I’ve recently found myself feeling constant stress, worry, and anxiety lately. I had learned to deal with this in a good way and was managing life just fine, however, I’ve recently had a relapse. If you’re also feeling this way, let me tell you that it affects your physical health as well as your emotional health. Stress affects many functions of the body, including the nervous system, digestive system, and sleep. Which is part of the reason that my health has taken a turn for the worse lately, but taking charge of managing stress is essential to keep a healthy lifestyle.
Your nutrition matters so much if you want to help combat your stress levels. There are certain foods and patterns of eating that can help calm you. Just like there are certain foods that will only aggravate it and make it worse while you’re on a flare up.
Understanding and having a better relationship with your body entails knowing when your nutrition is affecting other aspects of your life. I’ve put together some of the best ways to address your nutrition that will hopefully help you manage your stress in some ways.
Eat On A Schedule & Intermittent Fasting
Your brain needs food to function, and keeping your sugar levels stable means eating regularly and not spiking them with carbs and sugar. It provides your body with some extra energy so you can cope better during more stressful events since it regulates cortisol levels. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone, and it increases during times of high stress or anxiety.
Suppose you’re struggling with eating on a regular schedule. In that case, you can restrict your window of time by using the methods of intermittent fasting and autophagy, where your body goes through the process of reusing damaged cells, making you feel less hungry. Organizing your schedule in this manner with intermittent fasting helps maintain your cortisol, stabilizing it and reducing your anxiety. I did this a while back and I actually ended up losing a lot of weight that I had gained. You can see my story here. Try not to go too long without eating though as it can cause anxiety to worsen if you’re starving yourself.
Eat More Whole Foods
Whole, natural foods give you more nutrients and help support a healthy diet. Non-starchy vegetables are rich in vitamins like Vitamin C, B vitamins, Magnesium, and fibre, which are important for managing weight and combating inflammation and oxidative stress.
These foods also work to keep you full and regulate blood sugar by slowing digestion. Work to cope with anxiety and stress by choosing foods that contain complex carbs, omega-3s and vitamin E. Consider foods including oatmeal, oranges, spinach, avocados, and milk. I’ve noticed that when I eat a lot of different vegetables, I do feel calmer and a lot more healthy. Eating vegetables first, before protein and carbs, is also a really good way to keep your blood sugar levels lower.
Protein is King
If you’re stressed often, the body has more of a demand for protein. More protein in your diet and nutrition ensures that you slow the release of sugar, ensuring it’s stabilized.
Foods high in protein include lean red meats, chicken, fish, eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds. If you’re not getting enough protein each day, you may notice a deficiency in your mood and brain function since the amino acids in protein serve as building blocks for neurotransmitters.
Cut Down on Caffeine, Drink More Water
Caffeine found in sodas, coffees, and teas can give you an energy boost, but it’s short-term. If you drink too much of these caffeinated beverages, you lower energy levels and deplete your body of necessary nutrients. Caffeine has also been shown to induce anxiety.
Water is the best beverage to drink and can even help manage your anxiety. It addresses dehydration effects and has natural calming properties. The rule of thumb with drinking water daily is to have about a half ounce of water for each pound you weigh. So if you weigh around 120 lbs, 60 ounces of water (about eight glasses) is sufficient. Water is pretty much the only liquid I drink.
Get Quality Sleep
Your sleeping habits can also affect your health and are part of your nutritional habits. If you wake often during the night or feel fatigued throughout the day, you’re probably adding to your stress levels. Getting more rest has a profound effect on cortisol levels and ensures that your body becomes restored and balanced.
Getting on a healthy sleep schedule ensures you get the most quality rest. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Other tips to ensure you get a good night’s sleep include:
- Deep breathing
- Create a calming space for sleep
- Avoid blue light exposure and distractions (turn off TV, phone or tablet)
- Take a warm shower or bath to help you relax and de-stress before bed.
Eating can also ensure you get a good night’s sleep, so your nutrition and sleep work in tandem. You shouldn’t eat a heavy meal too close to bedtime since it can affect digestion and cause you to lose out on needed rest. Your body doesn’t want to be breaking down food while it’s trying to repair and relax.
Watch What You’re Eating
Food can be triggering to many people’s emotions, and poor eating habits often stem from worry, stress, and other high-level emotions. Stress can cause us to overeat or binge, and we often make unhealthy choices when we eat that way. Not enough sleep causes us to reach for more food, especially the sugary and processed carb varieties, as your body wants easy energy.
Discussing your stress and anxiety with a Registered Dietitian or Nutritionist can be helpful. I did this a while back for my digestive health and it was one of the best things I had done. These experts can provide you with guidance and suggestions for foods and eating techniques to manage your stress more carefully. Don’t dismiss your stress or anxiety as typical; address your problems head-on by speaking with your doctor, and note that your nutrition plays a significant role in your stress management.
Finding out if you have food intolerance’s or allergies is very important too, as these can be contributing to stress levels. I have a gluten intolerance that I found out about a few years ago, and that was causing a lot of physical and mental problems for me that have improved entirely from cutting it out. I definitely recommend figuring out if you’re intolerant to something as it can prevent you from getting the correct nutrients you need, which then adds to your stress and anxiety levels. I hope you found some of this helpful! Lorna.