Just as stress can manifest itself in a number of ways, stress can be caused by a number of things. Unbeknownst to many, stress is actually very detrimental to our health. When we are stressed, our body produces more of the stress hormone, adrenaline. Although it is vital for our survival, it increases our blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar levels, and prepares us for fight, or flight. Additionally, stress causes mood swings, and anxiety, lowering our sex drive, bone mass, immunity, and overall quality of life. It also ages us, and invites disease.
Causes of Stress, other than your boss, money, or (fill in the blank)?
- Drugs: recreational, over-the-counter, and prescription
- Alcohol: (yes, one glass of wine can help to temporarily reduce stress, but it doesn’t solve the problem/make money grow on trees, or help to make your boss, or job, less stressful).
- Caffeine fuels adrenaline secretion
How Food Causes Stress
- Eating foods that are difficult to digest,
- Eating foods that are processed and refined
All of the above overwork the digestive system, and steal energy. Additionally, foods that cause rapid and sharp, spikes in our blood sugar levels, stress the body by causing it to exert excess energy to keep our insulin levels in check.
- Under-eating. Sometimes, and in times of stress, we forget to eat, or don’t have the interest, or time, for food (I always have an interest). Under feeding a stressed body can lead to acid irritation, indigestion, ulcers, and other digestive upsets.
During stressful times, it is absolutely crucial that we infuse our bodies with nutrient dense foods. It can be very easy to pick up some fast food, head to the closest vending machine, or reach for that processed energy bar. These foods may provide a quick source of energy, but fail to nourish the body. When the body is not nourished properly, it will lead to an unpleasant cycle of “needing more energy,” followed by exhaustion, stress, lack of good sleep, muscle tension, etc. All of which lead to more stress.
When the body becomes stressed, and insufficiently nourished, we not only become irritable and anxious, but also tend to reach for “outside help ” that temporarily remedy, or numb, the situation (i.e. coffee, alcohol, cupcakes, chocolate…)– these things can further exacerbate the problem.
Did you know that nutrients are depleted by stress?
- Vitamins: A, E and C, the B vitamins, and
- Minerals: zinc, selenium, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, sulfur, and molybdenum are the most common nutrients to be depleted during stress… so infuse your body with nutrient dense foods!
Stress also causes the body to expend more energy, and you may find yourself craving more carbs, protein, and more fats— particularly the fatty acids. As mentioned earlier, it is not wise to skimp on meals when under stress, however, it can be even more detrimental to snack on something unhealthy (a diet coke, and a bag of Doritos, are better left untouched. Period.).
Best foods to reach for when under stress
- Greens (highly alkaline (stress is just the opposite. Stress = acid), nourishing, and energizing)…
- Freshly pressed vegetable/fruit juices (highly alkaline, nourishing, and energizing)– This is the ultimate, and ideal nourishment!
- Avocado (nutrient dense, high in healthy fat, and contains ample amounts of digestible plant protein)
- 1st cold pressed oils (the best way to dress a salad, aside from avocado)
- Young coconut meat, (a great source of raw, plant fat)
- Young coconut water (This natural sports drink is rich in natural sugars, and electrolytes).
- Bananas- rich in potassium, and natural sugars. A ripe banana can be just what your body is looking for.
- *Raw nuts/seeds, (almonds, sprouted sunflower seeds, etc.) *Watch out consuming an overload of nuts and seeds. They are very dense and when under stress, digestion is not always at its height (due to increased/decreased stomach acids). This is a great “grab n’go” energy food, when meals are not an option. I like this article regarding snack bars.
- Wild salmon (rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, filling, and an easier protein to digest than poultry, and/or red meat, fish should be your ultimate “go to” meat of choice, if needed). Grab a salad and throw on a filet of salmon, or enjoy with steamed, or sautéed veggies.
- Optimal digestion is key to stress reduction, and assimilation of nutrients. Check out My Philosophy to read the importance of food combining.
- For more information on what foods to avoid, and what foods to enjoy, check out this chart!!
- Exercise is crucial. Be sure to get your heart pumping for a few minutes each day. It can be as simple as a brisk walk, jumping jacks, sit up… Move around! It sounds silly, but take frequent trips to the bathroom. It will increase oxygen to the heart, and increase your energy levels. 30 minutes of daily cardio is ideal.
- Sleep, energizes and alkalinizes. It heals the body. It is no myth that a 15-minute catnap can work wonders. See below for supplements for anxiety, and insomnia. You will ultimately be more productive taking 15 minutes to recharge, than you would be trying to work through your exhaustion. Sleep can also lead to new ideas. It enlightens, and awakens!
- Express your feelings. I never saw the true importance of this until living with my college roommate. I am still not a tell all, girl, but there is great value in having someone to vent, and express your feelings to. If you keep negativity bottled inside, it will create stress, pain, and disease. Have a phone buddy. Start a diary, or a blog. Write about cupcakes, and sweets– just don’t eat them all, instead of expressing what you really want.
- Adapt. Become flexible. There is no sense in dwelling on the past (and we’ve all been there). There is no sense on dwelling on all of things that you do not have, or what is wrong with what you have now (been there too). Focus on the good. Change the way you think. If you have to drive a ways to work, (which I may soon have to do), see how you can utilize that time to get ahead and reach your goals. Maybe someone has given you this time to reflect. Take out a few books on CD at the library. Use that time to THINK about what you want out of life. Be grateful that you have a job. It may be cheesy, but I like this book on CD: The Secret. Imagine what you want, and go for it.
If you want to supplement!
- Vitamin C in the morning, or Raw Code Multi Vitamins, daily
- Magnesium + Calcium for ease of sleep (if anxiety, and/or insomnia is an issue)
- Vitamin B complex can work to reduce stress, without the tranquilizing effects of a magnesium and calcium supplement.
Check out this page to read more about my favorite supplements!
- Herbal teas, such as peppermint (which can aid in digestion) and chamomile can be relaxing, and invigorating.
What are some of your tips for combating stress? What are your go-to snack foods? I would love to hear some of your tips!