7 Ways to Deal With Micro-Stress
Stress, it turns out, is a lot like snow. Here’s how to dig out.
Anxiety is the worst. It’s a liar that tells you you’re not worthy of having good things, a frenemy who points out all the flaws in your appearance, or a nagging presence whispering that you’ll never achieve the perfect work-life balance you so badly crave.
Whether chronic or acute, anxiety is often exacerbated by stress. Stress triggers the release of cortisol in the body so we can be alert and focus on problem-solving. However, if this pattern becomes the norm, it can cause us to become problem-seeking instead of problem-solving.
[Read: “How Your Brain Processes Anxiety.”]
This negative focus causes more stress, which increases anxiety, which can disrupt our ability to relax, sleep, and recharge. That, in turn, increases stress, which increases anxiety...and, well, you get the idea.
Luckily, our pantries may hold the key to helping us get off the anxiety hamster wheel. The natural world is awash in delicious, comforting foods that work with our biology to not only nourish our bodies but also help restore our mental and emotional health.
Here are six reliable standbys that are versatile, available in most grocery stores, and just plain tasty.
A classic comfort food, dark chocolate is also packed with properties that help lower anxiety. First, it contains flavanols, which have antioxidant properties that help increase circulation to the brain. It’s also rich in both tryptophan, which aids in serotonin production, and magnesium, which increases the activity of calming receptors in the brain.
When choosing your chocolate, look for low-sugar varieties, as sugar can exacerbate anxiety.
Another rich source of tryptophan, walnuts also boast high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and protein. Omega-3s helps reduce inflammation in the body, which also reduces our cortisol levels. Meanwhile, the protein in walnuts helps us feel full and satiated, which naturally promotes feelings of safety and calm.
Walnuts are so versatile! Eat them whole, add them to baked goods and salads, or add them to homemade trail mix.
These tasty late-summer gems are jam-packed with antioxidants and melatonin, a hormone our bodies release in preparation for sleep—and we all know getting enough sleep is key to alleviating anxiety.
[Download our free e-book, “Sleep Better Tonight.”]
Cherries are fabulous on their own, but you can also add them to oat-rich cobblers and crisps, serve them in a sauce over chicken or pork, buzz them up in a smoothie or juice blend, or make super soothing cherry moon milk.
Bananas are a serotonin-producing powerhouse. In addition to tryptophan, they contain high levels of B vitamins (folate and B6, specifically) and magnesium. Add their high potassium content into the mix to help regulate your heartbeat, and you’ve got a no-prep treat sure to help you find your calm.
Bananas make a great snack, especially when paired with walnuts. An essential to making a super-creamy smoothie, you can also freeze them and blend them with a touch of sweetener to make two-ingredient vegan ice cream.
Oats are my favorite comfort food. Not only are they tasty and versatile, they have a little of everything—tryptophan, magnesium, B vitamins, and potassium. As discussed, all of these nutrients are powerful anxiety-busters. Plus, who isn’t soothed by a belly full of warm oatmeal?
When choosing which oats to use, go for plain oats. This way, you can control the sugar content and add your own flavorings—like cherry chocolate or banana walnut.
Studies show that 14 compounds unique to this spicy root aid circulation in the brain, reduce inflammation, increase serotonin production, and stimulate vagus nerve function. The vagus nerve controls the “rest and digest” mode in our bodies, so activating it is a good thing!
Add ginger to both sweet and savory dishes, salad dressings, juice blends, and smoothies. If you can’t find fresh ginger, granulated works too.
Though each of these foods is delicious on its own (honey-candied ginger, anyone?) don’t be afraid to mix and match them to create nutrient-dense, serenity-inducing snacks and meals.
Check out more practices for conquering anxiety in our Anxiety Collection.
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