Registered Dietitian NYC Favorite Stress-Reducing Foods, Exercises and Techniques

6 Tips to Better Health

Mary Jane Detroyer

2016 has been a stressful year. Uncertainty, anxiety, and being bombarded by negativity can chip away at our health. Add chronic stress from work or personal situations, and our bodies suffer!

Many won’t even recognize stress as being stress, as the symptoms can be attributed to illnesses. You might blame your insomnia or headaches on a lingering cold. Stress, though, might be to blame.

Some common symptoms of stress in the body and mood are:

  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Stomach problems – indigestion
  • Anxiety
  • Lethargy
  • Being unfocused
  • Sadness, depression, irritability or anger

Over an extended period of time, though, chronic stress can lead to chronic illness, plaque buildup in arteries which leads to heart disease, lowered immunity which can lead to cancer and many other illnesses.

We will never completely eradicate stress from our lives, and we wouldn’t want to. Stress is a motivator, can make us more resilient, and can give our immune system a boost (in the short term). But we have to moderate it and manage it so that it doesn’t cause long-term, devastating effects.
Here are 6 tips to give our bodies the tools they need to battle stress.

  • Turn off the TV, the computer, social media and walk away! News is news because it’s bad. Rarely do we hear about the gentleman who gives the mail carrier a cold soda every day. We are bombarded by negative sound bites –  literally thousands – each day. So, plug in your favorite play list and walk away from it all. Exercise, even moderate amounts, produces endorphins. Endorphins act in the brain as natural pain killers. Even five minutes of exercise can curb our anxiety.
  • women-1179435_1920Om mani padme hum: Meditation, yoga, deep breathing, acupuncture – all of these traditional eastern practices help the body produce those same endorphins we get exercising. When was the last time you just sat still, closed your eyes, and focused on your breathing? Meditation is hard. Especially in a world where we’re accustomed to always being connected. But that connection to our phones and jobs and TVs and social media has caused, often, a disconnect with ourselves. So, learn to be still, and start to practice meditation. Start small – sessions of less than five minutes – and build up on it.
  • Feed Your Brain: Incorporate these foods in your diet to help battle stress. Green leafy veggies have folate, which helps the body produce serotonin and dopamine – mood-regulators. Foods rich in Tryptophan – like turkey, pumpkin seeds, nuts, and eggs – also help the body produce serotonin.  Get a good dose of Omega-3 proteins – salmon, sardines, anchovies. EPA and DHA play a huge role in keeping you emotionally stable. Anthocyanins found in blueberries boost Dopamine. Chocolate! This isn’t just marketing. Dark chocolate has anandamide which is a pain blocker. So indulge because stressed spelled backwards really is desserts. (Within reason!)
  • Here Comes the Sun. Our bodies need Vitamin D. Serotonin levels rises with exposure to light. You can also get Vitamin D in some foods (salmon, egg yolks and mushrooms), but your best bet is to get out in the sun. So boost your mood with a boost of Vitamin D, and get out from underneath Charlie Brown’s cloud. Doctors recommend 20 minutes without sunscreen (sunblock will block the Vitamin D you so need!)

  • yay-5908424-digitalSidestep the Nutrition Landmines:
    Sugars and highly processed foods are toxic to our bodies and can crash our immune systems. Eating clean is one way to give our bodies the tools they need to stay strong.
  • Talk To your Health Care Provider: Stress is real, and sometimes we can feel like we’re buried in it. Discussing your stress and symptoms with your health care provider is incredibly important. You are not alone.

Exercise, nutrition, and a healthy lifestyle are the best ways to battle stress and its negative effects on our bodies. Be aware that the symptoms you are experiencing aren’t just a lingering cold or passing moment. Pay attention to your body, its needs, and find ways to battle chronic stress with diet and exercise!