Many of us lead busy and stressful lives. We are juggling a 9-5 job, kids, and spouse/significant other. Somewhere in there we try to squeeze in fitness, meal preparation, and personal time to unwind. There just seems to not be enough hours in the day! So how do we get it all done? How do we possibly find 30 minutes to an hour a day for the gym or meal prep to lead a healthy lifestyle? Unfortunately, there are no simple answers. But there are things we can do when it comes to stress management and even nutrition, which is often overlooked in this equation, to provide us that extra needed boost to get it all done!
The best time to relax is when you don’t have time for it. Seems a bit strange, right? Often times we associate rest with a vacation, which only happens once or twice a year for most people. The ideal way to rest and de-stress is to build in recovery to your daily routine. There are many ways to do this that doesn’t take up too much time during the day nor does it require you to actually sleep or go on vacation. But before we get into how to build in rest and recovery to your daily routine, let’s get into a bit about why doing this is important to your physical, mental, and emotional health.
The way our brain functions is to divide stress and recovery into two different categories: Sympathetic activity (fight or flight) and Parasympathetic activity (rest and digest). As you can imagine, the vast majority of us spend way too much time in the sympathetic category for all the reasons I listed above. Whether it is work stress, traffic, bills, relationships and all other stressors in our daily lives that tosses us into the “fight or flight” response, when we are in a chronic state of stress our daily internal bodily functions are affected in a negative way. Functions like digestion, liver metabolism and detoxification, cell repair, immune function, and reproduction are adversely affected. Essentially we end up with:
- Depression, sleep issues, food cravings
- Poor blood sugar management
- Reduced metabolism
So what can we do to combat this cascade of negative, stress-related results? The key is to find a healthy balance of rest and recovery to help reduce stress and provide your brain with the reset it needs. In order to do this, it is important to find activities that will help create your own parasympathetic state. There are luckily all sorts of activities to help do this that don’t take up very much time at all but have a great and positive impact.
- Yoga and Pilates
- Spa Treatments
- Reading in a quiet place for 20-30 minutes
- Zone out while drinking a warm cup of tea
- Bath and candles or soothing music
What about nutrition? What do we all crave when we are stressed and exhausted? I bet you guessed right…..junk/comfort food. Our brain craves that instant gratification. Although this can be very hard to avoid when all the signals your brain is sending is to reach for that comfort food to make you feel better, the best thing to do in this situation is to eat a balanced diet. Eating a balanced diet is the perfect stress-buster. Why is that? This is because foods such as fiber-rich foods have been associated with high levels of alertness and known to help decrease stress. Additionally, fruits and veggies contain essential vitamins and minerals such as Vitamins A, C and E and minerals such as zinc and copper which all work to combat against harmful molecules produced when under stress. So instead of reaching for that slice of pizza or pint of Ben and Jerrys ice cream (that’s what I tend to reach for), reach for foods like oatmeal, nuts, beans, leafy greens, and fruits such as blueberries. Blueberries tend to have a steady release of sugar into your blood stream which will provide you with that natural energy boost!
All this to say to eat a balanced diet with a healthy amount of fiber, fruits, and vegetables and to set aside some time for daily rest and relaxation. All of these things will definitely help with stress, energy, and overall health.