On the whole everyone is pretty stressed out at the moment. Over the past year there has been a great focus on mental health awareness and many famous women have come forward to speak about the importance of looking after your mental health… but where are the men?
New research by Cambridge University has shown that while women are more likely to seek treatment for anxiety, men tend to wait longer before seeking help or not getting any treatment at all.
In a rare interview with GQ magazine, Ryan Reynolds spoke about his own experiences with anxiety,
When it (Deadpool) finally ended, I had a little bit of a nervous breakdown. I literally had the shakes. I went to go see a doctor because I felt like I was suffering from a neurological problem or something. And every doctor I saw said, “You have anxiety.” I say this with the caveat that I completely recognize the ridiculously fortunate position that I am in. But the attention is hard on your nervous system—that might be why I live out in the woods.
Robbie Williams and Peter Andre have also been quite open about their struggles with anxiety and the importance of looking after yourself.
If you’ve been feeling a little stressed recently, don’t worry, we’ve asked our experts for some simple changes to help ease your daily anxieties:
1 Up Your Serotonin Levels
If you suffer with anxiety it is incredibly important to boost your feel good hormone, serotonin, whenever you can.
Dr Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading nutritionist, and Author of ‘Natural Alternatives to Sugar’ (Amazon, £7.17), explains how a simple change in your diet can work wonders:
The body makes serotonin from tryptophan, which occurs naturally in foods such as dairy products, fish, bananas, dried dates, soya, almonds and peanuts. The manufacture of serotonin depends on how much tryptophan is transported into your brain. Combining the foods mentioned above with unrefined carbohydrates, such as brown rice, wholemeal bread or oats, helps the body to release insulin to help tryptophan uptake to the brain. A good example would be to kick start your day with eggs and wholemeal toast for breakfast.
2 Know When To Say No
When you are getting pulled in a million different directions it can quickly become overwhelming. Make sure you prioritise the most central thing in your life, your health. Marilyn says:
If you feel the symptoms of stress coming on, learn to get your priorities right. There is nothing in your life right now more important than your health. Learn to say no if you feel that you have taken on too much.
3 Get in your Omega 3
Diet is one of the easiest ways to nourish your brain and body. Shona Wilkinson, nutritionist at Superfood UK, explains:
Oily fish contains DHA, which contributes toward brain health; research has also shown that the omega three found in oily fish helps in reducing anxiety. Anxiety is something which is often peaking at the end of a busy day so by eating this omega rich meal you will be helping to support your body through this period.
4 Top up on Magnesium
Experts claim Magnesium is the most important minerals for ‘relaxing’ nerves and muscles. It is essential for the normal functioning of the nervous system. It is also a mineral that many of us can be deficient in. Cassandra says:
Many of us live hectic, stressful lives, and are more exposed to environmental and food toxins, which can make us more prone to a magnesium deficiency. Try to include dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, whole grains and bananas in your diet, which are all rich in magnesium. Alternatively, to make sure you’re getting your daily dose I would recommend taking Natures Plus KalmAssure Magnesium Powder (£24.50, www.naturesplus.co.uk), which are very easy to absorb and easily delivered to the tissues. You will see the difference after 3 months
5 Balance your blood sugar
Erratic sugar levels could be behind heightened levels of anxiety and may even prompt an anxiety attack, Marilyn explains:
Balancing blood sugar is essential in lowering stress because the crashes in sugar levels which happen through the day (due to long periods without food and not eating the right foods) stimulates the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol to be released.
Ensure you have a small meal every 2-3 hours that contains protein (eat breakfast, lunch and dinner plus a snack mid morning and one mid afternoon). For example, a hard-boiled egg, 10-12 almonds, a small can of tuna and brown rice. This will stop those roller-coaster highs and cravings for sweet foods. Because your blood sugar isn’t allowed to drop, your body will no longer have to ask you for a quick fix. As your blood sugar steadies, so will your mood swings – reduced adrenaline levels will automatically make you feel happier and calmer inside and feel less stressed.
6 Pump some iron
One of the easiest ways to manage your stress levels is to get your heart rate up with exercise. Chris Sweeney, the Co Founder of the new fitness app, Fitssi, says:
Make sure that exercise is part of your daily life, even if it’s a brisk half hour walk every day. Exercise helps reduce excessive muscular and mental energy, whilst releasing endorphins (‘happy hormones’) that calm the body and the mind. Exercise also improves hormone regulation and may burn stress hormones. Regular exercise will also improve your breathing, especially if you are being consciously aware of your breath whilst exercising.
7 Clean away the caffeine
You might be craving that espresso to wake you up in the morning or get you through an afternoon slump, but it might be doing more damage than you think if are feeling anxious. Marilyn explains:
Caffeine is a stimulant, which prompts your body to release the stress hormones making you feel more stressed and jittery than you should be. Caffeine is addictive. Tea and coffee act like a drug. As the effect of the caffeine wears off, you will want another one and then you are back on that roller coaster again of highs and lows, exactly like the highs and lows of blood sugar. If you add sugar to the tea or coffee the roller coaster highs will be higher and the lows lower making you feel even more stressed.
8 Cut out the junk
There are plenty of reasons as to why processed food is called “junk” food – Around two thirds of people tend to eat more during stressful periods! Do we have proof of this stat? When we are under stress, many of us go for sugary or high fat comfort foods to counteract tension. Shona says:
You are what you eat’ is very relevant when it comes to anxiety and your food choices can make a massive difference to how you feel and function.
Food is not just about calories, and the more fresh it is and the less processed it is, the better it is for you all round. Avoid processed foods, additives, artificial sweeteners, sugars, white flours and refined carbohydrates. Also ideally eliminate or at least reduce alcohol and caffeine intake. Nourish yourself with fresh, wholesome, ideally home-made food, ensuring a good balance of protein, good quality carbohydrates, beneficial fats and oils
9 Vitamin B
Another vitamin that can help you keep a level head is vitamin B, Shona says:
We often can’t prevent the stresses of life, but we can influence our reaction to it. Take a B complex daily, as the B vitamins are water-soluble and if you’re not consuming them daily, through your diet and/or supplementation, you will just miss out on them. The B vitamins folate (B9), niacin (B3), thiamine (B1) and vitamin B6 (and also vitamin C) all contribute to normal psychological function, having an impact on how we feel.
10 Take a minute
With the abundance of mindfulness apps on the market it is easy to take a quiet 5-minute break with a little bit of meditation. Shona explains:
Meditation is now gaining mainstream recognition through scientific research for its ability to reduce stress. Those in stressful jobs or situations can benefit enormously from meditative practice. It can be done anywhere, such as on the bus or train into work and even 5 minutes can be helpful to clear your mind and feel refreshed.