There are articles all over the internet about how and why to avoid stress. Some are helpful, some not so much. If you need a couple reasons why it is important for us to intentionally reduce stress consider these points: Stress decreases our ability to properly digest and eliminate food, which prevents us from maintaining proper weight and can cause cramping and bloating. Stress inhibits our blood sugar management, which can lead to food cravings, inflammation, and headaches.
Interested in how to reduce stress very simply to improve digestion and blood sugar balance? Read on:
Take 5 deep breaths before every meal, snack, and treat
Relaxing while eating is the #1 thing that someone can do to reduce digestive distress. Properly digesting our food allows us to absorb all the nutrients available in our food, and can lead to improved energy, pain reduction, better sleep, and weight loss, to name a few benefits. I know this sounds too basic to be meaningful, but it's true: when we relax, we breathe. I'm reading the fantastic book The Slow Down Diet by Marc David and he articulates this simple truth so well:
“The entire process of digestion is designed to break food down into microscopic morsels that can be sent to your cells and combusted with oxygen for energy release. Over 95% of all energy generated in the body comes from the simple combination of oxygen plus food. Without oxygen your food is literally useless… That’s why the most commonly used measurement for metabolic rate is oxygen utilization. Metabolism is oxygen. And oxygen comes from breathing.”
Breathing reduces stress and allows us to digest.
Plan out your breakfasts for the upcoming week
There is something powerful about having a plan for the morning. It not only ensures we will get the nutrition we need right out of the gates but having a plan for the morning leaves us feeling empowered to choose what we will do and in which state of mind we will do it all day. When we start our day on the right foot, we are not victims of the day but we are intentionally moving through it with responsibility and conviction.
Planned breakfasts can take virtually no time:
- Hard boil a dozen eggs and slice cucumber and carrots on Sunday, then eat 2 eggs and some veggies each morning with zero prep time.
- Mix up Creamy Cocoa Mixture and eat it with an apple or banana
- Make your favorite soup over the weekend and heat some up for breakfast (I love soup for breakfast in the winter!)
Slow cooker meats
I am a little bit obsessed with slow cooker meats right now - partly because they are making my life SO much easier, and partly because I can have the same recipe 4 weeks in a row and still not be sick of it. :) Try this slow cooker pork (with or without the salsa verde) or this barbacoa beef. There are tons of great slow cooker meat recipes out there and I usually ignore the instructions and put all the ingredients into a crockpot on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours.
Slow cooker meats can be scrambled into an omelet for breakfast, reheated and eaten over greens for lunch, or eaten with a potato and veggie hash. The options are endless but slow cooking meat is the antithesis of spending time cooking, and having the meat pre-cooked makes all meals quicker.
Remember that stressing about something is not the same as caring about something
I saved the best and most important point for last. I had this realization fairly recently through conversations with my husband. He rarely stresses about anything, but, unfortunately, I really struggle with stressing about big and small things alike. I try to make the intentional decision every day: 'No matter how late we are, or how many items on the to-do list I don't get to, I will not allow it to stress me out. I will not argue about it with my husband... I'll roll with it.'
But it feels like every single time stress still gets the best of me. I'm sitting in traffic watching the minutes tick by on my clock, stewing on how annoyed I am that I didn't leave earlier, and stress slowly starts to cloud my mind. Then as I start to get flustered and my husband remains calm, I get mad at him for not stressing out with me (which I acknowledge is ridiculous). Then being mad stresses me out more! It's a lose lose lose scenario.
This simple realization has REALLY helped me reframe potentially stressful events in ways that prevent me from both fretting about the situation AND keep me from getting mad at the hubby for keeping his cool:
We can care deeply about something without stressing about it if things go wrong.
In fact, my stress about a situation - or about a failure on my part - does not indicate a single thing about how deeply I value it. But my stress does indicate that I cannot come to terms with reality and accept that I am not in complete control of my life.
Similarly, when a loved one stays calm - even if something that really matters to you is not going as planned - it does not necessarily mean that he or she does not care about it... or about you.
Each one of us is individually responsible for how we react to situations outside of our control and (even more importantly) our own failings. We never HAVE to stress about anything.
You can care about something without stressing about it.
Do any of these suggestions strike home for you? Do you have other strategies you use to keep your sanity when life gets busy? Let me know in the comments section!