Stress is a natural part of everyone’s life and can be good or bad for you, depending on the type of stress. The act of moving from one home to another is stressful but can be a very good thing. Having a baby is definitely stressful but worth every moment (I say this now). Training for an event or race is stressful but the results can be very rewarding. Stress from an illness, mourning the loss of a relationship, the death of a loved one, or losing something of great importance can be bad things. Experts agree that we can all do things to help alleviate stress naturally.
Exercise- Aerobic exercise boosts oxygen circulation and encourages your body to make feel-good chemicals called endorphins. I can personally attest to this form of stress-busting! I might be worn out physically but I always feel better mentally after a long ride or tough workout.
Healthy Diet- Healthy foods can help alleviate stress in many ways. Comfort foods, like a bowl of warm oatmeal, boost levels of serotonin, a calming brain chemical. Other foods can decrease levels of cortisol and adrenaline, stress hormones that breakdown the body over time. A healthy diet can counter the impact of stress, by boosting the immune system and lowering blood pressure. Complex carbs can also help you feel balanced by stabilizing blood sugar levels. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish such as salmon and tuna, can prevent surges in stress hormones and may help protect against heart disease, mood disorders like depression, and PMS.*
Quality Sleep- Use deep breathing exercises before you go to sleep. Breathe in slowly for five counts and out for five counts. Continue to do this for a few minutes. Breathing slowly helps to reduce your heart rate and decrease your stress. Aim for at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep to help regenerate your body and your mind.
Sunshine- Head outside and get plenty of natural sunlight, especially in the winter, to boost levels of serotonin-a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep, memory, and mood.
Supplements- Almonds are full of helpful vitamins: vitamin E to bolster the immune system, plus B vitamins, which may make you less susceptible during bouts of stress such as depression. St. John's Wort, has shown benefits for people with mild-to-moderate depression and the herb also appears to reduce symptoms of anxiety and PMS.* Studies have shown that the herb Kava may be beneficial in helping to elevate mood, well-being, and contentment, and produce a feeling of relaxation.* Black and Green Tea drinkers reported feeling more calm and had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol after stressful situations.
Just start with a few of these suggestions and see if you can reduce your stress level naturally! While training this week, a herd of elk came thundering across the road in front of me, almost knocking me off my bike. Now that was an adrenaline rush (and stressful)! I tried to get the phone out of my jersey to take a quick video but I was shaking so badly I couldn’t quite get to it before they were gone! Yesterday, I ran over a prairie dog that darted in my path. The fact that I didn’t go down was a miracle. I can laugh now but I did have to do some deep breathing immediately and come home to a cup of hot tea and some comfort food.