I asked on my instagram page how people deal with stress with regards to eating...
The answers varied from:
“I forget to eat”
“I stay away from sugar and caffeine... those make it worse”
”I eat way more than I normally do, usually it’s also unhealthy”
”I have no appetite when I’m stressed”
I’m here to tell you why you should focus on eating better when you’re in periods of high stress (even though you really don’t want to)!
Firstly, I need to outline what happens in your body when you undergo stress. So here’s a mini biology crash course:
When you are stressed, your body’s fight or flight mode, called the sympathetic nervous system, kicks in. Cortisol acts to lower inflammation and with high cortisol stimulation (think of having been extra super stressed out without stopping) you get an added suppression of the immune system. Adrenaline is also involved in the fight or flight mode giving that sudden surge of energy. Basically, all bodily processes you don’t need when you’re fighting (or fleeing from) a lion will decrease (think digestion, absorption, relaxation etc). Your adrenal glands (cute little triangles sitting on top of your kidneys) are responsible for the secretion of these hormones.
SO, you’ve had a tough week at work, or at school. Deadlines every day, on top of an extra unexpected workload, you get to bed super late and get less than normal amount of sleep. You reach for that extra cup of coffee just to try stay awake and focused. Your skin starts acting out, you can’t actually get to sleep... You might crave pastries, or biscuits. You might be so focused on everything you have to do that eating is not in the forefront of your brain.
This seems familiar right? I know it certainly does for me...
Internally, your body is going crazy... that extra caffeine (from coffee or energy drinks) is further depleting your adrenals of very necessary B-vitamins, you’re not digesting your food properly, that energy surge keeps waxing and waning so your body is craving an easy form of energy - sugar. Now, fruit would have the same effect on your body, but your brain wants something comforting too. An apple is not as comforting as a piece of chocolate, now is it?
On the other hand, your mind and body is so focused and anxious about whatever it is your have to do that eating/an appetite is an unnecessary inconvenience for your brain, so screw eating, right?
This is the time you need to be especially kind with what you put into your body!
THINGS YOU SHOULD BE EATING:
Sufficient meals to fuel your brain power. I, personally, love eggs in the morning. Eggs, sweet potato bread toast and avo. Yummmm
Fruit and vegetables - the age old tale of eat your greens is actually true and very helpful. Eating a rainbow plate of fruits and vegetables ensures you get all your B-vitamins (to help your adrenals and fuel your energy cascade). Not to mention other awesome micronutrients your body and brain need and, of course, fiber!
Healthy fats to feed your brain - avo, eggs, butter, coconut oil, olive oil and more...
If you are like me and like having stuff around you to eat, hold up for my favorite snacks! These got me through the toughest of studying days back at university:
raw carrots, cucumber, celery with yellow cheese
grapes (obviously in season) are especially lovely on warmer days!
most fruit actually but somehow grapes did the trick
toast with avo
seed cracker with almond butter
apple/banana with almond/peanut butter
I’m noticing a pattern here - most of these snacks are crunchy. There is something quite soothing about crunching on a snack...
Although coffee and energy drinks SEEM to be the all powerful drink to consume, it isn’t doing your body good and you’re actually just exacerbating your “fight or flight” mode. Not to mention depleting your body of B-vitamins, decreasing digestibility (which is already low) and, if you aren’t drinking enough water, dehydrating yourself.
Remember to manage your time well! Write a list of everything you need to do and prioritize, and don’t forget to wind down at the end of your day.
Even though I’ve saturated your brain with biology and tips and reasons, you’re wondering, “How do I wind down!? Sounds tedious and long and has ZERO place in my busy day!”
It’s not - there are lots of ways to do so. My favorite is lying or sitting down, closing your eyes and being comfortable, then take 10-15 DEEP breaths. Think of breathing into your stomach for 4 counts, holding for 6 counts and breathing out for 8 counts.
Let me know how you feel after doing it!
Did this post interest you? If you want a more personalized stress management plan, tailor made for you, email me on firstname.lastname@example.org to book an appointment.
Keep smiling! Yours in health, Dr Shavit
~ Love Health & Wellness ~