Food is often the result of mood; but did you know so much of your mood can be improved by the food you choose? Often times we rationalize poor eating by the mood or the season we are in. “Work is busy, I’ll eat better on my off time”. “I’m moving, we need to eat out so I’ll get healthy again in a few months”. Sound familiar? Sometimes the situations are more intense and our emotions get a hold of our nervous system. Before we know it anxiety is a daily obstacle and nutrition is the last thing on our mind.
2 years ago I hit one of the most stressful seasons I had ever faced. I thought I was doing all the things I needed until I fell asleep one night. I woke up an hour later, heart racing, breathless, and clenching my jaw. “Weird” I thought “I’ll do extra yoga in the morning”. And then it happened the next night, and the next and so on. Until I was so tired I would doze of for a quick nap during the day and the same jolt of anxiousness would wake me up. I realized that I put my game face on and didn’t process all the emotions that were coming up during the stressful season. It all caught up to me in the end. My system was depleted, my adrenals were out of balance, my body was laced with anxiety and stress, and all that tension was manifesting in awful ways. My hormones were erratic and I had developed cysts for the first time. I had packed on some extra pounds, my skin was breaking out and my joints actually ached. I was a hot mess by every form of the definition. I made doctors appointments and nothing significant came up. As soon as I realized it was run of the mill anxiety I became my own client and was on a mission to change how I felt. Here are some of the most useful ways to stabilize your body, stress levels, hormones, and mood. I hope they help you as much as they helped me and so many of my clients!
Eat every 3 hours: When our body feels stressed, our cortisol hormone levels rise and signal the body that we are under siege and need to prepare for even more stress. Often people won’t “feel” hungry when stress is high for this very reason. The body begins to store excess fat incase it needs it later. Think caveman days and stressing that you can’t find food. Back then storing excess fat would have made sense. Nowadays it doesn’t.
Decrease sugar: processed sugar will spike your blood sugar levels higher than any other thing you consume. What goes up must come down. When your blood sugar spikes exponentially high it will crash even dramatically lower. The spike causes feelings of nervousness, jitters, heart palpitations and lack of focus. The crash causes the shakes, losing energy quickly or hitting a wall, irritability, brain fog and headaches. All these symptoms mimic true anxiety and can trigger anxious episodes.
Eat a healthy carbohydrate, lean protein, and healthy fat at every meal. Oatmeal with a hard boiled egg, fresh berries and a few slivered almonds will provide you will nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to nourish your body, mind, and nervous system.
Belly breathe slowly and often. When we are stressed, nervous, rushed, or anxious we immediately lessen our breaths and start to breathe up in our chest instead of our belly. This shallow breathe robs us of the amount of oxygen we actually need on every inhale and we naturally start to breathe faster to try and catch up. Try taking a big inhale until you feel your belly expand like a big balloon and then exhale slowly letting your belly button drop towards your spine. Now do the same but try to even out your inhale and exhale. Do this at least three times a day; when you wake, mid day, and when you fall asleep.
Take a fish oil supplement. Fish oil normalizes dopamine levels which helps to regulate the amygdala. The amygdala is the part of the brain that is responsible for processing fearful thoughts. Much success has been linked to fish oil reducing anxiety. I love the Nordic Naturals brand of lemon flavored capsules.
Hydrate: Drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water, daily! Don’t wait until you feel thirsty, at that point you are already dehydrated. You wouldn’t wait for your car to run out of gas to go to the gas station, treat your body with the same respect and knowledge.
Cut the caffeine out: When your body is battling anxiety its already in a heightened state. At this point you don’t need anything else to elevate your system. Instead using calming drinks like lavender or chamomile tea.
Keep alcohol to a minimum: I’m all for a glass of wine with a balanced and nutritious meal to unwind. However, skimping on dinner and downing a bottle of wine with blow your blood sugar levels out of range and you will feel much worse.
Take Magnesium: Magnesium is the first electrolyte your body flushes out of its system when you are stressed. Whether it be good stress (jamming to make a flight to Hawaii) or bad stress (loosing a job) your body processes it the same. Try a powder or capsule and take it before bed to avoid any tummy upsets. Since stress levels change daily, so does the dose of magnesium we need. You’ll know you are taking enough when you have soft but manageable bowel movements.
Take a probiotic: a lot of your immunity comes from the health of your gut. Taking a probiotic will balance your gut’s healthy bacteria so you can stay well, fight off bugs, and digest/absorb your good food choices.
Alkalize: Stress is an acid producing condition for the body. So is sugar, caffeine, lack of sleep, dairy, and meat. Counter balance the excess acid by choosing alkaline foods. Green veggies, fruits, lemon, cherry extract pills, almonds and so much more is alkaline. For more info, buy pH strips from Amazon and see what level you are currently at.
Exercise: Did you know your body cannot feel two emotions at the same exact time? Exercise produces endorphins (feel good chemicals) so it will give your nervous system a break from the stress mode, if even for a moment.
Faith factor: Whatever you may believe in, remembering you are not alone, there is something much bigger than you out there, and the weight of the world doesn’t have to fall solely on your shoulders is a good reminder. Say a prayer, ask for a sign, mediate or simply close your eyes and picture yourself letting it all go.
Let me know how these tips help you. Remember, emotions are like storm clouds; they always pass it is just a matter of time. You are never alone. Reach out to someone you trust if you need to talk, cry, or just let it all out. See a therapist if needed. You can’t pour from an empty pot. Fill yourself up first and see how much more nourished, grounded and able you are for all the situations that come your way. We would never expect our car to run on no gas or oil changes but we deplete our bodies constantly. You can reroute your mind, body, and soul one step at a time!