Did you know stress is normal? We all need a certain amount of stress to keep us invigorated, energized, and excited. Of course, there is a difference between good and bad stress, to explain my point let’s consider the following scenario in the workplace.
Fired or Hired
Take a work scenario, regardless of whether or not you have been sacked or your organisation is going out of business, the words “I’m sorry we have to let you go” will trigger an emotional response and a negatively charged one at that. Why? Because not matter the reason you are temporarily faced with the fear of, not knowing how you will pay your mortgage, your bills, or feed your family which outweighs the benefit of the time freedom you have technically just been awarded. Compare this to a scenario where you are told “congratulations, the job is yours”, the stress this time is good as your financial worries are taken away in exchange for now fighting rush hour traffic twice a day, and perhaps having to put up with an unreasonable boss and not always getting the right holiday dates you wanted, but the novelty of starting a new new job can be exciting and at the same time a little scary, so on balance this manifests itself as good stress.
So as you can see from the example above, all decisions and choices you make contain positive and negative points which lead to a combination of good and bad stress. So in effect, we’re all in the stress management business, unless you make no decision for yourself anymore but sit around doing and thinking nothing all day other than deciding what channel to press on the tv remote. Thankfully nobody is in that situation (I hope).
So as you can see, stress is all around us, and your goal in life is to manage stress and anxiety without the need for medication. In this article, we’re are going to discuss the nutritional benefits of choosing a Paleo diet and performing light meditation to overcome this.
The Paleo Way.
First and foremost when thinking Paleo, try not to think of the word diet as a bad word as it tends to trigger negative thoughts of starvation and hunger by way of reduced eating, not being able eat food you enjoy, and perhaps having to eat or drink things which turn your stomach over. Let me put your mind at rest, the Paleo way is the most natural way of eating in the world. It’s essentially the diet of our ancestors, rich wholesome foods that were foraged from the land and sea. Thankfully, we don’t have to go out hunting and fishing as they did, which is exactly where our problems lie. We are fortunate today to get all manner of food in our local supermarket, all year around, seasonality for the most part has lost its meaning and it’s all delivered directly to your door. This sounds great one the face of it, but what a lot of us are choosing to do is abdicate choice, we are allowing strangers check the firmness and freshness of our produce and rather than take a little exercise and walk to and around a supermarket, we’ve elected for the supermarket comes to our door. I think you’ll agree, as a modern society we’re drifted and shifted from the good old days of foraging, hunting & gathering.
Ok, so back to the Paleo diet.
The good news is that with Paleo you can eat plenty of food, so feeling hungry isn’t a Paleo complaint, the focus is to ensure you eat the right food. Nutritious, fibrous, non-refined carbohydrates with low GI values, monounsaturated or poly-unsaturated fats and low fat protein like chicken or even better small oily fish, this is the Paleo way. In other words, stay away from empty carbs, saturated and hydrogenated fats and high amounts of red meat, which means cutting back on fast foods, ready meals and most types of take away food.
Look, I get it, you get home from work, you’re stressed, tired, feeling a bit low so you tend to go for what I refer to as “quick fix foods” and there is no point in me saying “don’t do that”, because at the end of the day if that treat makes you feel better then go for it, just be mindful that it’s better to make it a rare occurrence as opposed to a regular habit. Bad food choices across your lifetime leads to high levels of inflammation, pro inflammatory foods (Omega-6’s) need to be balanced at a ratio of 2:1 with anti-inflammatory foods. (Omega-3’s) This is the way to push inflammation back, so your health span is more inline with your lifespan, again, sorry to sound a little repetitive, but this is what a well thought through Paleo diet plan does; it keeps you healthier and disease free for longer based on a solid foundation of scientific food research.
Now we have looked at what you ought to be eating and what you shouldn’t, let’s take a momentary look at something else our ancestors practiced. A time in history when one had plenty of time to think, reflect, and pontificate, a time, with no TV, no Radio, no Twitter, Instagram or WhatsApp. A quiet time, a time when meditating was a way of life, perhaps not in the conventional way it is today, but in a way which suited our forefathers.
Meditation is nothing new, it’s been around for thousands of years and is practiced all over the world. There are many types of meditation, mindfulness, spiritual, focussed, mantra, and transcendental meditation. Meditation can be defined as a set of techniques that brings the mind into a heightened state of awareness, focussing ones attention to the present moment. Most humans live in a state of unconsciousness, they are not really awake, they act, think and respond in the same way over and over, and with the average person having 60,000 thoughts a day, most of them negative and repetitive, isn’t it about time we changed our habits for the better?
I meditate a lot, I find it helps me cope, so here are my suggestions, set aside a certain time each day, mornings are usually best as it sets you up for the day ahead. It lightens you, you become calmer and more relaxed which then helps you with any difficulties throughout the day. If mornings aren’t for you try an hour before bed as this will calm your mind to promote a good night’s sleep. If you don’t set a time, it becomes haphazard and before you know it you’ve missed several days, making it habitual is very important. When you start meditation, doing it once a day is sufficient at first, but once you get used to it you will find that you will be drawn to do it more and more each day. Set a time limit if you are just getting started, you might want to stick to shorter sessions of about 5 to 10 minutes in length.
Try to find your quiet place. Whether it be a chair, a bed or a sofa the important thing is to choose a place that you will not be disturbed or disrupted. Make sure the tv/radio and your phone is switched off, if there is anybody in the house ask them to respect your privacy and not to disturb you in any way while you are meditating. Ideally, the room you choose should be warm, or use a blanket if necessary. Pay attention to your body and get comfortable, the more relaxed you feel the more enjoyable your meditation will be.
Don’t try too hard to meditate, our minds can be filled with numerous problems, and sometimes it’s difficult to switch off but with practice it will become easier. As you meditate it is quite normal for thoughts to enter your head, just acknowledge that they are just “thoughts”, don’t judge them, simply direct your mind back to your breathing. Focussing the mind on your breath, try taking deep breaths expand your belly and slow exhale, pay attention to each breath, how does it feel, what sound do you hear. Just by purely focussing on the breath brings a whole new meaning to relaxing and in no time at all, you’ll wonder how you ever survived life without meditation. It truly is a wonderful tonic for the mind, body, and spirit.
I have just touched on two methods that anyone can use to reduce anxiety but of course, there are many more ways. Taking a simple walk when you feel overwhelmed can do wonders, chatting with and sharing your problems a close friend or even a stranger can help, as a problem shared is a problem halved. Visualize the outcomes you want in your life, see your future as you would like it. Think positively and live in the present moment as these are sure-fire ways to live a healthier and more relaxed life.