Andrea Markowitz, Ph.D.
December 11, 2009
Navigating through the holiday season's bigger crowds, longer lines and heavier traffic takes its toll on your body and mind. Build your stamina and your tolerance for stress by getting F.R.E.S.H. - Fuel, Relaxation, Exercise, Sleep and Hydration - every day.
To reduce stress: Foods with complex carbs (whole-grain cereals, breads and pasta, and warm oatmeal, for example) boost the calming brain chemical, serotonin. Spinach, soybeans and salmon have magnesium, which lowers levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Spinach also has iron, a metabolism-supporting mineral. Black tea lowers cortisol levels following stressful situations (but coffee can raise them). Pistachios reduce the impact of stress hormones on the body by lowering blood pressure. The Vitamin E in almonds and Vitamin C in oranges (or orange juice) boost the immune system and reduce stress hormone levels, and the Vitamin B in almonds reduces stress. The calcium in a warm glass of milk reduces tension. To increase energy: Eat five smaller meals per day. Don't skip any meals, especially breakfast. Eat protein and carbs to raise your energy level mid-afternoon. And don't eat sugary snacks--the energy-boosting effects of sugar are short-lived.
Relaxation techniques such as yoga, tai chi, deep breathing, guided imagery, visualization, progressive muscle relaxation and meditation are proven stress relievers. Even 10 minutes a day will help you feel more peaceful. Spend an afternoon at a day spa for a special treat.
Aerobic exercise releases endorphins (mood-enhancing chemicals in the brain). Aim for 30-minute aerobic workouts at least four times each week. Add strength training and stretching to tone your muscles and build your stamina.
Lack of sleep contributes to a loss of ability to concentrate, form memories and solve problems, and it is a factor in depression, heart disease, hypertension and irritability. Your body also becomes less sensitive to its own insulin, increasing your risk for diabetes and high blood pressure. To be your sharpest and brightest, get a full 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night.
Get plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. When your cells lose water, your body takes water out of the circulating blood, thereby reducing your blood volume. With less blood in your system your heart has to work harder. Your body slows down and you feel tired.
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