The Nutrition Expert editorial team June 09, 2016

Our society’s suffering from ever-increasing levels of stress and poor sleeping habits. In fact, one in four men develop mental health problems because of it. That’s why this year, the Men’s Health Forum have dedicated Men’s Health Week to tackling all things stress-related.

Allowing stress to overwhelm you can:

• Damage your heart and immune system

• Reduce your life expectancy

• Impede your sex life

• Increase your chance of diabetes

• Cause depression and anxiety

With this in mind, here’s our top tips on how to stay calm and collected:


1. Eat well

Dr Sarah Brewer defends that “good nutrition is important at all times, but especially during periods of stress.” And points out five key rules:

• Consume a high-fibre, wholefood diet, including loads of fruits, vegetables and oily fish;

• Never skip meals, especially breakfast;

• Avoid convenience foods which, although timesaving, are often nutrient-poor and high in sugar and salt;

• Drink plenty of water and limit alcohol intake;

• Avoid having more than two caffeinated drinks per day, as the effect mimics the stress response.


2. Exercise is your friend

Everyone knows that exercise is good for you. But your mind and body are more closely linked than you may realise. Exercise boosts our levels of endorphins, also known as ‘the feel good’ hormone that help calm anxiety and lift your mood. Also, exercise helps to regulate the release of cortisol, known as the ‘stress hormone’. In high quantities, cortisol has been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, depression and anxiety.


3. Get some sleep

According to mental health charity Mind, mental health problems and sleep problems are often connected: “Stress can cause your thoughts to race around your mind, making it difficult to sleep. You’re also more likely to experience nightmares, sleepwalking and insomnia.”

Dr Guy Meadows from The Sleep School defends that “Worrying about anything increases night-time wakefulness.” If you’re struggling to sleep, Dr Meadows advises taking a moment to notice little details like the touch of your pillow on your face or the movement of your breath: “If your mind wanders off, gently return it back to what you were observing,” or, “if this doesn’t help, the herbal remedy valerian offers a natural solution to mild anxiety or stress with fewer side effects than sleeping pills.”


4. Supplement it

A variety of herbal supplements are useful in combatting stress. Dr Patricia Macnair reveals that “growing scientific evidence for St John’s Wort shows that it can stop the brain from switching stress on in the body. It is also effective against moderate depression, a common stress symptom.”

Herbalists also recommend ginseng, as it helps the body counter both physical and mental stress. “Ginseng may also boost depleted energy levels and stimulate a flagging memory”, adds Dr Macnair.

“Stress also depletes the body of calcium and magnesium so a multivitamin and mineral supplement is a good idea as a nutritional safety net”, advises Dr Sarah Brewer. “A probiotic to replenish immune-boosting bacteria in the gut is useful, too.”


5. Talk to someone

Talking about stress is not a sign of weakness. For more guidance, advice and information about stress, click here or speak to your GP.

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn’t possible supplements can help. This article isn’t intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.

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