Beat stress by sleeping more, eating well and exercising daily

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Are times tough for you right now? Do you feel like you’re doing your very best but still struggling with the burden of trying to manage it all?

If stress levels in your household are peaking and you feel like your health and sanity are suffering, try engaging in some of these tips to help you stay healthy and calm throughout it all.

1. Get enough sleep

Sleep underlies everything (mood, energy and cognitive function) and I encourage my clients to make it priority number one if it’s lacking in their lives. People who chronically lack sleep are more likely to become depressed, so it’s critical in times of stress where your mental health is already vulnerable to get a good eight hours of quality sleep each night.

2. Eat right

Another critical factor in having the physical and emotional energy to get through stressful times is to provide your body and brain with healthy and nutritious food.

  • Eat regularly. Your body needs fuel every three hours. But avoid eating 1-2 hours before bed.
  • Never skip breakfast. Include protein and carbohydrates for long-lasting energy like eggs or baked beans on toast. Smoothies are perfect: blend banana, honey, oats, and protein powder for something quick and nourishing.
  • Eat protein-rich dinners: fish, beef, lamb, chicken, legumes, tofu, and eggs are full of iron, which transports oxygen to the brain — important for alertness, stamina and energy.
  • Don’t snack on sugary junk foods. Satisfy sweet cravings with banana and yoghurt, nuts and dried fruits (like apricots, sultanas, figs) or grainy vita-wheats with peanut butter and honey, banana or avocado.
  • Caffeine. Most of us rely on it for a quick hit but this is exactly what you don’t need in times of stress. The rush will pass quickly leaving you even more tired. Try weakened black or herbal tea, which contain L-Theanine, to keep you relaxed and alert.
  • Drink at least two litres of water daily to stay hydrated and reduce headaches. 
  • As the gut is recognised as being the “second brain” and the emotional centre of the body, taking probiotics and eating fermented foods will support gut health and a healthy nervous system.
  • Load up on feel-good amino acid, tryptophan, found in spinach, spirulina, tofu, banana, turkey, fish, cottage cheese, yoghurt, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, lentils and pumpkin seeds.
  • Magnesium promotes wellbeing, reduces fatigue, anxiety and tension: spinach, nuts, cocoa (dark chocolate), avocado and bananas.
  • Vitamin C lowers stress hormone cortisol: eat plenty of paw-paw, berries, kiwi, cabbage, citrus, peas and pineapple.
  • Wind down at night with passionflower, chamomile or lavender herbal teas.

3. Stay active

Doing regular aerobic activity leads to changes in the brain associated with improved cognitive function, and elevated mood. Exercise also reduces “stress” chemicals like cortisol while releasing “happiness” ones like endorphins, dopamine and serotonin into the brain. Head outdoors and exercise for at least 30 minutes every day.

  • Make it fun: walk or run with a friend, take the dog to the park.
  • Have a quick game of touch footy with mates, or go for a swim or surf.
  • If you’re stuck for time, skip rope in the backyard, use a Swiss ball or weights.
  • Exercise modalities like Yoga and Tai Chi are great not just for improving posture and flexibility, but also for reducing stress and promoting spiritual development.

Discover the connection between taking good care of yourself and better stress management, and you'll become more emotionally resilient. And remember, if you’re doing it particularly tough at the moment – this too shall pass.

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Mareike Bout is a qualified and registered personal trainer who specialises in holistic fitness and lifestyle coaching. She is a recognised leader in the industry, receiving the peer-voted South Australia Personal Trainer of the Year award in 2008. She is also a regular guest on Adelaide’s top-rating radio station FIVEaa. Mareike runs her personal training business, One Life Live Well, both online and from a private studio in Adelaide. Services include one-on-one training, outdoor group fitness, lifestyle coaching and weight-loss programs. Individually tailored programs encompass aspects of exercise, nutrition, relaxation, positive thinking, life balance, and goal setting. Her approach is to guide, support and educate her clients so that they posses the tools required to live a life of health, strength and vitality!