Life is busy and, unfortunately, often stressful. Actually removing stress from your life is all but impossible… however, learning how to manage stress is one of the most important factors in long term health. The added bonus of feeling less stressed is that not only will you feel better, so will your kids, partner and immediate family. A win for everyone!
Here are a few suggestions for changes you can include in your everyday routine that will make dealing with stress so much easier.
Herbal tea to the rescue
While I use and recommend herbal tonics often (they are just SO good!) I do believe that the more gentle doses found in herbal tea can be wonderfully effective. My favourite calming and soothing herbal teas include: chamomile, rosehip, passionflower, lemon verbena, and rooibos. These can be drunk on their own or in any flavour combination you prefer. You can use tea bags, dried herbs from a health food store, or fresh herbs (if you’re lucky enough to have them!).
Ideally, herbal tea should be sipped regularly and often. You may not have the time to brew a pot regularly, in which case just make one large batch and decant it into a jug or bottle to drink later. This can be kept in the pantry or fridge and used to top up your glass or drinking bottle during the day. Herbal teas are lovely when they’re warm, but can also be drunk at room temperature or even iced. Iced herbal tea can be drunk straight, or served with a wedge of lemon or lime and some chopped fresh fruit e.g. berries, passionfruit, melon, apple. Herbal teas are also great for children.
The added advantage of herbal teas is that drinking these regularly will also help to keep you hydrated. This is particularly important for those times when you’re feeling stressed, frazzled and flat out. If you don’t drink enough fluids you will become dehydrated and when that happens, your body won’t work as well as it should. Headaches, irritability, fuzzy head… all things that can often be remedied with fluids.
Magnesium, magnesium and more magnesium!
Magnesium is a mineral that most of us could use a dose of. During times of stress and after periods of heavy physical exertion, we tend to use up magnesium at a rate of knots.
Magnesium plays an important role in our nervous system response, in the tension and relaxation of our muscles, in blood sugar metabolism and even energy production. Signs that you could benefit from upping your magnesium include: eye-twitches, leg and foot cramps, muscle tension, and headaches.
While supplemental magnesium is often very useful, it’s important to increase your dietary sources first – particularly as these are full of many other beneficial vitamins and minerals! Some of the best food sources of magnesium include – eggs, cacao, almonds, cashews, kelp, buckwheat and wheat germ.
Don’t forget to breathe
Yes, ok, none of us – technically – ever ‘forget’ to breathe. However, a lot of us don’t do it properly… without even realising! We draw in short, shallow breaths – especially when stressed – that don’t give our bodies a decent dose of oxygen. When feeling anxious, upset or irritable, it’s also very common for people to hold their breath… again, without realising!
However, it’s really important to breathe properly, as this ensures you get enough oxygen pumped around your body. If you don’t, feelings of stress and fatigue, inflammatory symptoms and even conditions such as hypertension can be exacerbated. This will, in turn, make you feel worse and the cycle continues. Not ideal!
Breath awareness helps to calm and focus the mind, which is a particularly handy tool for times of stress. Classes in meditation and yoga will always incorporate breath awareness and teach you techniques to use outside of the classroom. If you have the opportunity to hop along to a class on a regular basis, I would strongly suggest you work it into your timetable. However, if getting to a class isn’t realistic, there are plenty of other resources you can use – including some great phone apps, such as Breathing Zone, Yogic Breath (both iPhone) and Breath Pacer (Android). How easy is that?