There is very little you can do about the stress in your life. What you can do something about, however, is how you prepare your mind and body for it. The best buffer for it is healthy living. It will help protect you against the harmful effects of the chronic you deal with. Particularly when it comes to eating and exercising.
Nutrition to Stay Calm
• Skip the simple sugars and starches. Avoid Whites: Bread, noodles, sugars. The spike in blood sugar and insulin they cause, combined with high cortisol levels from reacting to stress, can trigger you to eat more junk as well as put you at risk of mod swings, brain/neuron damage, and diabetes. Try to find healthier alternatives.
• High Caffeine: They not only increase levels of certain stress hormones, but also mimic their effects in the body (increasing heart rate, for example).
• Fall in love with vegetables and fruits and other high-fiber foods. The nutrients they provide lend an extra dollop of protection against the immune-sapping effects of chronic stress. Eat protein and real grains in the am.
• Choose complex carbohydrates. Their steady release of sugar not only keeps your blood sugar levels steady, but also induces the brain to release more of the mood-enhancing chemical serotonin. When sugar levels in your blood stream plumit you are more apt to grab candy but if you have buffered with protein and real carbs you won't make this mistake.
If we were to make a list of the studies showing the benefits of exercise on reducing stress hormones, it would take hours to discuss.
Simply moving-walking, running, biking, swimming-changes the balance of stress hormones in the brain.
Studies suggest that by making the body stronger and healthier, exercise enhances your ability to respond to stress, preventing many of its negative effects such as anxiety, depression and heart disease. Regular exercise also helps flush out the byproducts of the body's stress response - those chemicals released in response to stressors -allowing you to return to a more balanced state quicker.
Then there are the meditative benefits of exercise. There is a "zone" you get into when you swim, or walk, or jog, an enhanced feeling of self-esteem that results from doing something you know is good for you and from seeing the physical results of that action, the social support if you're working out with a friend, and even the fact that physical activity improves your sleep and brain repair.
The Clark Institute: Private Practice Psychotherapy
for Children, Adolescents, and Adults
Matthew Clark, Psy.D.