Eat to beat stress, and we’re not talking about comfort eating here. Are you under stress and struggling to get through the day? Be honest, how many of you use sweet things and/or caffeine to keep you going? How often to you use alcohol and/or smoking to help you ‘relax’? How often to you skip meals because you are too busy or too tired to cook?
Sometimes life is a drag and you struggle to get from one day to the next without some help or something to look forward to. One minute you’re firing on all cylinders. The next you can barely focus and are reaching for the next lot of stimulants to get you going. When we are stressed, we reach for things to help us cope. Unfortunately the things we use to help us cope with this stress can often cause us even more stress!
So how can we manage our daily stress more naturally? Here are some tips to help you eat to beat stress and cope in a gentler, more nurturing and natural way:
Eat to beat stress
- Eat regularly – at least three, but preferably 5 times a day. Choose foods that take longer to digest so that sugar is released into your bloodstream more slowly. For example, porridge with seeds or full fat bio yogurt with seeds and berries for breakfast, salad with protein of your choice and a piece of fruit for lunch, protein based soup with a salad on the side.
- Always include a protein whenever you eat, such as meat, fish, beans, seeds, nuts and dairy.
- Chew your food – this will help you to digest your food properly as digestion can be impaired when you are stressed.
- Keep well hydrated. Even a 2% drop in our hydration can cause us to feel fatigued and to lose concentration. Water and herbal teas are best, but tea or coffee in moderation all help and don’t forget that we can get up to 20% of our hydration from the food we eat, particularly when we eat a lot of vegetables.
- Eat as wide a range of foods as possible, keeping them as near to their natural state as you can in order to supply your body with a wide range of nutrients.
- Keep sugary refined carbohydrate foods for treats. Most of us like cake, but eat it in moderation. Practice 80/20 – 80% of the time you eat healthful, healing foods and 20% of the time you can have a treat, such as some cake!
- Eat fat – but the right kind. We need fat to help us make all the hormones we need, to help us repair ourselves and for energy. It also helps to keep us feeling fuller for longer. Avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, oily fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines etc), nuts and seeds and even a small amount of saturated fat (so you can eat butter, just make it organic!) are all sources of the good fats we need.
Other ways to manage stress naturally
- Exercise in moderation. Exercise helps us balance the stress hormones and sleep better, but make sure you enjoy what you do. There is no point going out running if you absolutely hate it as you won’t get the same benefit. Don’t overdo it. Too much exercise can just add to our overall problems. If you find it hard to find time to exercise just go for a walk. Particularly if you work in an office, even if it is round the block. Doing this regularly will really help as it gives time away from whatever we are doing to relax.
- Ask for help. We can’t always do everything ourselves.
- Say no! This can be a difficult one as you don’t want to let anyone down, but at the end of the day all you do is make yourself unwell, so you can’t always help it.
- Learn to breath – often we hunch ourselves up when we are stressed and forget to breath deeply enough.
- And last, but by no means least, sleep! It’s really important to get enough sleep. I appreciate it isn’t always possible, but sleep is the best healer there is. Take time to create a space that is relaxing and calming, have a bath with some lovely essential oil and magnesium flakes, do some yoga or deep breathing. Perhaps you can listen to some soothing music, switch off all your electronic devices at least an hour before you go to bed (don’t take them with you to bed either!) and if you have something on your mind, write it down so you can remember in the morning.