Anyone who has ever suffered from chronic or moderately severe acute stress knows that you feel it physically just as much as you feel it mentally. And, it is accepted that one’s overall health can impact stress levels, both negatively and positively. In keeping with the focus on the positive, here are a couple of diet tips for reducing stress.
- Keep a healthy, balanced diet. A good rule of thumb is to eat for your heart. When you’re experiencing stress, your heart is experiencing it right along with you, which means that over time it can actually put your heart at risk. Keep your heart in good shape by eating a lowered fat diet with plenty of lean protein, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables. This will help lower your blood pressure, which will help keep your heart from thumping hard when you start to feel stress.
- Eat to actually reduce stress. When stressed, your body produces stress hormones, like cortisol, which increases sugar in the bloodstream. This is what makes us crave unhealthy food when we’re stressed. However, giving your body simple carbohydrates like candy and white bread only gives your body a quick burst of sugars, so any good effects won’t last. That’s why you need to focus on complex carbohydrates with lots of fiber, like whole grains and sweet potatoes. The carbohydrates in those foods will prompt your brain to produce more serotonin, a hormone that relaxes us, but the nutrients and positive effects will stay with you much longer.
- Reduce caffeine intake and increase water intake. Too much caffeine can start a vicious cycle. The more you ingest caffeine, the more you feel you need to ingest caffeine. Coffee will give you a quick boost, but the fatigue will catch up, which causes you to drink even more coffee, even though that fatigue or an inability to focus is a signal that your body needs rest. Excessive caffeine consumption can actually lead to lapses in concentration and a decrease in our overall ability to be effective. So the work becomes harder because we’re less efficient. Caffeine is a substance that naturally increases blood pressure anyway, so you pile that on top of the effects of stress, and that’s a lot of strain for your heart.
- Most of us drink too little water. It is a known fact that we lose cognitive efficiency as our body becomes more dehydrated. Being dehydrated by just 2% impairs performance in tasks that require attention, psychomotor, and immediate memory skills (Adan, J Am Coll Nutr, 2012). The research data on this topic can be somewhat contradictory but everyone knows drinking water is good for you. For example, if the mild dehydration is due to physical exercise, that is actually good for long-term and working memory. There is also evidence that executive functions are better preserved. And, drinking more water helps keep our weight down.
by Susan Andrews, PhD
The Psychology Times, Oct 2015
Dr. Susan Andrews, Clinical Neuropsychologist, is currently Clinical Assistant Professor, LSU Health Sciences Center, Department of Medicine and Psychiatry, engaged in a Phase III study on HBOT and Persistent PostConcussion Syndrome. In addition to private clinical practice, Dr. Andrews is an award-winning author of Stress Solutions for Pregnant Moms (2013).