Six Stress-Relieving Nutritional Tips

The holidays are a time for pleasure and celebration, and in the past, people used this time to focus more on their family and friends. Despite this, many people report higher levels of stress over the holidays. In addition to the tensions that people face on a daily basis, the holidays add two additional stresses: a lack of time and a lack of money.


Stress may have a significant influence on our health and weight. In fact, the majority of people consider stress as the leading cause of poor eating habits and weight gain. The absence of light during the colder months of the year, when days are shorter, may exacerbate stress and anxiety by affecting neurotransmitter activity control. Stress may be caused by a variety of factors, including everyday duties, job, life events, and even a lack of sleep. Certain sorts of stress have a good effect on us, such as motivating us or increasing our efficiency.


Negative stress, on the other hand, may be overpowering and cause both a mental and bodily response. Furthermore, unresolved stress can have a negative impact on your health. It’s critical to be aware of potential causes of stress that might negatively impact you. It’s critical to be aware of potential sources of stress that might influence you and your health, as well as activities you can take to assist avoid long-term health issues.


Stress and Its Causes


Mental Anxiety


The mental pressures of today are vastly different from those of our forefathers. We are now subjected to the pressures of our fast-paced, always-connected society. Workplace stress, family stress, friend stress, future planning stress, travel stress, financial stress, lack of time stress, and many other factors may all contribute to mental stress today.


We are also continuously connected, which can cause stress by causing you to compare your life to others’ and by preventing you from entirely disconnecting from technology.


Our forefathers endured stresses that modern-day innovations have helped to lessen, while other improvements have introduced new pressures.


Fight or Flight in the Face of Physical Stress


Physical stress is the kind of anxiety that you feel when you’re threatened or terrified. It’s brought on by situations that trigger the “fight or flight” reaction. This reaction alerts our bodies to an impending attack, prompting the production of norepinephrine, epinephrine, and cortisol, which aids our bodies in increasing oxygen intake, increasing blood flow, improving eyesight, and regulating energy levels.


Even after the stressful incident has gone, cortisol can impact the body by inhibiting insulin production to maintain blood sugar levels high and raising hunger to ensure the body has enough nutrients to replace those that were lost.


Unfortunately, research has shown that when we are stressed, our bodies seek sweet, high-fat foods, which are often meals that might contribute to weight gain if consumed in excess. ¹ Because our stress reaction does not always burn a huge amount of calories, the calories you consume as a result of elevated cortisol levels may be excessive and lead to weight gain.


Stress and Our Modern Reaction


Our ability to cope with stress may be traced back to how our forefathers dealt with life-threatening events, such as fleeing from a massive predator. In contemporary times, our stress comes from emotional or mental stress rather than physical responsibilities or the threat of facing against a wooly mammoth. However, our bodies respond in the same manner, which is why many individuals utilize food as a stress reliever.


The average stress level of U.S. adults in 2019 was 4.9 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 indicating “little or no stress” and 10 indicating “a great lot of stress.” Over the last decade, this level of stress has remained steady. The causes of stress have changed from year to year, despite the fact that the amount of stress has stayed consistent. Mass shootings and the expense of healthcare were the two biggest drivers of stress in 2019.


In the year 2020, amidst the COVID-19 epidemic, stress levels have risen dramatically compared to the previous decade. Since the start of the epidemic, Americans have reported an average stress level of 5.4 (up from 4.9 last year). Parents with school-aged children are one of the most affected populations.


Working from home while arranging online schooling for their children was a major cause of stress for some parents. Individuals have also admitted to gaining weight while self-quarantining. Lack of sleep, decreased physical activity, and eating in reaction to increased stress were all major contributors to weight gain during the epidemic. ²


On a Day-to-Day Basis, There’s a Lot of Stress


The sun rising in the morning and lowering in the evening helps our body stay awake and attentive during the day while becoming naturally more fatigued at night. Your energy levels, emotions, performance, and general mental clarity may all benefit from a regular sleep routine. Maintaining a regular sleep pattern is critical for reducing stress levels.


You are not alone if you find it difficult to get adequate sleep. According to the CDC, 35.2 percent of Americans do not receive the necessary 7 hours of sleep a night. Problems with sleep can be caused by both a lack of sleep and a lack of quality sleep. Sleep disturbances can occur for a variety of causes, including lifestyle choices, environmental disturbances, and even medical disorders. Although many of us have difficulty keeping a consistent sleep pattern, quality sleep is critical for the body’s basic functions, particularly the brain. Short-term impacts of sleep disruption in adults include an elevated stress response, poorer quality of life, mood problems, and cognitive, memory, and performance deficiencies, according to a study of the short and long-term impacts of sleep disturbance. ⁴ Chronic illnesses such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia, and weight-related disorders were found to be long-term impacts of sleep deprivation.


