We’ve all been in a place when life suddenly turns into chaos and the stress is palpable. Perhaps it’s a wedding, a new baby, a new job, a death in the family or a move; regardless of the source of stress, our body feels it’s impact greatly.
Staying healthy during times of stress can be very difficult, especially if we are mourning a loss or are incredibly busy prepping for a family event, move to a new home or new product launch at work. Often priorities become skewed and we aren’t taking care of ourselves the way we normally do.
There are some simple ways you can nourish yourself during times of high stress. Below you’ll find some general lifestyle tips, but also some herbal remedies and ideas for staying healthy and strong during stressful times.
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I don’t know about you, but poor food choices go hand in hand with stress for me. Especially if I am dealing with an emotional stress load – I eat my feelings big time! However it is important to remember that food is the fuel that nourishes our body. Just like a car, your body can only run on what it is given. Copious amounts of sugar, refined foods, trans fats and take out meals, will eventually deplete your energy levels and your immunity. If your stressful period is during the winter months, compromised immunity is one of the last things you want to deal with. Here are some tips to make food manageable.
I can’t recommend this enough! Cooking is far less stressful if you know what you’re cooking. Plan our your meals, even if they are simple ones, and your life will be much smoother. Check out my post on meal planning on a budget and find out how we take the stress out of home cooking.
When you do find time to cook, make larger serving portions than normal. That way you can freeze another two or three portions and consider dinner done for the future. One of my favourite sayings is “my family always eats home-cooked food, but I don’t always cook”. Freezer meals have saved me more times than I can count.
Ask for Help
If you need freezer meals and don’t have the time or motivation to do it yourself; ask for help. We’ve all needed help at one time or another and there is no shame in that. And when your workload lightens you can return the favour to a friend in need.
Eat Nourishing Foods
Here are some of my favourite nourishing foods in no particular order.
- water (it is vital you stay hydrated my friend)
- bone broth
- fermented foods (sauerkraut, kefir etc.)
- green veggies (shove them in a smoothie if you have to)
- vitamin C loaded foods (citrus, berries, bell peppers, tomatoes, broccoli etc)
- sweet potatoes (check out my sweet potato soup recipe here)
- eggs – preferably farm fresh 😉
- seeds, nuts and legumes
- foods rich in essential fatty acids (like salmon or coconut based products)
Foods to Avoid
I know, I know… I’m listing all the things you want to eat right now. If you have cravings try to eat them in moderation, ensuring that most of your calories come from the above list.
- refined sugar
- caffeine in excessive amounts
- greasy or fatty foods (like french fries)
Rest, Relaxation & Me Time
I know it’s hard to put yourself first, trust me this is a daily struggle for me as well. But during times of stress we need to take care of ourselves; especially if we are expected to be a caregiver or support for others. It does our family little good if we are down and out with the flu or dealing with a bought of depression. Nip it in the bud and take care of yourself along the way.
First and foremost you must ensure you are getting enough sleep. If it means having to bow out of obligations or miss your favourite late night TV show, then you must. Sleep is often underappreciated as a nourishing and healing practice, but it is vital to keeping our bodies strong and healthy. Sleep deprivation leads to mood swings, an inability to control our emotions, reduced immunity and difficulty focusing.
I have written about the importance of hobbies before and I will say it again; having something that isn’t related to family or work is vital to emotional and mental health. Even if you can only spend a few minutes a day doing something you love, than you should. Read a chapter in your book before bed, spend 15 minutes on that long-forgotten crochet project or play a video game. Whatever brings you joy, try to find a way to do it each day.
Time in Nature
There have been tons of studies done on the healing power of spending time in nature. Forest walking (or forest bathing as it is sometimes called) has become a therapeutic practice and for good reason. Time in nature helps to reduce our blood pressure and respiratory rate. It has been show to increase immunity and lift spirits. You will feel more centred and grounded; thereby giving you back some of the control you’ve lost during this difficult time. If the ground isn’t too cold, I highly recommend the practice of grounding/Earthing as well.
Go for a walk, take a yoga class, go for a hike or even do 25-30 jumping jacks. Whatever you choose to do, get moving! Physical exercise helps to keep our immunity up and our cardiovascular and respiratory systems healthy and functioning optimally.
Herbal & Natural Prescriptions
Nervines are herbs that help to tone, support and nourish the human nervous system. Some have a general relaxation effect and others have more specific actions like anti-depressant or anxiolytic (anxiety reducing). They can be taken in tea or tincture form, but in the case of stress I highly recommend tea. There is something about the act of drinking tea that is therapeutic itself.
