Whenever a client comes to see me to reduce stress or anxiety I always spend a bit of time looking at what they eat and drink.
Now, this comes as a surprise to some clients who think they are just coming to see meto sit in a chair with their eyes closed doing hypnosis.
The truth is that effective stress or anxiety management needs to include a range of tactics and techniques that the client can start to implement on a daily basis. The hypnotherapy that we do will play a big part in helping the client feel calmer, more relaxed or more confident, but we also need to make sure that their lifestyle complements the treatment.
Why do I need to eat a healthy diet?
Stressful situations trigger the fight or flight response, a physiological change that is designed to protect us against life or death situations. Our bodies are flooded with over 30 hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline, that are all preparing the body for the impending “danger”. We can usually cope well with short term stress, or acute stress, such as preparing for a presentation or having to deliver a best man’s speech. Once the “danger” has gone our body is able to relax again and we go back to a natural state of balance called homeostasis.
However, long term stress, or chronic stress, can have a significant impact on the functioning of our body. For example;
- Stress depletes nutrients in our body including calcium, magnesium, B vitamins and Zinc
- Stress depletes the immune system
- Stress causes people to crave unhealthy foods high in fat or sugar
Therefore to counteract the effects of chronic stress we need to eat a healthy, balanced diet that is rich in nutrients, but low in fat or sugar. The NHS recommend the Eatwell diet, based upon a Mediterranean diet. Research shows that this type of diet not only reduces stress but can also reduce the risk of depression. To help replace your depleted nutrients the NHS recommends that you follow a diet that:
- Is rich in fruits and vegetables
- Is high in (wholegrain) starchy carbohydrates eg pasta, rice, potatoes, bread
- Contains moderate amounts of dairy
- Includes protein mainly from beans, pulses and oily fish, and less from red and processed meats
- Is low in foods that are high in saturated fats, salt and sugar
Foods to make you feel great
The following foods are all healthy and nutritious and will help to combat the affects of stress.
Asparagus – contains folic acid which is great at boosting our mood and fighting depression.
Avocado – high in B vitamins which can reduce help with reducing anxiety as well as being high in potassium and monounsaturated fat, which can help to lower blood pressure.
Bananas – loaded with potassium which needs replacing when we are stressed.
Berries – contain vitamin C and antioxidants which help repair and protect cells that have been affected by stress.
Complex Carbohydrates – All carbs increase the production of serotonin but complex carbs such as whole-grain breads, pastas, and oatmeal are also great at stabilizing blood sugar levels.
Fish – a diet rich in omega-3 can help reduce cortisol and adrenaline levels when you’re feeling tense. One study showed a 20 percent reduction in anxiety among participants taking omega-3. For vegetarians there are a number of plant based sources of omega-3 including seeds, leafy greens, walnuts and beans.
Green Leafy Vegetables – spinach and swiss chard in particular are packed with magnesium, which can help to regulate cortisol levels and improve wellbeing. They are also rich in folate which helps your body produce serotonin and dopamine and improve your mood. Finally they are high in zinc, which helps maintain your immune system.
Milk – high in antioxidants, vitamins B2 and B12, which all need replacing when we are stressed. The potassium in milk can also help relieve muscle spasms triggered by feeling tense and calcium eases anxiety and mood swings linked to PMS.
Nuts – almonds in particular are high in vitamins B2 and E which can support the immune system during times of stress. Eating pistachios, walnuts, or almonds regularly can also help lower your cholesterol.
Oranges – Another great source of vitamin C which is known to lower blood pressure as well as cortisol levels.
Seeds – pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds all contain magnesium which can increase levels of serotonin, which helps to regulate emotions and enhance well-being. Seeds can also be high in zinc.
Turkey – Contains an amino acid call tryptophan which increases serotonin levels, which promotes calmness. Tofu, pumpkin seeds, nuts, and free-range eggs are also good sources of tryptophan.
Yoghurt – Research shows that fermented foods such as yoghurt, pickles, kimchi and sauerkraut contain beneficial bacteria which improves gut flora. This in turn improves anxiety symptoms.