1. Watch the caffeine
'Caffeine is a stimulant, which prompts your body to release the stress hormones making you feel more stressed and jittery than you should be.' Says Dr. Marilyn Glenville, nutritionist and author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar.
Caffeine is also addictive. You'll enjoy the buzz, but once the caffeine hit wears off, you'll be left feeling low and more stressed than you were before. It can also trigger anxiety and panic attacks.
For people who are prone to stress or anxiety, it's best to cut out caffeine altogether, says nutritionist Cassandra Barns. But if you can't cope without your caffeine fix limit yourself to one cup a day, or switch to tea as this has less caffeine than coffee, she adds.
Try substituting tea of coffee for healthy, herbal alternatives, or opt for decaffeinated options instead.
Chocolate also contains a stimulating chemical called theobromine, which is very much like caffeine, so put that Dairy Milk away! And don't forget that energy and fizzy drinks contain heaps of caffeine, which can have a similar – or worse – effect than drinking tea of coffee, adds Cassandra.
2. Remember to breathe
When panic starts to take over, it can be difficult to see a way out. But to stop your heart beating at 100 miles per hour, just take a moment to breathe and relax. It can be as simple as taking a few minutes to really work on your breathing technique, and the blind panic will start to gradually calm. This quick video will help you master the technique.
Another trick is to take yourself away from the stressful situation. Take 15 minutes out to make yourself a snack or herbal tea. Then sit, relax and wait to calm down. Or, if you're at home, run a bath or lie on the sofa and practice a few breathing or meditation techniques.
3. Work out what's important
When you start to feel yourself freaking out, it can be difficult to work out what's important and what's not. You catastrophise every situation in your head and predict the worst possible outcome.
You've probably got a list of a million things floating around in your head, but try to weed out the negatives and start to focus on the positives instead. That way you have something to look forward to.
If you have an overwhelming to-do list, focus on one small thing at a time, then work up gradually to the bigger things to make your list more manageable, advises The Mental Health Foundation.
4. Increase your 'feel good' hormone
Up your serotonin levels, it's a 'feel good' hormone, and a lack of it is associated with depression and anxiety.
'The body makes serotonin from tryptophan, which occurs naturally in foods such as dairy products, fish, bananas, dried dates, soya, almonds and peanuts,' says Dr Glenville.
'Combining these foods with unrefined carbohydrates, such as brown rice, wholemeal bread or oats, helps the body to release insulin to help tryptophan uptake to the brain. A good example would be to kick start your day with eggs and wholemeal toast for breakfast.'
5. Steady your sugar levels
Balancing your blood sugar can work wonders on lowering your stress levels. If your body is not topped up with the right nutrients, your stress hormones will start to kick in, stimulating 'adrenaline and cortisol'. 'This is why you can feel more jittery, irritable etc when blood sugar plummets!' Dr Glenville explains.
To counter those jitters 'ensure you have a small meal every 2-3 hours that contains protein (eat breakfast, lunch and dinner plus a snack mid morning and one mid afternoon). For example, a hard-boiled egg, 10-12 almonds, or a small can of tuna and brown rice. This will stop those roller-coaster highs and cravings for sweet foods.' she recommends. You'll feel instantly calmer and happier.
6. Up your fish intake
Nutritionist Cassandra Barns explains that 'Almost 60% of our brains are made up of fat. About half of that fat is DHA Omega-3 fatty acids, which really can only be found in fish. This is why fish is often known as a great source of "brain food".'
She recommends to stock up on these 'essential fats' by eating oily fish or taking Omega-3 supplements. To boost brain power, concentration and lift your mood.
Get your endorphins flowing with short bursts of daily exercise. Even small spurts of jogging or walking can trigger the brain chemicals into boosting your mood. Thirty minutes of exercise per day will relieve stress and tension, boost energy levels and will help you sleep better too.
Try something mindful like yoga to boost your endorphins – the feel-good hormone – as well as reducing cortisol, the hormone that causes stress.
8. Talk it through
If you have anxiety you may not want to open up about it, but talking to someone really can make the world of difference. If you feel uncomfortable talking to close friends or family, there are support networks you can turn to who will help you through those testing times.
Your GP will always be on hand to talk through these symptoms or refer you for further help.
9. Get a good nights' sleep
It's not rocket science to recognise that if you're not getting enough sleep your body and mind will become increasingly stressed. To stop stress and anxiety spiralling out of control, get a good night's rest. Nature's Plus nutritionist Martina Della Vedova explains: 'Stress, sleep and anxiety are all related. If we don't get enough sleep we can find it harder to adapt to challenging situations, and when we can't cope as efficiently with stress it can be harder to have a good nights rest.'
If you're finding it difficult to drift off naturally, simple relaxation or breathing techniques could calm your mind. Try to incorporate magnesium-rich foods into your diet like 'pumpkin and sunflower seeds, fish and leafy green vegetables.' says Martina. Alternatively try drinking a calming herbal tea like chamomile.