Below I’ll list some of my favourite herbal nervines (this is not an exhaustive list) If blending your own tea seems overwhelming to you give me shout and I’ll hook you up with Hypnos (my anxiety/insomnia tea). 😉
Any herbs that have links will send you to detailed materia medica posts that I have done on these plants. I encourage you to do your own research before using a herb on yourself.
- Althaea officinalis – Marshmallow herb
- Astragalus membranaceus – Chinese Milkvetch root
- Avena sativa – Oatstraw herb
- Chamaemelum nobile – Roman chamomile herb
- Gingko biloba – Maidenhair tree leaf
- Glechoma hederacea – Ground ivy herb
- Humulus lupulus – Hops
- Hypericum perforatum – St. Johnswort herb
- Hyssopus officinalis – Hyssop herb
- Lavandula angustifolia – English lavender flowers
- Leonurus cardiaca – Motherwort herb
- Melissa officinalis – Lemon balm herb
- Mentha spicata – Spearmint herb
- Mentha x piperita – Peppermint herb
- Nepeta cataria – Catnip herb
- Passiflora incarnata – Passionflower herb
- Tanacetum parthenium – Feverfew herb
- Valeriana officinalis – Valerian root
More Herbal Awesomeness
Here are some of my favourite remedies. Most of these are designed for immunity building and I share these because this is likely what you are trying to avoid during this stressful time… getting sick.
Bach Flower Remedies
I could write paragraphs and paragraphs about my love for Bach Flower remedies. They are gentle and subtle in their work, but profound in their results. Below I’ll list some of my favourites with a very brief description. If you are interested in personalized blends you can contact me but for individual remedies you can click on the links to order them from Amazon.
- Rescue Remedy – general emergency/stress/trauma formula (a combination of five of Bach’s remedies)
- Hornbeam – mental weariness, temporary fatigue/exhaustion
- Olive – total exhaustion (more like Chronic Fatigue type symptoms)
- Wild Rose – apathetic, resigned to all that happens, indifferent
- Oak – struggles on despite exhaustion, hardship or against all odds
- Sweet Chestnut – extreme anguish, life has become unbearable
- Star or Bethlehem – shock and trauma from a sudden unexpected and overwhelming event
- Elm – overwhelmed, have bitten off more than you can chew
- Cherry Plum – fear of losing self control (physical, mental or emotional self control)
- Walnut – gives protection/consistency during major transition periods in our lives (here is my post on Walnut)
Vitamins and Supplements
We all try our best to get our nutrition through food, but sometimes that isn’t really possible. Especially when the demand for those nutrients are higher than normal; like during stressful periods. Here are some vitamins that would be handy to have in stock during times of upheaval, stress or turmoil.
Please note that I strongly recommend investing in high quality vitamins. The links are to products that I personally use and recommend. If you decide to go with other brands please know that you get what you pay for. If they are super cheap than they are likely not bio-available and therefore difficult or impossible for the body to absorb.
B vitamins are commonly known as the “anti-stress vitamins” and it is for this reason that I highly recommend them. This group of vitamins is essential for healthy brain and central nervous system functioning. Sourcing your body with a good B complex vitamin will help to soothe stress, increase resiliency and calm the central nervous system. This is the brand (AOR B Compelx) I use and recommend.
Vital for managing stress and maintaining optimal immune functioning. Vitamin C is necessary for our body to produce norepinephrine (a stress hormone and chemical messenger in the body) and it helps to suppress the production of cortisol. I like this brand (CanPrev Synergy C) and this brand the best (SISU Ester C Surpreme).
Did you know that magnesium is responsible for over 600 metabolic functions in your body? Even on a sharp day I can’t multi-task like that! Studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between stress levels and magnesium levels (people who are low are more susceptible to stress). Stress causes magnesium to be secreted through our urine, thereby depleting our body’s stores of it greatly. One of the ways magnesium helps with stress is by binding to and stimulating GABA receptors in the brain. This is the brand I use (CanPrev).
Found in highest concentrations in the brain, zinc is essential for modulating our response to stress. In fact, along with B6 it is a cofactor for the production of serotonin and is necessary for our body to produce GABA. It is also vital for a healthy immune system. I recommend using Trophic’s brand of zinc. In fact Trophic is my go-to brand for most minerals.
I hope you have found this article somewhat helpful during what is likely a difficult time. Take heart friend, as with all things in life, this too shall pass. But until it does, take care of yourself.
In good health,
P.S. Please pin for future reference and to share in the stress reducing love 😉