A Guest Post by Michael Deane
Even though working from home has many benefits, being stress-free is not one of them.
Work-related stress seems to be unavoidable no matter where we are. But, when we’re at home, the odds are that we’re going to try to calm our anxiety down with a quick and easy solution – food!
Here are the things you should avoid and the ones you should have more of in your pantry so that your brain is fully equipped to combat stress.
Always Eat Breakfast
It’s imperative to start your day right, so make it a practice to consume breakfast before you start with your work. Breakfast will help you stabilize your blood sugar levels, and you’ll be more in control of your portions during the day.
To jumpstart your metabolism, opt for high-fiber food. This kind of food digests slowly and reduces your anxiety and stress levels.
Whole-grain bread, fresh fruit, and oatmeal are always good breakfast choices. A bowl of plain yogurt with berries will support your mental functions and lower your cortisol levels, while a portion of avocado toast will keep your serotonin levels stable, and keep you feeling full for longer.
Forget About Sugar
When we’re under stress, we most often crave and reach out for things we should avoid. A bag of chips, a box of Oreos or a bowl of ice cream will activate the pleasure center in our brains and bring us temporary relief.
However, metabolically speaking, we’re only making things worse – carbs spike our blood sugar, and than cause it to crash, so we end up feeling anxious and sad. For the brain to reach its full potential, it needs premium fuel. If we feed it anything else, we may harm it.
A diet high in refined sugar is damaging to both our body and our brain. Besides difficulties in regulating insulin, it leads to inflammation and oxidative stress and worsens the symptoms of mood disorders.
Avoid boosting your energy with candy bars or sugary drinks. If your body craves something sweet, opt for fruits instead – they will satisfy your sweet tooth, and they are a great source of vitamins. If you choose citruses or strawberries rich in vitamin C, your body will be better equipped to fight off any tensions.
However, you can indulge in dark chocolate – it is rich in antioxidants, so it lowers stress hormones in your body. Just be mindful of the size of the portions as calories can quickly add up – stick to a 1-oz serving size or less, of at least 60% cacao dark chocolate daily.
Limit Alcohol and Caffeine
When we’re stressed, we reach for other stimulants too. A cup of coffee is often the first choice when we need more energy.
A lot of other foods and drinks contain caffeine too, such as chocolate, iced tea, sodas, matcha tea, etc. It turns out that, at the end of the day, we can consume more caffeine than we’re supposed to.
Caffeine stimulates the production of the primary stress hormone – cortisol, and it can boost your levels of anxiety. Limit the amount of caffeine you consume and try to avoid it before bedtime.
When you need a small jolt of caffeine, replace your usual coffee with a cup of green tea. Green tea is full of flavonoids that will support your brain health.
After a tiring day at work, alcohol is another stimulant people impulsively reach out to. Booze does act as a sedative and depressant, and it may temporarily calm you down and improve your mood. However, even casual drinking can decrease the quality of your sleep, which has known negative consequences for your physical and mental wellbeing.
Warm herbal teas, such as chamomile and lavender, can have the same calming effect, as they can relax you, and soothe your anxiety.
Include More Omega-3 in Your Diet
Try to include more omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. These essential acids are best known for their heart-health benefits, but they have a strong impact on your brain and your mood as well.
Omega -3 fatty acids stabilize adrenal hormone levels and prevent over-activation triggered by stress. To reap their benefits, have more of:
- Fat fish – tuna, halibut, salmon, sardines, herring, trout, etc.,
- Nuts –almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts, cashews.
- Seeds – chia seeds, flaxseed, etc.
For a healthy snack during your work hours, make your own trail mix with your favorite nuts and seeds. As they are very dense in calories, limit your intake to a small handful.
A Glass of Milk Before Bedtime?
Remember that glass of warm milk you used to drink before bedtime when you were a kid? It seems to have some healing powers, and it can lull you to sleep when you’re adult as well.
Some believe that it’s the power of association that calms us down. Others claim that the calcium and vitamin D in dairy products are great for winding down, as they can relax you and brighten your mood.
By being mindful of the things you consume, you can fuel your brain with the right substances, reduce your stress levels, and achieve balance.
It may take a while to form new eating habits, so be patient with yourself and remember to take it one step at a time.