Do you know what stresses you out the most? It is different for everyone but the toll it takes on our bodies is not so different. It can be a factor for everything from heart disease to weight gain to diabetes to insomnia, just to name a few. Knowing what causes you stress can be one step towards reducing it, but it isn't easy to lower stress just by knowing the cause. Seriously, when you are at a point where you would like to pull your hair out and utter a blood curdling scream because your life is so crazy, do you want someone to say, “hey, I know you're busy, just relax!”
I know one thing that tends to push me over the edge is being late. I hate when I have an appointment or someone has asked me to be somewhere and I realize I will not arrive at the appointed time. My heart starts racing, my breathing gets shallow and my brain goes into panic mode. If someone tried to tell me to calm down I would snap like a stretched rubber band. Research shows that what is happening to me is an increase in the stress hormone called cortisol. Unfortunately, when I do calm down it is still wreaking havoc. Let’s say I had a lunch date and end up being late. My stress would have risen, cortisol would have risen and then my response would be to order junk food. Yep, the strain I put on myself can lead to bad eating because french fries will make me happy and after dealing with the anxiety of being late, I want to be happy. Then the cortisol turns to dopamine and the endorphins start doing jumping jacks of joy! Bet you can guess what happens next. My body goes through a crash because it got no real nutrients, I feel stressed because I made a bad food choice, the cortisol goes up and then there’s a bag of potato chips in my future.
Believe it or not, there are foods you can turn to at these times that can actually help to conquer this bad cycle or that you can chose to soothe stress. Eating Well magazine ran a list and I want to share it with you. If you would like to know why each food helps, follow the link to read more. I want to give you some ideas on how to eat the items on the list. If you have more ideas, please share in the comment section.
Of course, all these foods need to be eaten in correct portion sizes!
So next time you see me and I am running late, stick a red pepper in my hand and then tell me to relax!
Of course I have to include a recipe that incorporates some of the above foods. This yummy, barley salad can be a main dish or a side.
Cran-nut Barley Salad
modified from Rachael Ray
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 small orange, zested and juiced (should have 2 tbsp juice and 1/2 tbsp zest)
1 small lemon, zested and juiced (should have 2 tbsp juice and 1/2 tbsp zest)
2 cups barley, cooked as directed on package
1 cup parsley leaves, coarsly chopped
1 cup spinach leaves, coarsely chopped (alternatively you can serve on a bed of spinach)
1 cup walnuts, roasted and chopped
1/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped
2 large scallions, whites and light green parts, thinly sliced
Barley Salad served with Carolina BBQ Sandwich