By: Kali Clark
What stresses you out? Where does it stem from and how do you relieve it? Stress and the fatigue it leads to impacts all of us at some point in our lives. The hard part is pinning down the what, why and how since it manifests differently for everyone. Meanwhile, being exposed to chronic stressors can lead to health issues which again manifest in a way that is unique to you. Let’s unpack this unavoidable part of the human experience as well as how nutrition can help build resilience.
Types Of Stress
I’ve identified a few different types of stress we all go through to varying degrees. The list goes like this:
- Day to day: Work or school deadlines, customer interaction, kids, spouses, news or social media exposure, transportation, wrong food order, getting lost when in a new place, mechanical improvements within the home or on a vehicle, and more
- Chronic stress precursors: Anticipation of an event(s) and uncertainty around something, social issues and inequality, health problems, inconsistent feeling of safety, job security, and more
The body responds to stress the same way regardless of what it is. And the severity or the response to a stressor occurring at all is dictated by your perception of it. You could say, “the water that softens the potato, is the same water that boils the egg.”
Build Awareness Of Your Reactions To Stress
The first takeaway of this blog is to build awareness of your reactions to life. While one person may seethe with rage at the sight of a train blocking their route to their destination, another may take it as a chance to jam to the radio and open the window for fresh air. The choice is yours. So, what are those physical and mental reactions? What should you look out for?
- Raised if not racing heartbeat, sweating and raised body temperature, muscle tension
- Feeling you need to run, fight, cry, or scream
- Anger, irritability, depression, anxiousness
- Disturbed sleep, inability to focus throughout the day
- Ruminating thoughts or what-if thinking that may build up into a stress reaction all their own
Common Stress Relievers
Regardless of the stressor, the most common stress relievers are watching T.V., creating or listening to music, relaxing in some way and reading (https://therapygroupdc.com/therapist-dc-blog/survey-results-reveals-high-levels-stress-popular-ways-relieve/). Clearly this list does not encompass everyone’s means to relax. I personally would add in walks in nature, exercise, and cooking (of course). But in all seriousness, what if I told you the food you eat can help make you a little more bullet proof to those stressor responses? Maybe you wouldn’t even have to rely on these methods as much if we improved your nutrition life. And maybe we could prevent some of the health problems caused by chronic stress.
Nutrition & Stress
Quality nutrition sets the stage for an ideal environment when it comes to stress responses. When we eat well, the nutrients we take in do a variety of jobs including:
- Supporting healthy cells for smooth and appropriate physiological responses to life events, acute and chronic
- Tell the body and brain it’s okay to rest and digest, meaning if we’re in a nutrient deficit the body may always be in a low level stress response until those nutritional needs are met
- Allows for healthy hormone, digestion, nerve and immune function which means a little less to worry about when it comes to your overall wellness
So what does this mean for your food life? Takeaway number two—take stock of your nutrition. What’s working and what’s not? What’s helping and what’s hindering you? If you’re not sure what to even look for, reach out to me for some insight. But some guidelines for everyone include making sure you’re eating enough, veggies/protein/fat at every meal, sit and slow down for most meals, reduce ultra-processed food intake and drink water.
I promise that eating a nourishing diet will work wonders on relieving that stress feeling. We can’t always stop the cause but we can change our emotional and physiological response to it. And as you improve your food life, I highly encourage you to find stress relievers that work for you and maybe don’t include screens. Doing anything in nature is beneficial, even just sitting on your front steps for a mental break. Journaling, doodling, creating in any way. Talk it out with yourself or a trusted friend/family member and maybe just a good cry would help.
I wish you luck on your stress relief journey. Take advantage of these tips, they’ll make for an improved quality of life as you respond more healthfully and mindfully to your stressors.