Learn to Handle Stress for Healthy Ageing

Ageing well is a matter of making the most of all the natural repair-and-restore systems your body has access to. Exercise and diet are obviously major players, but so is sleep, which can take a knock in our 24/7 culture. The stress that many of us are under means that even when we get to bed, falling asleep can be a problem.

Dealing with stress poorly not only fills you up with negative emotions and makes you feel exhausted it is another block to ageing well, because it increases your risk of the chronic killers, including cancer and heart disease.

Stress triggers a cascade of hormones that, over time, accelerate ageing, encourage inflammation and increase disease risk. Stress symptoms are our body’s way of warning us that something is out of balance. How are you handling stress?

If you aren’t handling stress well, you are probably also aware that if you carry on as you are, it’s unlikely that things will get better on their own. Only by making some positive changes will you start to feel less overwhelmed and better able to cope with life’s challenges.

Sometimes it helps to remember a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “There’s nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so”.

Life happens – it’s your reaction that counts. So if you can increase your energy levels, achieve a calmer state of mind and build up greater resilience, then you’ll be better equipped to deal with the challenges that cause you stress. You’re also likely to start enjoying your life a whole lot more than you may think possible now.

So for starters, if you are in a fix and you need some instant help, this list is for you. Please remember, these measures are designed to start you off on the road to feeling less stressed, until you discover the full Stress Cure Programme outlined in The Stress Cure book, which is personal to you, depending on your unique set of circumstances. If you truly want to beat stress and fatigue, embracing a comprehensive approach that addresses the key contributory physical, emotional and mental factors will bring you the biggest rewards.

Seven Stress Relievers for an Instant Fix

1. Swap coffee or regular tea for green tea. While you’ll still get a caffeine kick, green tea also contains a calming substance called theanine, which can make you more alert without feeling wired. Try Moringa tea. It gives a caffeine-free natural energy boost. I have a cup almost every day.

2. Eat three meals a day and never skip breakfast. This helps you keep your blood sugar even. Blood sugar dips – either from not eating, or as a rebound after eating something too sweet or starchy, triggers adrenalin release, hence stress.

3. Eat protein with every meal – for example, eggs, yoghurt, smoked salmon or kippers with your breakfast; meat, fish, dairy foods, soya or grains combined with pulses for your lunch and supper. Protein slows down the release of sugars in carbohydrates giving you more energy and helping you feel fuller for longer.

4. Snack pre-emptively – if you know you have an energy dip before lunch and around 4pm, have a snack mid-morning and again mid-afternoon. Avoid sugar-loaded treats and instead opt for energy-sustaining fresh fruit and nuts, an oat cake with some cheese, nut butter, pate or hummus, a natural yoghurt and berries, or buy a sugar-free protein bar (pick up a Meridian peanut or almond bar from Holland & Barrett. Apply the principle of always combining protein with carbs.

5. Supplement a high-strength multivitamin and mineral, plus the natural stimulant herbs and nutrients. These include ginseng, Siberian ginseng, reishi mushroom, tyrosine (the amino acid from which we make adrenal hormones) and B vitamins. These are available in combination supplements that keep you awake naturally – like Awake Food.

6. Learn the Quick Coherence Technique which is a core part of HeartMath technology. This will only take a few minutes, then introduce this exercise into your daily schedule for five minutes (that’s all it takes – but it’s important to commit to doing it every day). This simple technique can help to reset you to calm and reduce levels of harmful stress hormones while increasing beneficial revitalising ones. Heartmath have developed an ingenious device that measures your stress level second by second by measuring something called Heart Rate Variability (HRV) – go to www.heartmath.co.uk

Here’s how it works:

Quick Coherence® Technique

There are three simple steps to practice to get coherent:

1. Heart Focus
Focus your attention on your heart area, in the centre of your chest.

2. Heart Breathing
Now imagine your breath flowing in and out of that area. This helps your respiration and heart rhythm to synchronise. So focus in this area and aim to breathe evenly, for example inhale for five or six seconds and exhale for five or six seconds (choose a timescale that feels comfortable and flows easily).

Take a few minutes to get the hang of the heart focus and heart breathing stages, then introduce step three:

3. Heart Feeling
As you breathe in and out of your heart area, recall a positive emotion and try to re-experience it. This could be remembering a time spent with someone you love, walking in your favourite spot, stroking a pet, picturing a tree or scenic location you admire or even just feeling appreciation that you ate today or have shoes on your feet. If your mind wanders, just bring it gently back to the positive experience.

These three steps when practiced daily for around five minutes can help you de-stress, feel calmer and more content. It really is that simple. Your heart rhythm pattern will become coherent and your heart-brain communication will optimise to help you think more clearly. Ideally, find time where you can sit down quietly and undisturbed (eg first thing in the morning, during your lunch break or when you get home from work) to do this exercise every day. This way it’s more likely to become habit and you can give it your full attention.

Practice this five minutes a day to build your stress resilience. It really works. 

7. If you sleep badly, avoid any caffeine after midday and alcohol before bed, adopt a relaxing bedtime routine (for example have a warm bath with lavender or Epsom Salts) and do your Quick Coherence Technique as above. There are various nutrients and herbs that help including 5-HTP, magnesium, hops, passion flower and GABA precursors taurine and glutamine. These are available in combination supplements that chill you out like Chill Food. Also, read my Special Report The Complete Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep.

Finally, if you feel your situation is complex and requires specialist help, book a nutrition consultation with a therapist who specialises in stress, and get a tailor-made programme to follow with all the guidance you need.

Further Information

The Stress Cure is available from HOLFORDirect along with the Say No to Stress Saver DuoAwake Food, Chill Food and other supplements to support health and well being.