7 Lifestyle and Nutrition Tweaks to Reduce Stress, According to a Nutritionist
Stress has become a critical focus in the last few years — and for good reason! While occasional stress is fine and even helpful, chronic stress can actually harm our health (and our hair.)
According to the American Psychological Association, 77% of people regularly experience physiological symptoms caused by stress like fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, upset stomach and changes in sex drive.
And with stress being an inevitable part of life, stress reduction must become a priority in your routine! Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to help manage your stress, even if you only have a few minutes each day!
Read on for my favorite stress-reduction practices that take one minute, 10 minutes, 20 minutes and 30 or more minutes so you can design a perfect, stress-reducing routine that fits into your schedule!. Plus, find out what products you really should be using to support healthy hair.
Practice a Few Rounds of Breathwork (1-3 minutes)
Breathwork is a powerful and efficient way to calm your stress response. When you intentionally slow your breathing, you send a message of safety to your brain and body. This quickly calms your stress response when you need it. However, it’s even more powerful if you do it regularly.
My favorite breathing technique is a 4-7-8 breath. Breathe in for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven and then slowly exhale for a count of eight.
In high-stress times, try to do this one to three times for instant, calming relief. For ongoing stress management, aim to practice this breath style eight to 10 times each morning or at night.
Sip on a Cup of Stress-Reducing Tea (5 minutes)
Sipping on a calming herbal tea conveys multiple benefits for your stress response. The ritual of making tea — heating the water, steeping the tea, allowing it to cool — gives you a few moments to pause during a stressful time. Then you have the benefit of the herbs to further calm your stress levels.
Some teas to add to your pantry for stress include:
- Peppermint: Research suggests that simply inhaling the peppermint aroma can reduce feelings of frustration and anxiety.
- Chamomile: This common tea is one of the most well-known stress soothing teas you can buy! According to one study, ongoing intake of chamomile can significantly reduce symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.
- Lemon Balm: This tea is commonly used to help with insomnia; however, it can also help with mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Ashwagandha: This is one of the most well-studied adaptogenic herbs, known for its strong benefits for stress and fatigue.
Take a Quick Stretch Break (1+ minutes)
Taking a pause during the day to move your body, stretch your limbs and shake it out can quickly diffuse stress. Stretching will quickly increase blood flow, energy and the amount of oxygen being delivered to your brain. It can also help release endorphins, which are feel-good hormones that combat stress.
The kind of stretch you do doesn’t matter as much as your willingness to take these micro-breaks regularly. Do whatever feels good to you, whether that’s stretching your arms up to the ceiling, spending a few minutes in child’s pose, or even just jumping around. Move your body to remove your stress!
Take a Quick Walk (10 minutes)
Oftentimes, anxiety and stress are due to a buildup of excess energy in the body. Unexpressed emotions like anger, sadness, frustration and grief can make us feel heavy and burdened. Moving your body allows you to release this pent-up energy while also giving you an escape from the stressful situation. Try scheduling a quick walk on your lunch break or at the end of your workday to help diffuse stressful energy every day.
Make a Stress-Reducing Meal (10 minutes)
Your nutrition can play a huge role in your body’s stress levels and resilience! In the same way we have foods that nourish us or don’t, we also have foods that can lower or raise our stress levels.
Foods to lower stress include:
- Apricots: A fruit that is rich in magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral that gets depleted in our bodies when we’re stressed. Magnesium is helpful in that acts as a natural muscle relaxant and helps reduce heart palpitations.
- Asparagus: Just one cup of asparagus contains two-thirds of your daily value of folate. Folate deficiency can increase anxiety.
- Avocado: A great source of B vitamins. We need B vitamins for healthy brain and nerve cells. Avocados also a good source of potassium, a mineral that gets depleted in times of stress.
- Fermented Foods: The vast majority of our serotonin is produced in the gut. An imbalance in gut bacteria can have a direct effect on your brain chemistry. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi and kombucha can help keep your gut bacteria healthy.
- Leafy Greens: Dark leafy greens are an excellent source of vitamin C and magnesium. Vitamin C helps to lower cholesterol levels and support our adrenal glands, especially in times of high stress.
Start a Regular Meditation Practice (10-30 minutes)
The benefits of a regular meditation practice are well-documented and nearly endless — from stress reduction to greater focus and clarity to faster healing. Dedicating time to quiet your mind is a worthwhile pursuit.
Meditation is simple, but that definitely does not mean it’s easy! If you’re new to meditation, I highly recommend checking out some beginner-guided medtiations or a beginner meditation course! There are many apps and free resources online; find one that resonates with you. And when in doubt, just start. It doesn’t need to be perfect to be beneficial.
Make Daily Journaling a Habit (10+ minutes)
If the idea of journaling has you thinking about your middle school diary with the heart-shaped lock, you’re not too far off! Research shows that simply recording your thoughts and feelings on a regular basis can help you identify and process negative emotions and alleviate anxiety. One meta-analysis on this practice found that journaling had a similar benefit to talk therapy!
All you need is a quiet place, some time and a pen and paper! It’s ideal to block off at least 20 minutes each day and just start writing. Avoid the impulse to overthink and just start letting the words flow. If you find yourself stuck, try free writing! In this practice, you set aside at least 10 minutes and the pen never stops moving — even if you’re writing “I don’t know what to write” over and over again. Eventually, your own thoughts will take over, and you may be surprised about what’s really on your mind.
More From VEGAMOUR
- 9 Natural Ways to Lower Cortisol
- 5 Nutrients Your Hair Craves
- 10 Tips for Better Gut Health
- How to Tackle Self-Care