5 Super Stress-Busters

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These five simple health and lifestyle changes will help you reduce your stress levels. Being in a perpetual state of stress can lead to serious health problems, both physical and psychological.

Cortisol is often referred to as the stress hormone because levels increase in times of stress with the body’s fight or flight response. While normal levels of cortisol are useful, excess quantities can lead to high blood pressure and blood sugar imbalance. In times of extended stress, the cortisol levels remain dangerously high for extended periods.

1.    Reward and pamper – Regular light exercise will do wonders to lower stress levels, so block out the time for a 30 minute walk, swim or cycle at least three times a week. Relaxation techniques of yoga, meditation and massage help to release beta-endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that make you feel calm. A weekly massage or yoga class is a great habit to start and will help to lower cortisol levels.

2.    Start right – Researchers in Wales recently found that having breakfast regularly is associated with a reduction in stress levels and improved health. People in the trial who ate cereals and grains for breakfast had lower levels of cortisol. Start the day with whole grain cereal and/or bread and some protein like eggs or milk.

3.    Early to bed… – Working late into the night can increase your weight. The stress of several long days in a row causes the cortisol to spike, and cortisol stimulates hunger. While you are working, you are also more likely to grab snack food on the run rather than eat a proper healthy meal.

4.    Fish food – Eat cold water fish like tuna and salmon several times a week. Swiss researchers found that when they fortified the diet with the omega3 fatty acids found in fish, the cortisol levels were unchanged while stress tests were performed. The placebos’ cortisol levels increased by 30%.

5.    Don’t just sit there – An Australian study showed that people who sat for more than six hours a day as a requirement of their job, were more likely to become overweight. The answer here is to take regular breaks from the desk every couple of hours. Stand up and do some stretches to relieve back, neck and shoulder tension. Take a walk around the hallways; go outside and gulp in lungfuls of fresh air, invest in a ten minute brisk walk at lunchtime – and make sure you have a light, nutritious lunch.

Stress affects your work, relationships and health – three good reasons to put these five simple stress-busters into your life.