What Your Stressed Body Needs (And Doesn’t!)


by Natasha Hatherall-Shawe


How familiar does this sound? You’re super stressed, working crazy hours and pushing yourself to every limit, so you run to a high impact spin or HIIT class on the way home, followed by gulping down something you hastily ordered on Deliveroo because it was quick. Then it’s time for bed and you wake up the next day and you begin it all again.


Does this sound like your life? it’s definitely reminiscent of mine!


Stress is a reality for many of us these days and it can come from so many places – career, juggling motherhood, or well just juggling a lot of it all. Our poor bodies and minds, whilst they are truly amazing things, they do put up with quite a lot and often the way we treat them during this actually makes the stress and the impact on your body and overall health worse.


So, how radical would it be to look at it from a different lens and if your body is stressed, the last thing it needs is more stress adding to it? What if your fitness, food, lifestyle choices and even beauty and pampering should be chosen with that in mind to best support you through this and limit impact?


What does this look like? Let’s look at this and what it could look like for some of the key areas of your life to be truly transformational and well a little kinder to your body and mind.


Fitness

When stressed, you need to make your fitness choices carefully. Whilst working out can help you feel better and can boost those feel-good endorphins, choosing the right type of workout is important too.


When I was going through a particularly difficult time in my life health wise and mentally, my default choice was to go to a spin class or a high impact HIIT class to try and “feel better”. When my doctor sat me down and told me what my body really needed in this time was something that got me moving, but that did not stress my body further, I was forced to look at other types of exercise and ones that calmed and nourished my body such as Pilates, yoga, walking and swimming. 150 classes of Pilates later in 3 months, I was hooked and my body definitely thanked me for it.


So, think through the type of exercise you choose and fundamentally is it something you enjoy? If you hate running, but drag yourself on the treadmill or out for a run, it won’t help your stress levels either. Find something you love and your stress levels will thank you for it.



Food

When stressed, we may edge towards easy in reach and often high carb and fat laden foods, but the choices we make when it comes to food can actually help too.


There are certain foods that help reduce stress levels too, so ideally you need to focus on these and those that can help reduce your levels of cortisol — the primary hormone responsible for stress. Whilst a little Cortisol can be good for a period to keep you in “fight or flight” and help your body respond in the short term to stress, in the long term too much cortisol can create more stress and impact on your body.


Basically, think of the foods typically associated with a Mediterranean diet and these are also the best foods to eat when stressed - fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats.


The goal ultimately is to eat foods that reduce inflammation and stress on the body. Some of the best foods to eat that reduce inflammation and cortisol levels are foods high in vitamin B (eggs, beef, chicken, fortified cereal), those high in Omega 3 (avocado, chia, anchovies, salmon, olive oil, tuna and walnuts), Magnesium rich food (bananas, avocado, dark chocolate, broccoli, spinach) and protein rich foods.


And definitely add magnesium to your daily supplements too, be it in tablet form with your vitamins or by adding a scoop of magnesium powder in your smoothie, juice or even water.


Pampering and Beauty Treatments

Now this may sound strange, but yes you should even pay attention even to the pampering and beauty treatments you book in when you’re one step from the ledge.


If you think a massage is what your tired and stressed body needs, book one. But choose wisely when it comes to your beauty treatments and pampering too as I found myself “indulging” in a series of hard core facial laser sessions, along with face peels and my body struggled to cope with the additional stress of these intensive treatments and just because “they” say peels are good for stressed skin, does not mean it’s necessarily what stressed you “needs”!


Your beauty regime can definitely help at times like this, but think luxurious baths maybe with a dash of Epsom salt thrown in, a calming face mask as you watch a little TV to switch off or a relaxing massage with relaxing oils and not invigorating Bergamot oil.


Calming, nourishing and restorative are key words to look out for in anything you book. The good news is there is lots of research to show a good beauty regime can help ease stress and anxiety and in the right way even routine activities such as showers or baths can be turned into mindfulness activities. Change your products up based on the ingredients they receive and how they make you feel too. If there is a shower gel that makes you happy or takes you back to nice memories when you use it, then add more of that. I do this with my honeymoon shower gel all the time and I’m transported to my happy place.



What do you think? Does it make sense to you what our stressed out bodies do and don’t need?