Nutritional stress-busters for the holiday season

When it comes to coping with stress and anxiety, proper nutrition is important, writes Deanna Copland.

We want to focus on high amounts of nutrients that help with stress and anxiety including magnesium, vitamin B6, iron and fibre.

Protein is also very important across the day as this will help to keep blood sugar levels more stable and therefore more resilient.

In the lead-up to Christmas, here are a few coping strategies that may help.

Busy season stress-busters

• Get up earlier in the morning - this really is easier in the warmer months. Set an alarm for 30-60 minutes earlier than usual and take this extra time to get the natural daylight into your eyes, read a few pages of a book, do some stretches, go for a walk, listen to a podcast or prepare food for your day. If you have children at home, being one step ahead of them in the mornings can be the difference between a good day and a great one.

• Exercise can fall by the wayside as we get busy, so instead of pinning all hopes on a longer walk in the weekend, aim for consistency and use morning and afternoon tea breaks to get in two 10-minute walks. Movement supports circulation and helps with energy and endorphin production for a better mood. If you work in an office, being in natural daylight and fresh air is also worthwhile. Productivity is usually better following small brain breaks like this.

• Work smarter, not harder - group similar tasks, only check emails at certain times and do the more challenging work before mid-afternoon when our cortisol naturally begins to decline for the day.

• With more Christmas treats on offer, try to consistently have set breakfasts and packed lunches in the lead-up to Christmas. A mason jar salad is an easy option for summer work lunches. You can vary the protein to include eggs, shredded chicken, chickpea, haloumi - any leftovers you have.

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Summer brainfood in a jar

Serves 1


140g salmon fillet

1 tsp miso paste (or ½ tsp sea salt)

¼ cup brown rice/quinoa

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp lemon juice

½ tsp Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp hemp or black sesame seeds

½ cucumber, sliced

4 large cos lettuce leaves, roughly sliced

1 mason jar (or other glass container with a lid)


Preheat the oven to 200degC and line a baking sheet with baking paper. Add miso paste or sea salt to the salmon and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until cooked through and flaky. Once cooled, flake into pieces with a fork.

Cook ¼ cup brown rice or quinoa, as per packet instructions. Drain and allow to cool. This, along with the salmon, can be done the night before and left in the fridge overnight.

In the mason jar, whisk together the extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, seeds and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Add the cucumber, salmon and lettuce.

Seal with a lid.

When ready to eat, shake well and place into a bowl.