Right now, our entire globe is experiencing an unprecedented time of stress and upheaval — and it’s okay to acknowledge our collective feelings of fear, anger, disbelief, and, yes, even grief. My own biggest weakness in this health journey is to “stress eat” during times of uncertainty and it appears I’m not alone. According to a survey published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, 38% of adults eat unhealthy foods or overeat during periods of stress. While it might seem like a pint of ice cream or bag of chips offers temporary relief, new research from the University of Binghamton reveals that eating junk food could negatively impact your mood. That’s why I’d like to focus on how to make healthy choices during periods of stress.
Did you know that research proves that stress is associated with higher fat intake? A spike in cortisol levels when stressed increases appetite. That can create a bigger problem when you reach for fried, salty or sweet foods that have little nutritional value and a lot of excess calories. These foods increase inflammation and cause your blood sugar to spike, which can tank your mood.
If you’re struggling right now with stress eating and other unhealthy habits, I’d like to share a few tips. These practical suggestions will help you to make healthy choices during these stressful times.
Change Your Diet
U.S. News & World Report ranked the Mediterranean Diet as this year’s best diet. It also has ranked #1 for the past three years. A 2018 literature review supports that finding: People who followed a strict mediterranean diet, which included lots of fish, nuts, vegetables and fruits, had a 33% lower risk of being diagnosed with depression compared to those who ate a so-called western diet that was high in processed meats, trans fats and alcohol.
Spend Time Outside
Instead of opening your fridge the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, try opening your front door to take a walk. Spending time in nature can help improve well-being and alleviate depression. Besides keeping your waistline in check, moving your body with bursts of physical activity is good at alleviating every day pressures and stress.
Start a Journal
One of the most effective ways to reduce stress with journaling is to write in detail about feelings and thoughts related to stressful events. If a daily morning journal works for you, then follow it, but don’t feel the need to create a set schedule. Simply write during periods of stress or when you’re feeling overwhelmed to help you process your emotions. And always end with something positive, whether it’s the knowledge you’ve learned or an acknowledgement of gratitude.
Read a Book
I’m a natural bookworm and I try to find time each day to read for 30 minutes, uninterrupted. Little did I know the physical and mental benefits attached with reading.
A 2019 study from the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress by up to 68%. It works better and faster than other relaxation methods, such as listening to music or drinking a hot cup of tea. Also, it works because our minds are invited to a literary world that is free from the stress that troubles our ordinary lives. Reading can even relax your body by lowering your heart rate and easing the tension in your muscles. So if you don’t have time for a relaxing hot bath, soak in a good book.
Call a Friend
When you’re feeling stressed, take a break to call a friend and talk about your problems. Good relationships with friends and loved ones are important to any healthy lifestyle. They’re especially important during this time of “social distancing”. A reassuring voice, even for a minute, can help put things in perspective.
Is there something that helps you make healthy choices during periods of stress that I didn’t mention? I’d love to hear your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org. And please be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to receive more healthy tips straight to your inbox each Friday.