Eat and move your way to calmness

The first thing many of us do when faced with a stressful situation is to overindulge in unhealthy, ‘comfort’ foods such as ice cream, preferably while vegetating on the sofa! Unfortunately this makes us feel even worse – psychologically and physically. So what should you do when you are stressed?

EAT

Avoid simplex sugars and starches (such as chips, cakes and ice cream). The spike in blood sugar and insulin that these foods cause, combined with your already high cortisol levels, may lead you to eat even more. It will also put you at risk of insulin insensitivity and diabetes. Avoid coffee and other caffeinated food and drinks, which not only increase levels of certain stress hormones, but also mimic their effects in the body (increasing your heart rate, for example).
Load up on vegetables and fruits and other high-fiber foods. The nutrients they provide lend extra protection against the immune-sapping effects of chronic stress. 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.

MOVE

Being active can also boost your feel-good endorphins and distract you from daily worries. Virtually any form of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, can act as a stress reliever. If you’re not an athlete or even if you’re downright out of shape, you can still make a little exercise go a long way toward stress management.

Build up your fitness level gradually. Excitement about a new program can lead to overdoing it and possibly even injury. If you’re new to exercise, start at the moderate level and then add vigorous activity as your fitness improves.

It doesn’t really matter what kind of exercise you do; what’s most important, studies find, is that you do something you enjoy, not something you feel you simply have to do. Otherwise, you’re just stressing yourself out again!