by Eric Fishman, MD (also known as Dr. MONQ)
Many of us suffer from stress on a weekly, if not daily basis. It’s easy to turn to medication or therapy to try to solve this problem, and the benefits of these methods are undeniable. However, there are several easy changes you can make in your everyday life to improve your overall health and lower your susceptibility to stress.
You really are what you eat. Putting light, fresh, colorful foods into your body will give you an energized, bright, positive feeling; just as eating heavy, fatty, processed foods is likely to leave you feeling sluggish and foggy.
TARGET THE FOLLOWING ELEMENTS FOR A NATURAL MOOD AND BRAIN BOOST:
This chemical is precursor to serotonin, a “feel-good” chemical in your brain. It can be found in turkey, chicken, milk, cheese, bananas, oats, soy, nuts, peanut butter, and sesame seeds, to name a few.
A deficiency of this can lead to negative thoughts, so keep yourself positive and happy with beef, pork, chicken, leafy greens, legumes, oranges, rice, nuts, and eggs!
Carbohydrates increase serotonin production, so go for whole wheat pasta and bread.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Salmon, tuna, lake trout, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines all contain these brain function-boosting healthy fats. You can also take omega-3 supplements.
All proteins in general stimulate the production of norepinephrine (makes sure your brain and body are ready to spring into action) and dopamine (signals to your body when to be calm and content). Examples of protein-rich foods are Greek yogurt, fish, meats, cheese, eggs, nuts, beans, soy, and lentils.
SOME FOODS TO AVOID:
This inhibits serotonin and can lead to irritability. Its diuretic properties can also dehydrate you, making you more susceptible to negative thoughts and tension.
Eating a chocolate bar may feel good at first, but the sugar high is short lived and coming down from it can actually be similar to withdrawal.
This is a depressant and a diuretic, and like with sugar, the high is short-lived and the withdrawal is often not worth your while.
These are not the natural substances that your body is used to breaking down, and can either sit in your system for longer or just get stored as fat. Herbal supplements like cinnamon leaf, marjoram, and turmeric can also help promote a healthy gut as digestive aids and anti-inflammatories.
A good night’s sleep gives your brain a chance to recharge, which in turn can improve your focus and concentration the next day. Stress and poor sleep habits are a chicken-and-egg scenario: they perpetuate each other. For many people sleep is the easier component to tackle, so here are some tips for improving your sleep: Try to stay on a consistent sleep schedule—go to bed and wake up at similar times each day. This will help set your natural body clock and make it easier for you to feel tired and fall asleep at whatever time is appropriate for you. Make your bedroom a quiet, dark, comfortable environment that you use for sleeping only. Consider a sound machine or a fan for some white noise if you aren’t used to silence. Do relaxing things before bed. Avoid caffeine and artificial light (from television, computers, smartphones) and instead drink green tea or read a book.
Thanks to a certain 2001 romantic comedy, we all know that “exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” Endorphins are natural painkillers, so Elle Woods was right. In addition, the fatigue from a good workout (especially in the fresh air) can help you sleep better at night. Don’t worry, you don’t have to drop everything and become a gym rat. Research has suggested that even a 10-minute walk can help relieve stress as well as a 45-minute workout. However, federal guidelines recommend that adults get at least “150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) each week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity (such as brisk walking or tennis), 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) each week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity (such as jogging or swimming laps), [or] an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity.”
Talk to People
Surrounding yourself with people who love and support you is a crucial part of maintaining positivity in your life; we all have moments of weakness and need others to rely on. Evolutionarily, humans are social creatures, so there is a scientific explanation for why we crave company. Friends and family can be just as good as counselors–trusting people makes us feel good. Plus, you never know–maybe someone is having a problem that you can help with!
Make time each day to just sit and check in with your body and your mind—put yourself in time-out! Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and escape from the craziness of your surroundings.