Combat Stress With Healthy Food
I have a friend who has a very stressful job: she’s a hospice nurse. Summer helps people end their life in the most humane way possible. She’s amazing. Her blog, QueenBloggy.com, chronicles her life in Colorado.
Summer recently had a really bad week at work. She lost two patients who were in their 40s. This passage from a recent blog post really hit home with me:
This week has been brutal. Up every night until the wee hours charting, reliving days that were wrought with sadness and a multitude of tasks. But the most frustrating part of all of this is that in the last four days I allowed absolutely NO time for self care. Skipping breakfast, lunches, not exercising, eating crap as I drove in the car from patient to patient house. My granola bar and diet coke filled body is not pleased with me right now, nor am I. I do not feel good when I don’t allow time to care for myself, and I can say quite sincerely that if this job were ALWAYS like that, then I would be looking for a new job this instant. But it’s not. —QueenBloggy
How often does this happen to you? You get so wrapped up with the tasks of the day/week/month that you completely forget to take care of yourself? I’ve had those granola-bar-and-diet-coke weeks, and they’re horrible. And sometimes they cannot be avoided.
Stress has been shown to lead to obesity, and if you don’t watch what you eat, freelancers who sit in front of a computer all day long can start sliding down a slippery slope. And it’s worse for women. Studies conducted at the University of Connecticut and Yale University showed that non-overweight women who are vulnerable to stress are more likely to have excess abdominal fat.
Women are twice as vulnerable to stress as men. Dr Rita Valentino, a neuroscientist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, found women are more sensitive to even low levels of a chemical produced at times of anxiety called corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) and less able to cope when levels are high. That may explain why women are believed to have higher rates of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other anxiety problems than men. —GulfNews.com
While many people turn to food as a source of comfort when stressed, just as many skip meals and end up eating quick unhealthy foods whenever they can. Lack of sleep can also affect your eating habits, as a recent Columbia University study found a connection between the lack of sleep and cravings for junk food.
The study cited other recent research that found that lack of sleep leads to increased food consumption. Being stressed, overworked, and not sleeping well may be the reason you’re heading for the drive through.
Lots of stressed-out people turn to caffeine to give them that extra boost of energy to get the project completed. Bad idea! Too much caffeine will keep you up at night and keep you from having that night of rest your body so desperately needs. Sugar, too, is a quick fix that your body will not thank you for later.
Take a step back before you bite into that Big Mac. Healthy eating can actually combat the signs of stress and make you feel better—something those delicious french fries can’t compete with.
When you are feeling particularly stressed and done-in, the most important thing you can do is put the right foods in your system to help you get through. We all have times when we need to put in extra hours to get something done, it’s unavoidable. While we might not be able to control it, we can control how we react.
Here is a list of food items that will help combat your stress and help keep you balanced inside while you are frazzled on the outside:
These carb-rich foods pack a punch and help release the feel-good chemical serotonin in your brain. Keep some whole wheat pretzels, crackers, and bread around when you need something satisfying.
Choose nuts that are high in vitamin E, B, and zinc to boost your immune system and help your body manage stress. The Food Network suggests snacking on quarter-cup portions of almonds, pistachios, and walnuts.
Yogurt is a great way to be sure you are getting enough calcium during the day—something women, in particular, need to watch out for. Add some granola or fruit to your yogurt for a more satisfying snacking experience. Yogurt is easy to take on the go and quick to eat. No preparations required!
Instead of reaching for yet another cup of coffee, try a mug of herbal tea. You can find a blend that will help you manage your stress and that tastes delicious. Drink it warm or put it in the fridge to chill. I’m hooked on iced peppermint tea at the moment, which helps calm and soothe my stomach.
Popeye was on to something here. Spinach, as well as Swiss chard and kale, is full of vitamins (like magnesium) to help relieve stress. One of my favorite things to make in the summer is oven roasted kale chips. All you have to do is rip up the kale in to bite-sized pieces, toss in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and broil until crispy.
These are just some ideas of healthy snacks to keep on hand when you are super busy. Do you have any that you particularly like that you would like to share?