Staying Fit on a Budget: Eliminating and Managing Stressors for Good Health

The bottom of the stress barrel is undesirable to anyone. Work, relationships, family, finances, and a number of other factors may cause stress at some point in your life. While identifying the stressors is half the battle, so is determining healthy ideas for stress-reduction. You may not be able to eliminate your stressors but you can eliminate their affects on your mind and body. And it doesn’t need to be expensive or time-consuming.

Stress-Reducing Physical Activity

The body responds to stress by releasing stress hormones into our bloodstream. These hormones raise blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar. Engaging your body in physical activity spikes endorphins, our brain’s “feel-good” neurotransmitters—easing your stress levels and giving a sense of control over your mind and body.

  • Find Your Inner-Child: Take a “recess” break. Jump-rope, hopscotch, dance or walk alone or with a friend. Or go outside, breathe fresh air and stretch your muscles.
  • Separate Work from Play: Choose an activity un-related to the work you do all day. Although cleaning and laundry are productive activities they may not do much to reduce stress. Find activities where the main objective relaxes your mind: yoga, meditation, gardening, exercising.
  • Maintain a Schedule: Carve out time in your schedule everyday and make it a priority. Be flexible but be consistent. Perhaps Monday-Wednesday evenings and Thursday-Sunday mornings work best for relaxation.

Stress-Reducing Foods

While diet alone does not completely eliminate stress, eating stress-reducing foods can help as part of an overall stress reduction program.

  • Complex carbohydrates: These foods produce a steady supply of serotonin, another feel-good chemical in the body and help stabilize blood sugar levels. Examples include whole grain breakfast cereals, breads, pastas, and oatmeal.
  • Spinach: This leafy green is chock-full of magnesium that helps regulate cortisol levels, “the stress hormone.” An imbalance of cortisol levels may affect the body’s blood pressure, increased abdominal fat, and fatigue.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Fat in fish like salmon and tuna also regulate cortisol and protect against heart disease. Vegetarian sources include walnuts and ground flaxseed (flaxseed oil and/or meal). Aim to eat it at least twice a week.
  • Low-fat milk: Research suggests calcium-rich foods may reduce muscle spasms and ease anxiety and mood swings.

Some stress is normal and may even be helpful in completing daily tasks. Stress management, however, is essential for a healthy mind and body…they will thank you for it!

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