How Your Diet Affects Your Emotional Stress
When you start considering how you can reduce your stress levels, you probably focus on how much work you’re doing, what your daily responsibilities are, and whether or not you practice good self-care.
These are all very important, but don’t forget that the simplest choices you make every day, like your diet, could be impacting your stress. A common stressor has to do with your diet. Some foods can increase stress 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 food choices you make. When’s the last time you craved broccoli or a salad when you were feeling stressed?!
Like most of us, you probably choose comfort foods like ice cream and other sweets when you’re feeling stressed. This is a vicious cycle that you can mitigate by focusing on fueling your body with a variety of nutritious foods.
Nutritional Deficiencies From Your Diet
If you have a poor diet, you may wind up with nutritional deficiencies. These deficiencies can affect your physical health as well as your emotional health.
For example, did you know that folate deficiency can affect your mood and increase feelings of 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.
Vitamin D – Do you know why you feel more energized and happier on sunny days? It’s the vitamin D from the sun’s UV rays. If you live somewhere that’s cloudy and rainy a lot, or during the winter when there isn’t much sun, you’ll need to supplement vitamin D through your food. You can get vitamin D from foods like fatty fish, eggs, dairy, and fortified cereal.
Fiber – Eating more fruit, avocados, and whole grains is a good place to start to get more fiber in your diet.
Calcium – While many people get their calcium from dairy and yogurt, you might not be someone who can eat a lot of dairy like me. You can also get calcium from foods like almonds, sesame seeds, tofu, and kale.
Iron – You also want to make sure you have enough iron in your diet. Iron can help with your mental health and with balancing your energy levels. Get iron from red meat, turkey, some nuts and seeds like pumpkin seeds and almonds, broccoli, and dark chocolate (just in case you needed an excuse to eat chocolate!).
Protein – You get protein from many of these same foods, including meat, poultry and fish, dairy, cheese, eggs, tofu, and nuts.
Feeding Emotional Stress with Unhealthy Foods
Another link between stress and nutrition is that you can often “help” your stress and emotions with food. The problem here is that when you’re stressed, you probably go for the more unhealthy foods. Emotional eating isn’t bad for you if it’s only occasional, but you want to have a variety of tools and techniques to help you 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, that’s when it can become a problem. You might regularly overeat, consume too many unhealthy foods, and even become malnutritioned if 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. Some side effects of stress can include:
- vitamin deficiencies and emotional eating
- overeating the wrong foods
- not getting enough exercise
- sleeping too much or not enough
- drinking alcohol, smoking, or doing drugs to numb out
These can all turn on you and not only do they not help with your stress, they can actually make it worse.
The Cycle Continues
This is a vicious cycle that is very hard to get out of. Once you start turning to unhealthy habits to deal with your stress, you’ll probably feel that it is helping temporarily, but in the long-run, it is more likely hurting your mental health. The best thing you can do is stop this cycle now, start eating more mindfully, and look for healthier ways to manage your stress.
Don’t feel like you can never emotionally eat, just don’t rely only on emotional eating to manage your stress. Some healthier habits you can include instead include:
- visiting with friends
- playing with your dog
- taking a few deep breaths
- scheduling some down time
- going for a walk
- reading a book
- reducing your screen time
- taking a nap
- listening to calming music
Benefits of Hiring a Coach
If you’re having trouble making healthy habits stick, teaming up with a health coach could be life-changing.
Using motivation and a unique combination of skills to guide and incentivize behavior change, health coaches empower their clients to achieve their wellness goals.
One of the main principles of health coaching is the fact that everyone faces specific challenges when it comes to improving their health.
Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach to wellness, health coaches help clients create highly personalized strategies for achieving their goals.
And guess what?
I’m a health coach specializing in mindfulness and stress management and I’m currently taking on new clients. If you’re interested in finally getting the help you need, schedule your complimentary 30-minute discovery call with me today.