack of sleep has been found to be the most prominent symptom of stress. So, it’s clear that stress and sleep go hand-in-hand! Here’s what you can do to live a life with less stress and more sleep.

              Woman Sleeping
              1. Darken Down your Evenings – We are all guilty of checking our emails and social media accounts far more than is necessary. Using devices like phones and laptops after a certain time has been shown to keep us awake late into the night. That’s because they emit an artificial blue light which messes with our melatonin levels, the hormone which regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Switching off your devices around two hours before bedtime will encourage a deeper sleep that is more effective at processing those pesky stress hormones. 
                2. Practice Good Sleep Hygiene – Sleep hygiene is all about creating the perfect environment to encourage natural sleep. The ideal sanctuary for sleep should be a bedroom that is as dark as possible, slightly cool and free from noise. It’s also a good idea to leave any phones, laptops and tablets in another room to avoid temptation. If needs be, revert back to a good-old fashioned alarm clock – for peace of mind without the constant pings of distraction! 
                  3. Soak Away Your StressTaking a hot bubble bath can help to tackle the mental and physical strains of chronic stress, at the same time as encouraging sleep. A long hot soak in the tub helps to improve circulation and ease muscle tension often caused by stress. Adding essential oils can boost mood and promote relaxation. What’s more, getting out of a hot bath mimics the temperature drop we naturally experience before sleep, helping you to drift-off more easily and sleep for longer. 

                    Maximise your Movement

                    There’s no denying the many benefits of exercise for reducing stress levels. Studies have shown that exercise is correlated with significantly lower perceived stress levels in women. The positive effects of moving more on physical and mental health can often outweigh and overcome the negative impacts of stress. But maximising your movement doesn’t have to mean 5am bootcamps or slogging it at the gym every day! Here are some simple suggestions to help you move more and stress less… 

                    1. Go Beyond the Gym – If you don’t love the gym then forcing yourself to go
                    Woman running

                    may in fact raise stress levels, the opposite of what we are trying to achieve! Exercise doesn’t have to mean fitness classes and gym equipment – any way of incorporating more movement into your everyday is beneficial. Healthy hobbies have been shown to provide some vital me-time that can reduce stress and the impact it has on overall health. So, for a double-whammy stress busting effect why not find a hobby that involves exercise? 
                      2. Embrace and Evening Workout – At the end of a long and busy day it’s often hard to switch off and unwind. Going for an evening run or winding down with some Pilates or Yoga provides a good opportunity to reflect, meditate and process thoughts accumulated throughout the day. Evening exercise also helps to burn off excess energy and encourage sleep, fighting against the antagonistic stress response that keeps us awake. 
                        3. Nurture with Nature – Meet your new workout buddy: Mother Nature! A study has found that spending two hours amongst nature per week is a remedy to boost overall health and wellbeing. Those who spent more time in the great outdoors reported better life satisfaction and lower stress levels. Enjoying the peace, quiet and tranquillity of nature could be just the remedy you need to move more and stress less. 

                          Optimise Gut Health

                          Woman Gut Health and impact of stressThe gut is an intelligent organ that is in constant communication with the brain via something called the Gut-Brain Axis (GBA to you and me!) There are around 500 million neurons in the gut, all designed to process and transmit information to the brain. This communication is bidirectional, with the brain sending messages to the gut too – that explains some of the physical symptoms stress can cause – diarrhoea, stomach cramps and nausea to name a few! Looking after your gut health should be a priority for overall wellbeing but can specifically reduce the negative effects of stress too. Let’s take a look at what you can do to boost gut health and better manage stress. 

                          1. Focus on Fibre – In the UK most people do not get enough fibre from their diet, with women getting just over half the recommended amount. Studies have found that fibre helps to protect the gut from the negative impact of stress and can reduce stress and anxiety-related behaviours. That’s all down to Short-Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs) which are produced by gut bacteria when fibre is eaten and have a therapeutic effect on hormone secretion.  
                            2. Maintain your Microbiome – Your gut is home to trillions of good bacteria that work hard to boost immunity, digest food, absorb nutrients and regulate hormones. Ongoing chronic stress can negatively impact the balance of healthy bacteria in the gut and so affect all of these things. Taking a prebiotic supplement helps to feed good gut bacteria, which in turn helps to protect your microbiome and minimise the effects of stress on the gut. 

                              Harmonise your Hormones

                              At the heart of female health is hormonal balance. Hormones impact a woman’s physical, mental and emotional health. They dictate a wide range of health outcomes, both good and bad – and it is so often the case that a hormonal imbalance is the underlying cause of a problem mistakenly diagnosed as something else! Most of the negative effects of stress are the result of high circulating levels of stress hormones. So, it’s understandable that stress can affect hormones and vice versa! Here’s what you can do to restore the balance and harmonise your hormones! 

                              1. Lower your Cortisol Levels – Cortisol is an important hormone which is released by the adrenal glands to help manage stress. However, with chronic stress and that pesky problem of over-activating the stress response, levels of cortisol remain elevated for longer than is needed. This has been linked with negative health outcomes in women – including increased appetite, greater risk of obesity and greater fat mass. Things like meditation, yoga, massage and even listening to music have been shown to lower cortisol levels. 
                                2. Focus on Fibre – DeJa’Vu?! Someone has been paying attention! Studies have shown that high fibre intake stimulates the production of certain beneficial hormones due to its effect on insulin sensitivity. Getting enough fibre has therefore been linked with appetite regulation, stimulation of gut hormones and lower levels of fat storage in the body. Again, most of us unfortunately do not get enough fibre from diet alone and so it may be a good idea to take a daily supplement as a sort of dietary safety net. Otherwise, increasing your intake of foods such as fruit and veg, wholegrains, peas, beans, pulses, nuts and seeds will boost your fibre intake.

                                  Stress is a multifaceted phenomenon that encompasses aspects of physical, mental and emotional health. It’s something which is hard to avoid and sometimes even harder to manage. Incorporating these five healthy habits into your everyday will help to minimise the effects of stress on your overall health and wellbeing, as well as avoid the many adverse effects stress can have on your health. As ever, prevention is better than cure and so it’s always ideal if you can identify and eliminate the root cause of stress. But in the modern world where our biology has not yet adapted to its surroundings, self-help with the above techniques could be your best chance to stay on top of stress and minimise its impact on your overall wellbeing!

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