Let’s talk about stress, baby. Let's talk about you and me...
While I know stress isn’t one of the sexiest topics out there, in our modern-day world, it’s become a major issue because we've all become super busy! While we praise busy-ness and love to talk about how busy we are (seriously, it's like a competition these days!), the stress that comes with it isn't always a good thing. When I'm feeling overwhelmed, I always try to remember to listen to my own gut instinct; by that I mean to take things slower when I'm feeling like everything is becoming a little too much and I try to reduce stress as much as possible by slowing down.
Stress plays a huge role in gut health, altering the composition of the gastrointestinal microbiota and likewise, an unhealthy diversity of bacteria can impact emotional behaviour and exacerbate our stress response. While we all try to find balance by going to work, spending time with family, seeing friends, exercising, cooking healthy meals, and the list goes on, this kind of busy lifestyle can lead us down stress street!
If an adult hasn’t inherited healthy lifestyle and eating habits from their family or community when young, it becomes increasingly harder to develop and implement them in later stages of life. We all know it’s a lot easier and more convenient to choose processed, take-away food over home-made food but really, in the long run it's not always the best choice for long term health. The thing with processed and instant foods are that they can be difficult to digest, really slow down our digestive systems and take a huge toll on the health of our gut micro biome.
If you’re looking to make ‘adulting’ at work a little more easeful, I'm sharing a few tips and tricks from my book Supercharge Your Gut to get you on the right track, because you know what - adulting is stressful enough.
I recommend waking up early with the sun, drinking a large glass of warm filtered water with the juice of half a lemon or apple cider vinegar to kick-start that digestive system and liver into full gear. I love getting up and moving first thing in the morning. Not only does getting out into nature help start the day off on the right foot, it also resets the circadian rhythms which stimulates the pituitary gland, releasing feel-good hormones. Now you have no excuse to not be a morning person!
Once you’re home from your morning exercise, try dry body brushing with a long handled brush. Then shower and switch between bursts of hot and cold water to get the lymphatic system pumping. While you’re in the shower, try oil-pulling. Place 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin coconut oil or sesame oil in your mouth upon rising, before you’ve eaten or drunk anything. Swish the oil around your mouth for 10 minutes, then spit it out. Never swallow the oil, which will be full of bacteria.
Brush your teeth and tongue thoroughly afterwards, to remove any excess oil, or invest in a tongue scraper. Including this simple ritual in your day will offer benefits such as whiter teeth, clearer skin, healthier gums, fresher breath, clearer sinuses, an improved lymphatic system, better sleep and increased energy, and for pre-menopausal women better regulated menstrual cycles.
When you’re ready and dressed, make yourself some Love Your Gut Powder in a glass with water. If you're low on time in the morning, I recommend preparing breakfast the night before. Recently, I've been loving my Golden Gut Nice Cream, Mocha and Banana Smoothie Bowl, Golden Gut Granola Clusters or Smashed Avo on Golden Gut Loaf for breakfast. They're all seriously delicious and can be prepared before-hand for ultimate convenience.
Throughout the day, be sure to hydrate! Sip on ginger, lemongrass, fennel and fresh mint teas, and flask it. You can also stash pre-made tea mixes in your desk drawer at work to enjoy throughout the day.
And now, for lunch! If you can, use your lunch time as a break in your day. Try to enjoy lunch away from your desk, instead of doing that half-eating, half-typing or writing thing – not good! Go for a walk during your break, do some yoga poses or stretches and remember to breath!
If you've got a meeting after lunch, try warrior pose for strength and firm foundations. It takes just a few minutes and you'll be surprised how different you feel afterwards. Find an empty meeting room or do it in the bathroom! Avoiding being sedentary can reduce stress and increase focus and productivity.
If you’re keen for an absolutely delicious lunch; one that’ll take your whole office to the streets of North Vietnam with its fragrant smell, you have to try out my Beef Pho Broth. Pho originated in the early 20th century and was sold at dawn and dusk by roaming street vendors, shouldering mobile kitchens. Don’t be put off by the list of ingredients, as this wonderfully fragrant broth is very simple to prepare. My advice is to make the broth beforehand on a weekend and freeze it. That way you'll have it on hand when you need it. It also works beautifully in a slow cooker. Pho is as comforting as it is delicious – it’s like a mid-day hug for your insides.
If you’re prone to snacking, you may want to pack some snacks so you’re well prepared and not munching down on the packet of stale crisps that has been sitting at the bottom of your desk drawer for three weeks too long. Try vegetable sticks with hummus, tuna dip and/or an avocado. If you're feeling extra zesty, why not pop half a lemon in your bag for a citrus squeeze?
Once you've finished work and got home, it's usually the time to start thinking about dinner. I know how hard it can be to motivate yourself to cook something after a long day of work, but it's so worth it! For me, I like to use cooking as a time to de-stress and reconnect. After a long day, I recommend choosing a meal with protein such as my Asian Kelp Noodle Salad, Supercharged Savoury Mince or Vegan Caesar Salad! They're quick and easy to prepare and so Yum.
Make sure you’ve had enough to eat by indulging in a gut-soothing dessert. Try some Turmeric Fudge (which can be pre-made on the weekend and frozen) and, if you’re still hungry, finish the night with a Maca and Tahini Latte.
For ultimate stress-busting benefits, be sure to try out my beautiful broth below! I promise you won't be disappointed. To make it easy for you, don't forget to make the broth on the weekend then it's so easy to heat up for mid-week dinners and lunches, just by adding the extra ingredients.
Beef Pho Broth
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin coconut oil
- 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) beef bones — shin, knuckles, marrow and gelatinous cuts are good
- 6 star anise
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 3 cardamom pods
- 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
- 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
- 3 whole cloves
- 2 litres (68 fl oz/8 cups) filtered water
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 brown onion, thinly sliced
- 7.5 cm (3 inch) knob of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
- 1 tablespoon wheat-free tamari
- 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) beef sirloin, thinly sliced
- 3 zucchini (courgettes), spiralised
- 1 handful of bean sprouts
- 1 large handful of mixed fresh basil, mint and coriander (cilantro)
- 2 limes, cut into wedges or cheeks
To make the broth...
- Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Melt the coconut oil in a flameproof casserole dish over medium heat. Add the bones and stir to coat.
- Put the lid on, transfer the dish to the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the bones are browned. Place the casserole dish back on the stovetop.
- In a dry frying pan, toast the spices over medium heat for 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Add them to the casserole dish with the filtered water and vinegar.
- Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to the lowest setting, then simmer for 1 and 1/2 hours, adding a little more filtered water from time to time if necessary.
- Using tongs, carefully remove and discard the bones. Allow the broth to cool, refrigerate or freeze, then scrape off any congealed fat on top (keep it for cooking with).
To make the soup
- Add a bit of the stock fat to a frying pan and lightly sauté the onion and ginger. Transfer the mixture to the casserole dish.
- Bring back to the boil, stir in the tamari and season to taste.
- To serve, arrange the beef and zucchini in bowls. Pour in the boiling broth and top with the bean sprouts and herbs. (The boiling broth will book the meat. If you prefer the beef to be cooked longer then add it to the casserole dish when bringing to the boil). Serve with lime wedges.