By Kyle Buchanan, Wellness Expert
It’s December already. I know – I’m shocked too. We’re at the end of 2022, and although this year has brought us closer towards normalcy than in years past, it’s still been a year of surprises, setbacks and stress for many of us.
A lot of us are experiencing a higher level of stress than we’re used to. If you’re like me, getting “back to normal” in terms of a social life has brought with it its own set of stress and anxiety.
And beyond the stressors of daily life, whether that’s work, family, the news or politics (or realistically, a combination of all of those things), the holiday season is approaching, which can bring with it its own set of expectations and pressures.
When it comes to stress management, there are many ways to approach it – diet, sleep, natural remedies, etc. What I want to emphasize is that these approaches do all work separately BUT – where things really shine, is when they’re used together, because they all complement each other and add up holistically to a stronger you!
So without further ado, here are my top 5 natural Ways to Cope with stress:
1. Cut back on added sugar and ultra-processed carbohydrates.
WHAT? As IF I am suggesting this in the beginning of the holiday season. But please, hear me out. I’m not saying never, but I would like to point out (as innocently as I can) that added sugars in the diet, which are found primarily in foods rich in ultra-processed carbohydrates (think a corn-based cereal breakfast, or a white bagel for lunch or a chocolate chip muffin for a snack) are associated with higher perceived stress, as well as an increase in anxiety.1
There are a few contributing factors behind this association, one of which being how these foods can negatively affect our blood sugar. Put simply, these foods can contribute to your blood sugar being less stable, which can translate into you feeling less stable and grounded.
So, this is not to say never include these foods, it’s the holidays – let’s enjoy! But we can be more selective of when we include them because we know that they can have a negative impact on our stress load.
And just a little tip, these sorts of foods are particularly problematic when they’re consumed in the absence of fiber or protein, so make those two categories your friends over the holidays!
2. Include these key stress nutrients
There are 3 nutrient categories I focus on and recommend to support the body’s stress response.
- Vitamin C
Our adrenal glands (which produce our stress hormones) house one of the largest concentrations of Vitamin C in the body 2 and our bodies actually use up more Vitamin C under times of stress, largely in part because Vitamin C is used to help manufacture the stress hormones that help us cope! 3 Because of this, Vitamin C-rich foods like blueberries, raspberries, broccoli, bell peppers and citrus are all wonderful functional foods to add in.
- Magnesium, also known as the relaxation mineral.
Diets low in magnesium are associated with higher levels of stress and anxiety, and in practice, it tends to be a mineral many don’t consume in optimal amounts.4 Magnesium rich foods include leafy greens, avocado and dark chocolate.
- Omega 3
Omega 3 has a very special place in my heart when it comes to supporting stress. It not only supports our brains, but it can also help dampen the effects of stress, so we’re not as reactive when faced with a stressor 5. Including foods rich in omega 3 like salmon, mackerel, flax, chia and hemp seeds can go a long way to supporting your body’s stress response, in addition to omega 3 supplementation.
3. Have Quietude on Hand
When we’re going through times of stress, and feel a general sense of unease and nervousness, one of my favourite go-to is Quietude*, Boiron’s homeopathic medicine used for the relief of nervousness related to stress (ex. hypersensitivity or irritability). It can also be used at any point during the day when you’re feeling those symptoms creep up, and is non-habit-forming.
Here’s how I recommend taking it: during periods of stress and nervousness, take 2 tablets, 3 times per day and then reduce as symptoms improve.
Quietude is one of my favorites to help complement the other tips and tools I have outlined above. As I mentioned before, while each works alone, these tips shine when they’re used in tandem with each other.
I was lucky enough to be invited to Lyon, France earlier this year to Boiron’s main facility, where I learned about the processes, practices and latest research when it comes to homeopathy. And what stood out to me most was that Boiron’s philosophy carries the belief that homeopathy is not only a stand alone but instead a complementary approach to other therapies for the benefit of the individual. And that is directly in line with how I work, and what I believe. Everyone has a place at the table when it comes to health. It is not one, or the other (which I believe is a common misconception about homeopathy), but instead it is both. It is a collection of tools and modalities that work together and are specific for the wellbeing of each individual.
4. Focus on Sleep
A good night’s sleep is essential when it comes to stress management. And unfortunately, stress and poor sleep can be a vicious cycle. So whenever I work with anyone going through times of stress, I make it a focus to develop a good sleep routine, and add support if needed.
Here are some things to keep in mind for a better night’s sleep:
- Cut Screen time 1 hour before bed: read a book instead to tire the eyes.
Write down tomorrow’s to-do list an hour before bed. Getting it out of your head and on to paper can help prevent listing tasks in your mind as you’re trying to fall asleep.
- Lavender essential oil, in a diffuser or a few drops on your pillow, can help promote relaxation.6
Sleep in a completely dark, slightly cool room.
- Use Boiron’s Quietude if in needed. This homeopathic medicine can also be beneficial when it comes to sleep! If you experience restlessness, difficulty falling asleep, nocturnal awakening or occasional sleeplessness – Quietude can be added to your sleep routine.
5. Use this breathing technique to your Advantage
In my opinion, breath work is one of the most underutilized tools when it comes to stress, and can be incredibly effective. Taking moments throughout the day, especially moments of stress, and taking deep, deliberate breaths can go an incredibly long way to supporting a calmer system 7.
Here is one of my favourite breathing exercises for you to try on for size. It’s called the 4-7-8 breath:
- Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4
- Hold that breath for a count of 7
- Breathe out through your mouth for a count of 8
- Repeat for four or five cycles
This can help calm the system, reduce feelings of overwhelm and help you feel more centered. In practice, this breathing technique garners the most positive reviews!
BONUS TIP: What can you do if you happen to get sick?
Unfortunately, chronic stress can have a negative effect on our immune system (as if we didn’t need one more reason to dislike stress!). Chronic stress has been consistently correlated with an increased risk of respiratory infections like influenza and the common cold 8. And add to that, we’re getting into our regular cold and flu season!
So, if you do happen to start experiencing flu-like symptoms, Oscillococcinum* is one of my go-tos. It’s Boiron’s homeopathic medicine for the relief of flu-like symptoms such as body aches, headache, fever and chills, and helps to reduce those flu-like symptoms (which I always appreciate!).
Stress is part of the human experience, but I think it’s safe to say we’ve had more of our fair share these past few years. Although we can’t always control the outside world, and the external stressors that come our way, there is comfort in knowing that there are things within our control to help offer support and help navigate this stressful world to a calmer place.
Using nutrition to our advantage, focusing on sleep and breathing, and having our go-to medicines on hand are all tools that can help offer a helping hand when we need it most.
Wishing you a calmer, restful and wonderful holiday season ahead!
*These homeopathic medicines may not be suitable for everyone. Always read and follow the label. These claims are based on traditional homeopathic references and not modern scientific evidence
About the author:
Kyle Buchanan is a licensed nutritionist, writer, speaker and the Resident Wellness Expert on Canada’s “The Morning Show”, which airs weekday mornings on Global Television. He has a passion for spreading holistic health and wellness advice to as many as possible; from television audiences and conference attendees to online readers and video watchers. He also has his own private practice, working with clients worldwide on their journey to feeling their absolute best. For more information, check out www.kylebuchanan.ca or his Instagram page!