Relieving Stress & Anxiety with Nutrition & Exercise

November 29, 2011


‘1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in any given year.’ by Mind

Women who work full-time and have children under 13 report the greatest stress worldwide.

Nearly one in four mothers who work full-time and have children under 13 feel stress every day.

Globally, 23% of women executives and professionals and 19% of their male peers say they feel ‘super-stressed.’

The mind and body as one

When the mind feels an emotion, the body creates a reaction. For example, when we feel embarrassed, our face may flush red as blood surges to the surface of the skin, without our control. Unfortunately when we feel negative or distressing emotions, our body produces unhealthy reactions by releasing stress hormones, suppressing the optimal functioning of organs and systems in the body, such as the immune and digestive system, and causing tension and rigidity in muscles and joints leading to pain and poor function. If the body is bombarded with stress related stimulus for a prolonged period of time or at frequent intervals, our risk of suffering chronic conditions and disease is significantly increased. This in part, is caused by an imbalance in the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems that are vital to the health and optimal function of the human body. Modern day living is becoming faster and faster paced, people are working longer hours, have more responsibilities and live in times of uncertainty. Thankfully there are steps we can take to help us cope and our bodies better function.


- Follow a low GI diet and keep blood sugars steady. When blood sugar levels dip too low, adrenal hormones begin to rise.

- Reduce caffeine and stimulants in the diet, especially in the evening. Let the nerves calm and allow the body to unwind and recover from the day. Studies have shown coffee drinkers take twice as long to fall asleep and sleep on average 2 hours less a night than non coffee drinkers.

- Avoid alcohol as although it initially relaxes the body, feelings of anxiety are merely temporarily suppressed and after-effects of alcohol can enhance and even create feelings of stress and anxiety.

- Folic acid, B6, Vitamin C and Tryptophan are nutrients that create the building blocks for the brain to make serotonin. Tryptophan can be found in chicken, cheese, tuna, tofu, eggs, nuts, seeds and milk. Eating these foods and nutrients can help control anxiety and stress levels and induce good sleeping habits. Lettuce and oats are also associated with inducing sleep.

- Supplementation of a multi-vitamin that contains 200mg folic acid, 20mg of vitamin B6, 10mg of Zinc and 100mg of Vitamin C can supply the brain with the nutrients it needs to turn Tryptophan into Serotonin and Melatonin. But all of these nutrients can be sourced from foods in the diet if preferred.

- Calcium and magnesium are minerals that calm. Magnesium can be found in almonds, cashew nuts, brewer’s yeast, buckwheat, brazil nuts, peanuts, pecan nuts, cooked beans, garlic, raisins, green peas, potato skin and crab, Calcium rich foods are real dairy products, almonds, brewer’s yeast, parsley, globe artichoke, prunes, pumpkin seeds, cooked dried beans, cabbage and seafood.

- The herb commonly known as Valerian, can be useful for sleep disorders, nervous over activity and anxiety.

- The chamomile flower, Matricaria recutita, is a mild sedative and relaxant and can help ease mild anxiety and nervous stress that can be associated with indigestion, inflamed skin and poor sleep. Drink a cup an hour before bed. Chamomile tea can be given to children from 6 months upwards to encourage relaxation and sleep during episodes of change such as teething.

- Exercise and yoga can help reduce levels of stress and anxiety and improve sleep quality. Avoid exercise late in the evening as this can energise the body and make it harder to sleep. Stretching and relaxing forms of yoga, pilates and movement therapy can also be calming, reduce muscle tension, release toxins helping reduce pain, inflammation and promote recovery.

This Forward Bend calms the brain and eases stress and mild depression.It reduces fatigue and anxiety. Physical benefits include that it stimulates the liver, kidneys and improves digestion. It can help relieve headaches and insomnia, and symptoms associated with the menopause. The pose stretches the hamstrings, calves and hips whilst strengthening the quads and knees. It also has theraputic applications for high blood pressure, asthma, infertility, osteoporosis, and sinusitus.

Hellmut W.A Karle, ‘Hypnotherapy a Practical Handbook.’

Patrick Holford & Jerome Burne, ‘Food is better medicine than drugs.’

Michael Heap and Windy Dryden, ‘Hypnotherapy – a handbook.’

Patrick Holford, ‘The Optimum Nutrition Bible.’

James Wong, ‘Grow your own Drugs.’

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