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stress busting 101

29th November 2017 by Jess

Arm yourself against the long term effects of stress with these relaxation and self-care strategies from our nutritionist Jess.

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Taking time in your day where you deliberately hit the pause button on everyone and everything else, is one of the best health investments you can make. It makes you stronger, kinder to yourself and others, more understanding and a far more balanced version of yourself.

Jess, graze nutritionist

Whether you are directly affected by stress or not, at some point in your life, the chances are that financial, emotional or physical stress will present themselves in one way or another.

When we experience a stressful event or we’re going through a stressful period, our entire biochemistry changes in a very specific way to keep us alive, safe and well. Our stress response commonly referred to as "fight or flight” is activated and the body shunts the flow of blood from the digestive system and other 'non-essential' processes to the limbs. It also floods the body with adrenalin: a (historically) short-term stress hormone that will jolt you into action. Adrenalin is the high alert hormone - it makes you hyper alert to anything that might be dangerous in your surroundings.

With digestion no longer a priority in times of stress, our body's capacity for absorbing nutrients is compromised. In times of stress, our nutrient requirements are actually increased, so promoting good digestion becomes vitally important.

Here are some ways to look after your health and your body in times of distress.

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Prepare yourself a smoothie or heart-warming soup, crammed full of nutrients

Smoothies or soups are loaded with vitamins, minerals and good fats and can make you feel instantly so much better. Take your time to stop and savour it. Try a supercharged green smoothie with spinach, coconut water, cashew nuts, frozen banana and your favourite protein powder, or try a green soup with broccoli, sundried tomatoes, coconut oil and stock.

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Get more nervous system-supportive nutrients

Making sure we eat well – whole foods, loads of vegetables – and minimising our intake of caffeine, alcohol, refined sugars and trans fats (all of which put added pressure on our body systems) will be highly beneficial.

Magnesium, potassium, copper, vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6, B7 and vitamin C are required for nervous system support. Great food sources of these nutrients are nuts and seeds and wholegrains such as oats found in granola and porridge.

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Take 20 deep breaths

Good quality sleep is essential to help repair and restore the body during times of stress.

Doing everything you can to promote a good sleep cycle is one of the best things you can do for ourselves during a period of stress. Try communicating to your body that it's okay to relax. Science tells us the best way to do this is through long, slow diaphragmatic breathing. A daily routine of taking 20 long, slow breaths into your belly, or pausing regularly to focus on your breath for a few minutes, can help make a difference to your body's ability to relax enough into a deep sleep.

Any restorative practice like yoga, tai chi, qi gong or meditation will also help to balance our nervous system out which, in turn, will help to restore our sleep.

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Wake 30 minutes earlier than your household

Boil the kettle, make yourself a cup of your favourite hot drink and find a comfortable spot where you can sit, set your intentions for the day and ease yourself gently into the morning.

Do this for a week and notice how much more calm you feel and what a difference it makes to your days, weeks and years.

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Try apple cider vinegar

Taking a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice in warm water 10-20 minutes before eating can help boost stomach acid and improve digestion.

Include apple cider vinegar in your salad dressing as well as before meals.

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Enjoy a 15 minute meditation before bed

Allowing your body to transition from a hectic day to a restful sleep can be made smoother with a simple 15 minutes meditation or breathing exercise.

Lie in Savasana, with your arms by your side, or sit supported in a chair, whatever you prefer – there is no right or wrong way to do it. Breathe into and out of the nose and focus on the breath.

If you need some guidance with the meditation, there are so many amazing guided meditation videos available online. Use them to help you find what works for you. Try this for a week to see what a difference it makes to the quality of your sleep.

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Walk barefoot on the beach or on the grass

If you’re lucky enough to live close to a beach or near some outdoor space, perhaps some woodlands or a park, this is a beautiful ritual to do regularly. The sound of the breeze rustling the leaves of the trees, the water crashing against the rocks or the birds flying in the sky. It’s a great way to feel grounded and connected to the earth. It’s also a great way to process things you may need some extra space to consider.

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Draw or write in a journal

Journals are a great place for reflection, to jot down everything that’s going on in your mind and getting it down on paper. Having a mind dump on paper also allows you to unlock your conscious thoughts, which can help you get clarity on situations.

If you’re new to journalling, start off writing your goals for the day, 3 things you’re grateful for, 3 things you’re excited about and what went well yesterday.

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Light a scented candle

Some people adore candles, other people just don't get them.

For me, I love the light they give, it’s soft and creates such a relaxing ambiance. Lighting them when you get home from work in the evening can help to create that transition from work to relax.

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Book yourself two hours over the weekend

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when the last person you allocate time to is yourself. Allocating time out will allow you to recharge and refocus for the next week – but also give you more energy to care for those around you.

Everybody gets ‘recharged’ in different ways - figure out what tops up your energy tank and schedule it into the diary.

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Enjoy a cuppa and catch up with a good friend

Catching up with a friend can be all the soul nourishment you need, especially when you allow yourselves the undistracted time to sit, listen and laugh. Creating a space without mobile phones, and where you're free from other other distractions - some laughter and a familiar face is one of the best ways to feel uplifted.

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By Jess, graze nutritionist.

Our nutritionist extraordinaire, Jess trained at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition and is a registered practitioner with the British Association for Applied Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She's the creator of our health badges, to help you choose the snacks and boxes that are right for you. Check out everything from Jess on our blog, with recipes and tricks to help you keep making better choices, or go to Jess's blog at jessipes.co.uk for even more.

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