Head for the gym, not the couch
When under stress the body releases the hormone cortisol, which can cause you to hold on to belly fat: “It’s a natural process we don’t control, but we can stop it from being produced in excess,” says celebrity fitness expert Kathy Kaehler. “Have an outlet for the tough days. Stop at the gym or the park on your way home. Jumping rope for a couple of minutes is a quick way to release pent-up energy. Then go for a power walk. It’s great for toning your legs and the change of pace will help you manage your moods,” she adds.
“Deep breathing is a good stress reducer for people who can’t leave their computer,” explains Kaehler. This technique will stop you from holding and shortening your breath and therefore depriving your brain of oxygen: “Put one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly button. Feel your belly expand as you exhale. Don’t put a number to it. This is all about how much air you can inhale and then slowly let out, so that you’re totally relaxing.”
Music and nature do soothe the soul
It’s important to establish quick, practical solutions for dealing with stressful situations, says Dr. Kathleen Hall, CEO of the Stress Institute in Atlanta. “Listening to sounds of nature such as a bird’s song, doves cooing to each other, a crackling fire or a rain shower can have an incredibly soothing effect. (There are great apps you can download for this.) The brain reacts positively to such sounds and it has an immediate reductive effect on stress levels,” she explains.
Cut down on all things sweet
“Sugary foods cause a spike in your blood sugar levels. Your heart rate then speeds up to process what you’ve eaten, making you feel hyper,” explains nutritionist Dr. Simone Laubscher, co-founder of Welleco. Once that feeling wears off your energy levels dip massively: “It’s a vicious up then down circle that leaves you constantly chasing sugar for that high. Stick to two or three teaspoons a day (one teaspoon is about five grams) and never add it to your food,” she warns.
Check that your protein isn’t loaded with junk
According to Laubscher, even the most health-conscious can feel run-down because their diets are too chemical: “People cut out carbohydrates to stay lean but don’t worry about the quality of their protein. They might be eating processed meat packed with junk and hormones, which could explain why they’re feeling bloated and on edge. And while organic meat is great, for a more budget-friendly option you could opt for eggs or tuna”.
Don’t put your adrenals under pressure
“Your adrenal glands (whose function is to secrete adrenaline to help your body respond to stress) hate sugar. Eat calming foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids such as avocado or flaxseed oil,” says Laubscher. Swap cranberry juice with cranberry powder diluted in water to help support your adrenals; unlike most fruit juices, it contains no added sugar.