For many, fall means a fresh start. Whether we’re heading back to school, work or taking on another new endeavor, there are often feelings of anticipation and excitement. But with any new beginning, there can be the potential for stress and anxiety.
Before stress rears its ugly head, take the initiative to reduce stress and protect your body. There are a number of smart and positive choices we can make to greatly improve our happiness, mood and outlook.
Eat healthy: A balanced and nutritious diet will do wonders for the body, mind and soul. Be sure to include fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, monounsaturated fats (e.g. olive oil, nuts and avocado) and polyunsaturated fats (e.g. fish oil, safflower oil and sunflower oil). Polyunsaturated fats are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that have been medically proven to support and strengthen the nervous system and brain, and in some cases may reduce symptoms of depression. There’s a reason fish food is called “brain food.” It’s also important to stay away from sugar and processed flour, which can cause more stress on the body. Sugar and processed flour deplete the adrenal glands responsible for producing hormones that help stabilize blood sugar, and manage stress and anxiety. Drink plenty of water. Water is needed for every function in the body, including digestion, detoxification, absorption, healing and mental clarity. Also, drink alcohol in moderation. While it’s tempting to unwind with a drink, alcohol can prolong stress in the body and make you feel worse.
Exercise: A natural stress buster, exercise produces endorphins, “feel-good” brain chemicals that lift our mood and reduce anxiety. Exercise is a great outlet for stress and allows us to gather a new perspective on life. There are of course numerous physical benefits from exercise, which can help boost energy, burn fat, promote better sleep and strengthen our immune system. Even moderate exercise – walking for 20 minutes, biking for an hour, or even low intensity yoga, a Zumba class or Tai Chi can lower stress and anxiety.
Friendship and personal support network: A network of friends, family and others who are there to support and listen to us can have a big impact on reducing stress. Having strong friendships and family ties has shown in numerous clinical studies to bring great health benefits. Among the studies that demonstrate the benefits of a supportive social network is one that the National American Medical Association published in 2009. In the 1950s, a team of researches went to visit Roseto, PA, where almost all of the residents were either from, or first-generation descendants of, the village of Roseto, Italy. Residents of Roseto, PA were remarkably disease free and living long lives despite not eating a particularly health diet, not exercising and smoking. The Researchers concluded that the strong social ties in the tight-knit Pennsylvania town enabled the people to live long lives and stay healthy.
Supplements: There are a range of supplements and herbs that optimize dietary nutrients and relive stress and anxiety. As mentioned above, omega-3 fatty acids consumed through fish and certain plant oils have tremendous benefits. Taking high-quality fish oil supplements and high quality herbal, vitamin and mineral supplements can bring further value. It’s important to note that the quality and purity of supplements vary immensely from one manufacturer to another- and ingesting low quality supplements provides little to no health benefits. Be sure to check with your medical practitioner to determine which supplements are best. Natural remedies can also ease stress and anxiety, including Relexagen, a synthesis of herbs first used in Asia during the third century that more recently has been proven to alleviate anxiety and induce calm.
Stress and anxiety come with life. Especially, when we’re trying to balance work, family, school and many other activities.
The key is to remain educated and aware of the options available to us that not only reduce stress and anxiety, but help us make the right choices to keep ourselves healthy – and keep ourselves happy.
Steve Bernardi is a registered compounding pharmacist and co-owner of Johnson Compounding and Wellness Center in Waltham.