When you start looking at ways to reduce your stress levels, you probably focus on how much work you are doing, what your daily responsibilities are, and whether or not you practice good self-care. These are all very important, but don’t forget about the simplest choices you make every day that could be impacting your stress.
A common one has to do with your diet, where some foods can increase foods, while others help to reduce it. In fact, your diet has a much larger impact on your stress levels than you might expect, and your stress can determine what your food choices end up being. This is a vicious cycle that starts with focusing on proper nutrition to fuel your body.
The first thing that can happen if you have a poor diet is that you have nutritional deficiencies. These deficiencies can affect not just your physical health, but your emotional health as well.
For example, did you know that folate can affect your mood and lead to more depression? You get folate from foods like eggs, asparagus, spinach, and avocado.
Some other nutrients you need to help balance your mood and fight stress naturally are:
Omega 3 fatty acids
Healthy fats are still important! You can get your fatty acids from healthy sources of fats like salmon, tuna, walnuts, and olive oil.
Do you know why you feel more energized and happier during sunny days? It is the vitamin D from the sun’s UV rays. IF you live somewhere that is cloudy and rainy a lot, or it is the winter where there isn’t much sun, you will need to supplement vitamin D through your food. You can get it from foods like fatty fish, eggs, dairy, and fortified cereal.
For more fiber, eating more fruit, avocados, and whole grains is usually a good place to start.
While many people get their calcium from dairy and yogurt, you might not be someone who can eat a lot of dairy. In this case, you can get it from foods like almonds, sesame seeds, tofu, and kale.
You also want to make sure you have enough iron1 Iron can help with your mental health, as well as balancing your energy levels. Get iron from red meat, turkey, some nuts and seeds like pumpkin seeds and almonds, broccoli, and dark chocolate.
You get protein from many of these same foods, including meat, poultry and fish, dairy, cheese, eggs, and nuts.
Feeding Emotions with Unhealthy Foods
Another link between stress and nutrition is that you can often âhelpâ the stress and emotions with food. The problem here is that you probably go for the more unhealthy foods. Emotional eating isn’t really bad for you if it is only occasionally, after all, you should find something that helps you to deal with stressful situations.
However, if you deal with chronic stress or you get into the habit of only using food as a way to comfort yourself, it can become a problem. You might overeat, have too much unhealthy foods, and even be malnutritioned because you aren’t getting enough vitamins and minerals.
Unhealthy Habits from Stress
Having too much stress in your life can further encourage you to have other unhealthy habits. Not just having vitamin deficiencies and emotional eating, but generally overeating the wrong foods, not getting enough exercise and sleeping too much, drinking alcohol, smoking, or doing drugs. These can all turn on you and not only not help with your stress, but actually make it worse.
The Cycle Continues
This is a vicious cycle that is very heard to get out of. Once you start going to unhealthy habits to deal with your stress, you feel that temporarily it is helping, but it is hurting your mental health in the long-term. The best thing you can do is stop this cycle now, start eating right, and look for healthier ways to manage your stress.
Don’t feel like you can never emotionally eat, just don’t rely only on that. Try to find healthier habits, such as visiting with friends, playing with your dog, or getting in a little more exercise.
I would love to give you a free resource sheet to support your quest for a healthy mindset. Click the button below to receive your gift.
I really wanted to talk about this topic today because I wanted to share some lifestyle-based strategies to improve your overall mindset and mental health, which in turn improves your life. You must do the internal work to improve your overall health. You can do this by learning what motivates you and working each day on improving your mindset. Your thoughts control your feelings, which controls your behavior. You can cultivate certain behaviors and practices that will not only enrich your life, but that you can pass on to your family, friends, and community, so that you can leave a legacy of health to your loved ones.
If you are familiar with my approach, I use lifestyle medicine as the first line of treatment, before medications, to treat lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Lifestyle-related chronic diseases include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, some cancers, just to name a few. Lifestyle modifications, such as stress reduction and mindfulness exercises, can help you feel better about yourself and your life. In certain cases, these approaches may even outperform pharmaceutical therapy. But I always tell my patients that conventional medications may be appropriate at this time to prevent catastrophic illness, but over time, you can work to make the necessary lifestyle changes to possibly reduce and/or eliminate medications. Please remember to always consult your physician for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any decisions whatsoever.
Tools For Motivation And Mindset
Although you don’t need a cushion to meditate, you may want to consider using one at some point. You could meditate in a chair, or simply sit on the floor if you want. You can also use pillows or cushions from your furnishings to try out. Cushion, chair, bench, floor – it’s all good. Eventually, though, if you’re not sitting upright on a chair, you’ll probably do well to buy a dedicated meditation cushion. The cushion will support your sitting posture and help you create an appealing mindfulness corner that will encourage you to practice every day. I recommend this meditation cushion and mat bundle.
If you struggle with stress, depression, or anxiety, keeping a journal can be a great idea. Even if you don’t have these conditions, journaling can enhance your life in many ways. Having difficulty processing your thoughts and emotions? Journaling can help clear that mental clutter and move towards a positive mindset. Research suggests that keeping a journal can have positive impacts on both mental and physical health. So, to start you on your journey, I recommend this self care journal.
Remember, living a healthy lifestyle including eating a whole foods plant-based diet, regular physical activity, meditation and mindfulness, as well as healthy and supportive relationships are the best ways to support mental health. Please talk with your doctor about any complementary health approaches, including supplements, you use. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
PS. I am always asked what tools and resources I recommend to help you reach YOUR health goals. Here is the ever-growing, always updated list for you.
PPS. If you or someone you know is experiencing severe stress, anxiety, depression and/or other mental health issues, please contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889. This is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.
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