Thanks to covid, quite a few of us have felt quite a bit of stress over the past 18 months, and there’s a good chance will probably experience more in the near future. Let’s talk about stress and the best ways to deal with it.
But what exactly IS Stress? How can we deal with it?
In its simplest terms, stress is something that causes mental tension. Stress is considered a bad word by some, but not all stress is bad. Some stress is good, like the butterflies you might feel when you’re about to play in a big game, or when you prepare for that important job interview. That type of short term stress can be good for you because it gets your blood flowing. The stress we need to be concerned with is the bad stress.
- What upsets me?
- What makes me angry?
- What’s keeping me up at night worrying?
This is the type of bad stress that we need to be concerned with.
For some, it’s dealing with obnoxious drivers or sitting in rush hour traffic every day. For others, it’s a demanding boss pressuring you to meet an important deadline. Others can’t sleep because they’re thinking about their bills. Unruly kids, marital issues, or other challenges, can quickly make a pleasant day extremely stressful and put you in a situation that must be quickly dealt with.
Long Term Stress
Whatever the cause of your stress, it can detrimental to your health in many ways:
- High blood pressure can raises your risk of stroke, heart failure, kidney failure and heart attack.
- Over the long term, people who react more to stress have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Increased susceptibility to infections.
- Allergies and autoimmune diseases.
- Arthritis and multiple sclerosis may be exacerbated by stress.
- Skin problems (acne, skin rashes, eczema).
- Diabetes (some doctors believe It could be that stress causes the immune system to destroy insulin-producing cells.)
- Infertility (People who are trying for a baby are more likely to conceive when on holiday or when facing little stress. Fertility treatment is believed to be more successful at these times too.)
These are serious issues and shows the importance of keeping stress in check.
Coping with Stress
How do you cope with stress? There are many ways to deal with stress, some good, some bad. Exercise is a positive way to deal with stress, as well as having a hobby like playing an instrument or reading books.
Again, not all stress is bad, but negative stress must be acknowledged and addressed properly and in a healthy manner! Unfortunately, many of us are doing just the opposite, and are making things worse by eating COMFORT FOOD to feel better.
What is your favorite comfort food? What food makes you feel better when you’re stressed or going through a tough time?
Here’s a list of some of the most popular comfort foods:
- Fried chicken
- Hot dogs
- Chocolate cake
- Chocolate chip cookies
- Apple pie
- Ice cream
If stress is known to raise your blood pressure, how wise is it eat foods high in sodium such as hot dogs and fried chicken?
If stress affects insulin and could increase your risk of getting diabetes, is it possible that cake, cookies, and chocolate may do more harm than good?
Stress also affects the body in other serious ways as well. Prolonged stress increases the metabolic needs of the body because stress hormones tend to raise cholesterol and triglyceride levels, accelerate heart rate, increase muscle tension and elevate blood pressure.
These changes increase metabolism and accelerate the body’s use of carbohydrates, fats, and protein. As that usage changes, there can be a resulting increase in blood sugar, free fatty acids, and protein loss.
The increased metabolism can also cause an increase in the use (and loss) of many nutrients such as vitamins A, C, D, E, K, B complex, and minerals such as magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and chromium.
In other words, negative stress can throw your body totally out of whack.
Think of your body as a high octane sports car, jet engine, or space shuttle. In order to perform at its peak level, it needs optimum fuel, and that means eating foods that are rich in vitamins and nutrients on a daily basis.
When we are stressed, the body uses even MORE fuel, and as a result, we need to increase our intake of healthy foods to replenish the nutrients lost during those stressful times.
Stress affects people in different ways, and what one person finds stressful another may not. The key is to know your body, what YOU consider a stressful situation, and how your body reacts to it. For some, stress can be a factor in the formation of grey hair:
It’s important to listen to your body and know when you’re feeling the strain of stress so you can protect your body from its harmful effects. This is when your diet becomes a factor.
As described above, stress can dramatically increase the amount of nutrients your body needs, and overeating comfort foods will only make a bad situation worse. Moderation is key.
When it comes to diet and nutrition, we must change our mindset. The foods we eat play a vital role in our health and well-being and as a result, it’s crucial we eat the foods that are designed to help us, not hurt us.
Next time you’re stressed, instead of filling up on comfort foods, eat these instead:
Blueberries: Blueberries contain high amounts of vitamin C, which along with other beneficial antioxidants, help to combat the stress hormone cortisol.
Low fat Milk: Milk actually helps your nerves stay healthy and it can stabilize your blood sugar. It also stops you from feeling those extreme highs and lows when you eat sugar.
Oranges: Oranges are an excellent source of Vitamin C, which helps your immune system function under stress more efficiently.
Brown rice: Brown rice is a whole grain that can help reduce stress because unlike white rice, it doesn’t increase blood sugar and cause fluctuations that can contribute to higher stress levels.
Green veggies: Spinach and other green vegetables like broccoli, greens snd romaine lettuce have magnesium, which is a mineral that helps lower your stress level by keeping you in a calm state.
Sweet potatoes: Sweet potatoes are a good source of iron, which is important for red and white blood cell production. Iron is also resistant to stress, assists in proper immune functioning, and the metabolizing of protein.
Water: There’s a strong possibility you’re dehydrated when under stress because your heart rate may increase and you’re breathing heavier than normal. As a result, you lose fluid. On the flip side of binge eaters, you have those who DON’T eat or drink, thus making their dehydration and nutritional needs worse.
The foods we eat can either help us or hurt us. Be mindful of the foods you eat during stressful situations. Your body will thank you.
In order to become the best you can be, you must change your mindset. No one can do it for you, you must want it for yourself. Get more great tips in my award winning Amazon Best Seller: The 3 Pillars of Strength: Increasing Your Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Fitness and The Diet of Success: Healthy Eating Tips for Hard Working Professionals. Available in paperback, kindle, and audible formats.