The Relationship Between Stress, Sleep, and Diet


Stress, lack of sleep, emotional eating, and weight control are all linked.


⁵ You may have noticed that lack of sleep may lead to increased stress, and that stress can alter nutrient intake. When people are anxious, they may lose their appetite or, conversely, they may overeat. Leptin and ghrelin, two hormones that help regulate hunger, are thrown off when you don’t get enough sleep.


According to studies, this might trigger changes in appetite, resulting in increased energy intake and the consumption of higher-calorie meals. Sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of obesity and a larger waist circumference, which can be a sign of cardiovascular health.


While sleep has an impact on the quality of our food and our stress levels, our nutrition has an impact on the quality of our sleep. Micronutrients include vitamins A, C, D, E, and K, as well as calcium and magnesium, have been shown to be crucial for sleep in studies. High carbohydrate meals have also been reported to make you feel tired, but they can also affect sleep quality, especially when consumed with a high glycemic index.


The Sleep Foundation recommends eating a well-balanced diet, such as the Mediterranean or DASH diets, rather than following a specific dietary pattern to enhance sleep.


How to Customize Your Diet for Stress Management and Sleep


Small dietary changes might help you cope with stress better and enjoy a better night’s sleep!


  1. Carbohydrates that are complex


Carbohydrates can raise serotonin levels in the body, a hormone that helps to improve mood and reduce stress. Increased serotonin levels can aid focus and perhaps make you more productive. However, there are several carbohydrate sources available. Choosing whole-grain complex carbohydrates like brown rice, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, and quinoa will help lower blood sugar and keep you full, which may be especially beneficial if you wake up hungry in the middle of the night.


  1. Drinking water


It is critical to maintain appropriate hydration in order for our bodies to operate correctly. Water, on the other hand, aids in the maintenance of appropriate cortisol levels and the regulation of our response to external stresses. ⁶ While we acquire around 20% of our daily hydration needs from the meals we eat, the remaining 80% should come from liquids, preferably water. The typical lady requires 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of water per day, whereas the typical guy requires 15.5 cups (3.7 liters).


  1. Fatty Acids Omega-3


Healthy fats present in tuna, salmon, and mackerel, such as omega-3 fatty acids, have been related to enhanced mood and stress management. These important fatty acids may help control the synthesis of pro-inflammatory cytokines and stress-related hormones like norepinephrine and adrenaline, according to research. ⁷ Omega-3 fatty acids have also been proven to improve sleep quality by increasing melatonin levels. Most individuals should have 250 to 500 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids each day, which is roughly the amount you’d receive from 4 ounces of salmon or 1 can of tuna.


  1. vitamin D


Sleep apnea and the severity of symptoms are linked to vitamin D insufficiency. Vitamin D deficiency has also been related to a reduction in sleep duration. ⁸ Getting enough vitamin D can help you sleep better and enhance your mood, both of which lead to greater sleep quality. Meals high in vitamin D include fatty fish, eggs, and fortified foods. Exposure to sunshine may also help the body generate vitamin D, which is a fantastic incentive to take a break during the day to get some fresh air.


  1. B Vitamins


Poor sleep is caused by low levels of specific B vitamins, such as pyridoxine (B6) and cobalamin (B12). Because vitamin B6 aids in the production of the chemicals serotonin and melatonin, it has been linked to enhanced mood and sleep quality. Vitamin B6 is found in nine different foods. Eggs, dairy, healthy grains, salmon, spinach, carrots, and potatoes are just a few of the foods high in vitamin B6. Vitamin B12 is involved in the control of sleep-wake cycles and regulates circadian rhythms. Vitamin B12 deficiency has been linked to insomnia and depression, both of which are key contributors to sleep disorders12. Red meat, eggs, dairy, legumes, nuts, dark leafy greens, and whole grains are all good sources of vitamin B12.


  1. Alcohol


It’s tempting to grab for a nightcap when we’re worried or can’t sleep. Alcohol, on the other hand, can cause our circadian cycles to be disrupted, resulting in restless, interrupted sleep. Alcohol’s dehydrating effects might make us feel even more weary the next day. Additionally, taking a drink – especially if it leads to regular drinking – can raise cortisol levels, resulting in increased tension and anxiety.


So, what’s next?


It’s critical to understand your risks and how to mitigate them. Knowing where to begin when making dietary and lifestyle adjustments is equally crucial. A consultation with a nutritionist may be beneficial in providing extra direction. To further adapt your diet and improve your health, gaining a deeper understanding of how your body may respond to different nutrients or eating habits might be a fantastic starting step.




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