The Hers Guide To Crushing Stress
Muscle & Fitness Hers|Spring 2019

You can’t be healthy and fit—inside or out—if you’re constantly feeling the weight of the world. Here’s how to show anxiety who’s boss.

Shawn Donnelly

Blame it on the smartphones that are constantly pinging us with texts, tweets, and emails. Blame it on the overcrowded trains, freeways, and big-box stores. Blame it on the Great Recession, global warming, Netflix, or that $6 latte in your hand.

Whatever you want to pin it on, there’s a troubling fact about us modern humans: We’re super frazzled. According to a 2017 evaluation of federal health data, more Americans than ever before are stressed, depressed, and anxiety ridden, and many are unable to get the help they need.

This, of course, leads to lots of bad stuff. Common effects of stress include headaches, muscle tension, lowered sex drive, insomnia, irritability, sadness, lack of motivation, social withdrawal, overeating, and drug and alcohol abuse. As if that’s not terrible enough, chronic stress also increases your chances of having a heart attack or stroke, and many researchers believe it makes the brain more susceptible to health problems like dementia and Alzheimer’s. Other studies show that it flat-out ages you faster and kills you sooner.

The bottom line: If you’re constantly freaking out about things, you’re not going to look or feel very good. But don’t stress. We’re here to help, and we’ve called in reinforcements in the form of physicians, psychologists, and therapists. Taken together, this guide should equip you with the tools to stay calm under pressure—so you can get back to crushing life.

WHAT IS STRESS?

IN SHORT: It’s a feeling of pressure, strain, or tension. Essentially, it’s psychological pain. But stress isn’t always a bad thing. It can help us get motivated, adapt to our environment, and even improve our athletic performance. Also, stress is what got us this far: When our ancestors perceived a threat (like a grizzly bear), they reacted with the fight-or-flight response. Their bodies were flooded with a hormone called cortisol, which released glucose into the bloodstream, giving them the energy to either battle the threat or sprint away from it. Without stress, our ancestors would’ve been eaten, and, well, you certainly wouldn’t be reading this right now. But too much stress, or chronic stress, is what you want to avoid. Because while it’s nice to have your cortisol levels elevate occasionally, when there’s too much in your body for too long, it can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, muscle loss, depression, and even brain shrinkage and memory problems. Other symptoms include a weak immune system, a decreased sex drive, and poor skin, hair, and teeth.

EAT YOUR WAY OUT OF STRESS

JOSH AXE, A CLINICAL NUTRITIONIST AND AUTHOR OF KETO DIET: YOUR 30-DAY PLAN TO LOSE WEIGHT, BALANCE HORMONES, BOOST BRAIN HEALTH, AND REVERSE DISEASE, ON HOW TO CHILL WITH FOOD.

ARE THERE ANY FOODS THAT CAN HELP LOWER STRESS?

Yeah, foods that are rich in magnesium. It’s known as the relaxation mineral, and it’s good for reducing headaches, muscle spasms, and stress. Magnesium rich foods include green leafy vegetables, as well as dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and avocados.

WHAT SHOULD PEOPLE LEAVE OFF THEIR PLATE?

Anything that’s going to cause inflammation or your blood sugar to go up and down. Sugar, refined grains, white bread, and wheat products are going to cause problems.

ANYTHING ELSE PEOPLE CAN TAKE TO DE-STRESS?

I own a hemp farm in Missouri, and I’ve done a lot of research on CBD, a compound found in the cannabis plant that’s really good for reducing stress on the central nervous system. I recommend a dosage of about 20 to 40mg daily. You can mix the oil in water or drop it under your tongue, leave it there for 30 seconds, then swallow.

WHAT DO YOU TELL PEOPLE WHO SAY, “I’D LOVE TO EAT HEALTHIER, BUT IT’S TOO EXPENSIVE”?

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