10 Tips To Manage Your Stress

Photo credit: Victor Garcia

Photo credit: Victor Garcia

Chronic stress, whether it’s physical, chemical, or emotional, burns through nutrients and steals them from other needs your body has.

Chronic stress can lead to nutrient insufficiency and deficiency over time. This can cause imbalances in your body, and symptoms and health problems follow.

  1. Examples of physical stress include restricted diets, over exercise, and physical trauma

  2. Examples of chemical stress include prescription medications, environmental pollutants, pesticides and processed foods

  3. Examples of emotional stress include personal, financial, and work related concerns

Stress is a complex phenomenon and everyone has their own tolerance for it. Your stress response is triggered by a variety of factors, like the examples noted above. When you are exposed to ongoing stress, it becomes chronic.

Your body responds to stress by initiating a series of reactions that effect your behavior, nervous system function, the secretion of hormones, and cause other physical and chemical changes.

Your body doesn’t differentiate between the different kinds of stress, these changes happen regardless of where your stress comes from. In fact, chronic psychological stress is associated with the body losing its ability to regulate its inflammatory response, and this can promote the development and progression of disease.

All of the extra work your body does while under stress uses more fuel, and that fuel is in the form of nutrients.

You can support the needs of your body and help it cope with stress by nourishing it. Eating whole, real foods and not restricting foods, food groups and categories of foods has powerful stress reducing benefits. It can improve brain function, strengthen your immune system, improve circulation and lower blood pressure, and lower levels of toxins in your body.

Nutrients your body needs to respond to stress include complex carbohydrates, protein, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin C, vitamin E, B vitamins, magnesium, selenium, zinc, calcium, iron, and antioxidant nutrients. These nutrients play MANY roles in your body in addition to helping you cope with stress, so make sure to include foods rich in these nutrients in your diet.

Stress also adversely affects the gut and can lead to leaky gut and imbalanced gut flora, so addressing gut health is an important cornerstone of a comprehensive stress management protocol because if you can’t digest, absorb, and use nutrients from the foods you eat, eating the right foods won’t matter much, nor will it help reduce your stress levels.

In addition to nourishing your body and restoring your gut health, there are strategies you can implement to help manage stress to prevent the detrimental effects it can have. Find strategies that work for you, everyone is different. Techniques to relax your mind and body include:

  1. Stop hyper-focusing on your health problems. Now. What we think we manifest. I’ve experienced this personally and see it in my clients.

  2. Write/journal about your stressful experiences for about 10-15 minutes per day. Getting them out of your head and on paper can help. Once they are on paper, read them back to yourself. Some may not even seem realistic once you read it back. For those that are list ways you may better cope with each of them. Develop your solutions.

  3. Keep a daily list of 3 or more things that happen each day that made it a good day. Some days this may be easy. Other days it may be simply that you got out of bed, or did your laundry. Always look for the positives.

  4. Express your feelings. It’s ok to talk, cry, laugh or express anger. Talk to friends, family or a professional about your feelings.

  5. Do what you enjoy. Set aside some time each day to do something just for you. Your favorite hobby, exercise, volunteer work, spending time with animals, spending time in nature, arts and crafts. This is not selfish, this is feeding your soul with the fuel you need to be a better person so that you can be there and show up for those that need you.

  6. Be present. Living in the past causes depression and living in the future leads to anxiety. Meditation focuses your attention on the present. Anything that allows you to be present is meditation. Whether you meditate cross-legged and chant “om” or can get into the zone during a cardio session at the gym, find your method for being present and do it regularly (most days if not every day).

  7. Relax your body with exercise.

  8. Try breathing techniques, massage, tai chi, or yoga.

  9. Find a favorite online mentor. Look to Facebook or YouTube for motivational people and videos, find someone you connect with and subscribe to their feed. A daily dose of positive, professional motivation does a body, and mind, good.

  10. Put your phone away more often, and keep it on vibrate/turn the sound off. Being tied at the hip to our mobile devices creates a state of hypervigilance, which can lead to anxiety and stress.

5 Ways To Incorporate Exercise

Photo credit: Bruno Nascimento

Photo credit: Bruno Nascimento

Jennifer Caryn Brand Nutrition addresses your health and wellness holistically. That means in addition to addressing underlying imbalances in your biochemistry that can be contributing to your health problems and working with you to create your customized optimal diet and nutrient supplementation plan, we need to look at lifestyle factors such as exercise for overall balance.

Exercise is important. It can help reduce stress, it keeps your body healthy, and it can help manage your health conditions. If you don’t currently exercise, start slow and work up to these recommendations (Table 1).

  1. YouTube has some awesome short and fun videos you can do in your own home, just search for your favorite type of exercise (yoga, pilates, stretching, tai chi, abs, etc.).

  2. Going for a walk is always an option.

  3. Look into your local YMCA or community college. Many have indoor swimming pools you can use year round.

  4. Join a local gym.

  5. Get your best friend or neighbor on board as your workout buddy and keep each other motivated, whether your exercise together or just hold each other accountable for doing it. 

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Need more assistance? Contact me today so we can craft your customized lifestyle plan.

How To Stay Healthy During The Holidays

Photo credit: Julia Gomelsky

Photo credit: Julia Gomelsky

Are you nervous about the holidays and your diet?

I get asked often to provide tips on how to stay on track during the holidays.

Of course, we can:

  • Not show up at holiday parties starving by having a healthy snack beforehand

  • Fill up at the veggie tray at the party, and eat your vegetables first

  • Chew thoroughly and eat slowly

  • If drinking alcohol, alternate with water (stay hydrated!)

  • Pay attention to your satiety (fullness) cues and stop before you are uncomfortably full

  • Go for a walk after dinner with friends/family

  • Enjoy your favorite treats in moderation

This is not news, right? We know what we are supposed to do.

My tip to you for the holidays is this:

Holiday time is wrought with stress and anxiety, and worrying about losing control around food only increases that stress and anxiety. This is no fun, and bad for your health. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that indulging may actually be the healthier option.

During the holidays we take the opportunity to spend more time connecting with loved ones, and often it’s around food. Give yourself permission to enjoy the experience! If you want to indulge, indulge.

If anyone asks, tell them your nutritionist said it was ok (your nutritionist also says to remember to take into account your health conditions and known diet related needs).

Once things don’t feel forbidden, there’s no guilt, and you become more in tune with your body’s hunger and fullness cues (and naturally less likely to way overdo it).

Hear it straight from me!

Happy holidays!
Your partner in health,
Jennifer, MPH, MS, CNS
Functional and Clinical Nutritionist