April is Stress Awareness Month

Did you know that there is a whole month dedicated to Stress Awareness? I didn’t either, but I do know most of us suffer from some form of stress in our every day lives. That got me thinking… What are the signs? How does stress effect our bodies and our mental health? How do we manage to stay calm and stress free in a world that has been extremely stressful these last 2 years? 

Signs of Stress

I would like to share with you what I’ve learned about stress from my own personal experience. Stress causes me to be irritable with the people I love, I’m emotionally and physically drained at the end of every day, I don’t sleep well, I don’t eat well and as a result I carry some extra weight. It’s also difficult to lose weight when you are stressed. Being stressed raises your cortisol levels and that makes weight even harder to lose. Does this sound like you? If you have headaches, notice a reduction in your productivity or have been suffering from insomnia, you may be exhibiting signs of stress and not even realize it.

Side Effects of Stress

Stress can affect your thoughts and feelings, your relationships with loved ones, friends and coworkers. You can experience muscle pain and tension, chest pain (seek immediate medical attention, if you experience this), and change in sex drive. You may feel anxious or depressed. It can affect your behavior, which can lead to substance abuse, eating disorders and social distancing from family and friends.  

Managing Stress

There’s a lot you can do to manage your stress. Some tips to help you manage stress are:

Regular exercise has a positive effect on the mood by relieving tension, anxiety and mild depression. It improves the quality of sleep, helps boosts confidence, while providing a calmness and clarity of the mind.

Regular sleep can have a huge impact on your health overall, it restores the body, improves concentration, regulates mood, sharpens judgment and decision making, it decreases cortisol levels and helps to regulate and sometimes improve our immune system.

Power down electronics at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones and tv’s emit a blue light which can negatively impact your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Instead develop a nighttime routine to help you relax and prepare you for sleep, take a bath or read a book, or do some light yoga. Yoga is a great way to unwind from the day. If you are looking for a local yoga instructor owner Lisa Bouchard recommends David Winslow at the YMCA. Rather do yoga in the comfort of your own home? Our Marketing Manager Sarah Kenney recommends Yoga with Adriene. The same routine every night helps you relax and fall asleep faster and helps you stay asleep. 

A healthy diet provides extra energy needed to cope with stress. When we are stressed we often “stress eat” and we don’t realize what we are eating or how much. A poor diet raises cortisol levels which can cause unhealthy cravings for food that are high in sugar, fat and calories which leads to weight gain. Meal planning is a good way to stick with a healthy diet and prevent weight gain.

Cut back on obligations until you are feeling better.

My Favorite ways to manage stress I  like to take a few minutes and close my eyes and just breathe, slowly in and out. Closing my eyes lets me focus on my breathing and only my breathing. It allows me to shut off my mind and clear my head for a few minutes. When I open my eyes again I find that my head is clearer and calmer, I can once again focus on the task at hand. Some might call this meditation, I just call it my return to sanity.

Another thing I like to do to relieve my stress is to take a walk, sometimes it’s a short walk around the block and other times it’s going for a hike and breathing in the crisp clean air. This is a great stress reliever, not to mention great exercise. Other times I find that slowing down and just relaxing with a good book. Immersing myself in the story takes me out of my world for awhile. It’s rejuvenating in a way that makes me feel like I’ve taken a short vacation.

Acupuncture and massage are also very relaxing and I fit this into my schedule as often as I can. I make this a priority for my self-care. I feel that taking this time to care for myself makes me more relaxed and I’m able to enjoy my time with my family more. It’s a gift to them as well as my myself because they get the best version of me.

Where to get Help

If you are experiencing stress there are many ways to get the help you need. Acupuncture releases endorphins which are a natural “feel good” chemical in the brain. Acupuncture also improves circulation of blood on the body which sends oxygen to the tissues in our bodies and gets rid of cortisol and other unwanted chemicals.

Another way to manage stress is massage therapy. Massage therapy increases tissue elasticity which helps reduce stress. It also releases endorphins and other “feel good” chemicals in the body that increase relaxation, joy and pain relief as well as enhance feelings of well-being that last long after the massage is over. In extreme cases medical attention should be sought by your doctor or mental health professional.

Foods that can help relieve stress Some foods that can help relieve stress are Matcha powder, swiss chard, sweet potato, kimchi and artichokes to name a few. These foods all contain known stress reducing properties such as L-Theanine, magnesium, probiotics and vitamins C & K.

Stress Relieving Recipes

Stress Relieving Green Smoothie

  • 2 cups fresh spinach packed
  • 1/2 cup full-fat plain Greek yogurt or vegan yogurt
  • 1/2 medium avocado peeled and pitted
  • 1 frozen medium banana
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric 
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg 

Instructions : Place all ingredients into your blender. Blend on high speed for about 45 seconds or until smooth and creamy. Pour into two serving glasses.

* Note: If you’d rather your smoothie be a bit sweeter, add some honey or pure maple syrup to taste.

You can find this and other great recipes here at Taste, Love and Nourish.

Quinoa Avocado Salad

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 small head of cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 1 avocado
  • 6 radishes
  • 16 cups of spinach leaves

For the cocoa vinaigrette (makes 1 cup)

  • 2 cups fresh spinach packed
  • 1/2 cup full-fat plain Greek yogurt or vegan yogurt
  • 1/2 medium avocado peeled and pitted
  • 1 frozen medium banana
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric 
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg 


1. Cook the quinoa (or use our Instant Pot quinoa method): Place 1 cup quinoa in a saucepan with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to very low. Cover the pot, and simmer where the water is just bubbling for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the water has been completely absorbed. (Check by pulling back the quinoa with a fork to see if water remains.) Turn off the heat and let sit covered to steam for about 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to a boil and prepare a bowl of water with some ice cubes. Cut the cauliflower into florets. When the water is boiling, add the cauliflower and boil for 2 minutes, until just tender. Remove the florets and place in the cold water for 1 minute, then remove to another bowl.

3. Make the dressing: Juice and zest the orange. In a bowl, vigorously whisk together all ingredients. Makes 1 cup; store refrigerated.

4. Place ½ cup almonds a dry skillet and toast over medium low heat, shaking often, until toasted, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

5. Peel the carrots, then cut them into long, thin strips with a vegetable peeler. Dice the pepper. Slice the avocado. Thinly slice the radishes.

6. To serve, place spinach into large serving bowls. Top with the quinoa and vegetables. Sprinkle with kosher salt, then toasted almonds. Drizzle with the cacao citrus dressing (reserve unused dressing for future use).

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