Stress is the one thing many of us have in common. To put it simply, stress is what happens when you overload your mind with things you fear to be out of our control.
We feel stressed over a lot of things but a global survey suggests we mostly get stressed from how to earn money, self-pressure, sleeplessness, threat of crime, and even children.
What is Stress?
Stress is your brain’s reaction to external situations where you suffer the inability to cope with the pressure it’s giving you. This pressure comes in multiple shapes and forms can trigger a lot of physiological reactions more commonly known as the “flight or fight” response.
This response enables the body to focus on physical functions that would be advantageous to your current situation such as running away from danger or defending yourself from an attacker.
Let’s now go towards something close to home: Stress Eating.
What is Stress Eating?
Also known as emotional eating, stress eating is when you’re at your emotionally weakest point and you turn to food for comfort.
This can happen whether you’re aware of it or not and can definitely sabotage your weight-loss efforts.
When you’re stressed, you will naturally look for something to make you feel good. That’s the usual explanation. Physiologically speaking, stress brings about an increase in cortisol, the stress hormone.
When cortisol is high, serotonin (calming hormone) is naturally low and this happens because the brain tries to balance the elevated levels of cortisol with serotonin.
The problem is, and without going too technical about it, cortisol is easier to produce than serotonin which is why plenty of people feel stressed all the time.
Dopamine and addiction
If serotonin levels are inadequate, your brain’s first response is to eat something that can trigger a surge of immediate happiness or calm.
It does this by consuming food that can trigger your brain’s reward system and activate your dopamine receptors. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for making you feel good.
As an example, heroin activates dopamine in insane levels which produces unexplained happiness and excitement. The problem is a “high” spike causes a “crash” as the brain tries to maintain balance.
This crash feels awful and often leads to high cortisol levels and, you guessed right, it causes stress. The user’s response would be to get high again and the cycle goes on.
What does Dopamine have to do with stress eating?
Sugar is addictive for the same reason heroin is addictive as it activates dopamine neurotransmitters (but just not on an excessively high level) but still definitely higher than normal.
This explains why your go-to food for stress are often foods with high amounts of sugar such as chocolate, ice cream, cakes and pastries.
It’s perfectly fine to consume a few every now and then but if stress is almost always present, then your sugar cravings will likewise increase until you realize you gained back all the weight you might have lost and more.
The weight gained will then proceed to cause you more stress by seeing your body ballooning again after all the hard work you put into shaping up! Let’s not even mention the health complications of being too overweight for your own good.
5 Ways To Naturally Combat Stress
The truth is that you don’t want to have the weight back but you also don’t want to spend so much money on prescription medicine just to relieve yourself of stress. Fortunately combating stress isn’t as complicated or costly as you might think.
You don’t have to opt to buy prescription drugs or go to expensive rehabilitation sites. In fact, fighting stress can be as easy as improving the way you live your life. Here are 5 examples of how to fight stress naturally:
1. Stress-Proof Your Diet
Sometimes stress is caused by the food you eat whether directly (contributing to cortisol production) or indirectly (obesity/unhealthy weight gain).
One of the best ways to fight stress is to actually improve your diet especially by including plenty of fruits and vegetables and excluding foods that cause stress such as fast food or processed food. Some foods known to cause stress are:
- Refined sugars
- Processed food
- Energy drinks
- Greasy food
Now you know the foods to avoid, here are a few foods and natural herbs to help you cope with stress and even help curb your appetite:
- Blueberries are high in Vitamin C, a vitamin known to reduce stress by lowering blood pressure, cortisol, and even subjective response to psychological stress factors.
- Dark Chocolate
- We said chocolate was bad for you but dark chocolate would like to be an exception. Flavonoid-rich dark chocolate was able to mitigate the risk of acute coronary syndromes triggered by emotional stress by reducing the acute prothrombotic (blood clotting) response to psychosocial stress.
- Ginseng is one of the most popular adaptogens, herbs used to relieve stress, in the market today. It has plenty of health benefits and is known to be a good treatment for chronic stress.
- Often referred to as Indian Ginseng, Ashwaganda is used in Ayurvedic medicine and is known to ease anxiety.
- Rhodiola provides a buffer to stress-related fatigue both mental and physical.
- Garcinia Cambogia
- Garcinia Cambogia is a popular appetite suppressant that supplies Hydroxycitric Acid, a compound that blocks fat-converting enzymes while boosting metabolism and aids in weight loss.
- Caralluma fimbriata
- Carallumba fimbriata is a plant of Indian origin known for its antiobesogenic and antiatherosclerotic properties by means of appetite control.
- Red Pepper
- Peppers, especially Red Pepper, are well known for their really hot taste and ability to make us sweat even on a cold night which makes them effective when it comes to boosting our metabolism and fat breakdown. Research has also confirmed its appetite suppressant properties.
Exercising has many benefits and beating stress is one of them. It does this by counteracting cortisol with endorphins a.k.a. the feel good hormone.
Aside from stress relief, your body will also benefit from the effects of exercise on your cardiovascular health, muscles, as well as bone density which promotes overall health in the long term.
And of course, exercising also helps you lose more weight so whenever you feel down just go out and run!
3. Avoid Vices
Vices such as gambling, smoking, and drinking can be disastrous to your health in many ways and can cause more stress.
Gambling can make you extra tense when it comes to finding ways to win more or win back the money you lost.
Smoking can make you dependent on nicotine and depriving yourself a puff or two can make you restless. This is on top of the adverse effects of smoking to your health.
Drinking excessively can give you terrible hangovers as well as promote anxiety post-drinking.
4. Stop & Relax
Running along with something you know you won’t be able to keep up with will only do more harm than good. Sometimes the world can seem too fast for you to catch up to and during those times the best way is to just stop and take a breather.
Sleeping soundly can actually reduce the impact of stress to your body. When you take a moment to just stop whatever it is your doing and relax, you allow yourself to think of ways to cope with the source of stress.
This also allows your body to relax and “reset” the effects of stress on your body such as lowering blood pressure and reducing heart rate to safe levels.
5. Be Sociable
Having too many things to think about and no one to talk to has been proven to cause a lot of stress. The obvious solution to that is to simply engage in social interaction.
A study even proves people who are stressed were able to cope with their stress better if they talked to someone about it than those who kept it all to themselves.
Talking also allows you to realize you are not alone when you’re stressed and that you can always ask for help when everything gets too stressful. This makes you relax and get a more optimistic view of life.