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Feeling Overwhelmed? We Spoke To An Expert On How To Manage Signs Of Stress Ahead Of The New Year

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If you’re feeling more stressed than usual right now, you’re not alone. The past year has dealt a less than ideal hand, forcing us to navigate a new world order amid the global pandemic. But on top of added stresses faced in the chaotic year that was, December presents itself as one of the most frazzled and anxiety-inducing times of the year. 

Ahead of the Christmas rush, new research by Healthy Care has revealed that Australians are finding the ability to focus a major concern, with more of us spending time at home, blurring the lines between work and personal time. The Take Care report also revealed that parents are hardest hit, under more stress than ever before. 

Speaking with nutritionist Jacqueline Alwill, we broke down how to notice signs of stress and what techniques you can put in place to ease symptoms during the holiday season. 

Firstly, How Can We Begin To Notice Signs Of Stress? 

“December definitely is one of those more stressful months, and I think we’d all know from personal experience, that our first signs of stress are things like really poor energy and fatigue,” explains Alwill. “This can be a result of our body actually lacking in nutrients to support our stress levels, therefore we feel the effects. Or it could be from things as a result of insomnia, or frequent waking throughout the night. It can have a two-fold effect.” 

Alwill adds, “But certainly, our body’s inability to fight disease and infection is a pretty strong sign of stress, and what correlates with it is poor digestion because about 70 per cent of our immune cells are housed in our gut. So, often when people are experiencing high-stress levels and poor immunity, they’ll find that they’ll have some digestive symptoms as well to accompany all of it, which might be things like your bloating and cramping, flatulence, constipation or diarrhea, all of those charming symptoms.” 

After Noticing Signs Of Stress, How Do We Go About Managing And Easing Symptoms? 

For Australians, home overload has been playing a critical role in feeling “out of balance”, with Healthy Care’s report revealing that 82 per cent of people felt their lives had become less balanced compared to pre-COVID restrictions. 

“It’s about creating boundaries,” says Alwill. “I think most importantly, especially this year where so much has been blurred, is creating boundaries around your life and creating structure. Because there is such a blurring, especially whether you’re working from home or you’re feeling the impact of lots of different changesyou’re constantly on, so your body is constantly in this sympathetic nervous system state, or your fight or flight system, and you don’t get a chance to switch off and recalibrate and rest and restore.”

Alwill says responding positively to stress comes down to creating clear distinctions between your time ‘on’ and your time ‘off’.

“It’s about setting the time in the morning and making sure that when you get up and your initial start to the day is time off. It’s not: wake up, check your emails, check your social media and tick all your digital boxes before you tick your personal boxes. 

“And then, obviously, the close of your day is really important as well. Making sure that you’re allowing time to switch off before you try to go to sleep. And creating, I think, one either morning or evening ritual.”

Alwill adds, “I’d encourage also, from a supplementary perspective, Healthy Care’s Mind-Calm, which is a lavender oil, at the end of the day, which could really encourage more deep and restful sleep.” 

The supplement brand also recently launched a Ginkgo Biloba Brain and Mind Extension Range, which contains Ginkgo Biloba as the key ingredient in the range.

“The range is something that I’m a huge fan of for Australians suffering from stress and concerns with focus,” says Alwill. “Ginkgo Biloba is a herb traditionally used in Chinese medicine which supports cognitive health, memory and mental capacity. I think now more than ever this is something that is so relevant.”

How Would You Suggest Managing Stress In A Year Where So Many Aspects Of Daily Life Can’t Be Controlled? 

When it comes to managing stress during the holiday season, especially one that has been changed drastically in recent days due to a COVID spike in NSW, Alwill says to focus on the aspects of our daily lives we do have control over. 

“I always say to people, ‘control what you can and let go of what you can’t’. That really changes your perception of what you can take on as a stressor or what you really have no control of and you can let go of, and therefore it’s not a stress to you anymore.”

“You can control your nutrition, you can control your exercise, you can control your sleep, you can control your perception of stress, and you can control your choice to be happy or unhappy about a situation. So they’re the things I encourage people to focus on,” Alwill adds. 

How Does Nutrition Play A Role In Managing Stress? 

When it comes to reducing stress, a nutritious and well-balanced diet can often ease physical symptoms. “From a nutrition perspective, you can control that,” says Alwill. “You can put some good dietary pattern in play—not going on a diet—but put dietary patterns in play to support your body through stress, by incorporating really antioxidant-rich foods, lots of essential fatty acids, things like avocados and olive oil and supplementing with fish oils. Making sure that if you’re working from home, that you have three meals, maybe two snacks in-between, and you’re not constantly grazing all day or having too many coffees, obviously.”

How Can Those Around Us Support In Managing Stress? 

As the report reveals, parents have been hardest hit when it comes to stress during the holiday season—which Alwill says can be eased by asking a few key questions. 

“Asking those important questions: ‘How are you doing? Can I offer you any support? Is there something that I can take off your hands?’ And saying yes to that instead of trying to be superwoman all the time,” Alwill suggests. “And then obviously, again, making sure that whilst you might be looking after everyone else’s needs, that things like your diet and nutrition are in check, that you’re not putting all of that last.” 

Looking To 2021, How Can We Create A Routine Or Best Practice For Managing That Stress? 

While we still don’t know what the future holds, creating realistic resolutions that you can stick by is going to ease signs of stress come 2021. 

“I love that people enjoy setting new year’s resolutions but don’t overwhelm yourself with what they are. If there’s anything that 2020 has taught us, it’s the fact that we’re going to be thrown these curveballs which we can’t control. So rather than trying to overwhelm ourselves with more, let’s do less, but with better quality attention, rather than doingquality over quantity, always!” 

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