Too much to do, nothing is going right, everyone is on your nerves, you just want to curl up and take a nap or hide in a closet and cry. These are just a few of the feelings we get when we’re stressed. And emotions are only one part of the equation. Our bodies suffer physical consequences from stress, too. For example, the nervous system kicks into “fight or flight” mode, the immune system is less effective at fighting off germs and digestion can go completely awry. In general, we tend to just not feel well when we’re stressed.
In the short term, the human body is fully capable of coping with stress. In fact, some stress is good for us. It helps us to set and meet goals, like studying for an exam or prepping for a work presentation. It motivates us to step up to the plate and take on appropriate challenges. But the goal should be to minimize your exposure to excess stress. Take breaks. Pace yourself. Remember that it’s not always finals week.
Strategies to minimize stress
There’s no shortage of strategies to help with the management of stress. Regular exercise is important. But a diet that specifically enhances your ability to handle stress is paramount to getting through tough times without leaving your body’s systems overwhelmed. The most ideal diet that you can follow is one that supports your adrenal glands and keeps blood sugar levels on an even keel, with no dips, swings or crashes that can spike cortisol levels and worsen the effects of stress.
The good news is that a diet that supports your adrenal glands will also support your blood sugar (glucose) level at the same time. Eating high-quality whole foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner, avoiding simple carbs (pasta, bread, etc.), spacing your meals no more than five hours apart and snacking on protein- and healthy-fat-rich snacks (such as nuts and seeds) in between meals can help soothe that frazzled feeling.
Rather than turning to so-called “comfort foods” that may be high in fat, calories and carbs, stick to this healthy meal plan to help you get through stressful times:
“Eat to Beat Stress” menu
Breakfast: An egg white omelet with onions, spinach, and brown rice
Lunch: Mixed greens topped with chicken and a side of sweet potato
Mid-afternoon snack: Apple slices smeared with 1 spoonful of peanut butter
Dinner: Fish, steamed vegetables and acorn squash
Dessert: Fresh strawberries or blueberries
How do you cope with a particularly stressful day? Share your thoughts below.