When our anxiety kicks into high gear, we all know the drill. We trade out the carrot sticks for something a little bit sweeter, and swap out our well-balanced dinners for a faster alternative. And if that isn’t bad enough, we lose sleep to reach those deadlines, and don’t turn up for our spinning classes.
But hey, you’re busy, youre allowed some time off, right?
Yet we all know that eating poorly, skimping on sleep, and avoiding exercise can make us feel worse for wear, and let stress and anxiety reign supreme. Sure, staying in with a pizza might help you finish that report a few days earlier, but the sluggish consequences don’t quite match the first blissful bites.
To combat stress and anxiety, we should instead be making the healthier choices. By keeping organised, feeling the benefits of better food, and making sure you are getting in some self-care as well, you can keep calm and carry on.
Here’s how you can stay healthy when you are stressed.
Plan your meals
We’ve seen the pics on Instagram, and we know that it will get us a few more likes than usual, but meal planning just seems a bit too much effort for a Sunday night. Yet meal planning is considered one of the best ways to make sure you’re getting your five a day (and everything else in between).
Dieticians are the biggest supporters of this recent craze, and its no surprise: Kristin Kirkpatrick, author of Skinny Liver, claims that leaving your meals to the day means you are more likely to skip on exercise, and pick the less than healthy options. The fact is, when we are feeling our stress and anxiety spiking, we pick the easier option. This translates to high calorie and fat content.
But, if we can just grab our lunch and head for the door, we will be making the less stressful and healthier choice.
Work-out your anxiety
When we finally make it home after a stressful and way-too-long day, the last thing we want to do is pull on a sports bra, and head back out to the gym. But for those who are burning out, getting a sweat on is the best way to get active and feel good.
If you refuse to face your spinning class, however, have no fear. Opting for less intense exercise when we are feeling anxiety is a firm favourite for bloggers. Even if you’re choosing the stairs over the lift, or chucking on a scarf and going for a short walk, you are getting your heart pumping, and cutting back at your anxiety.
Suggested read: What’s in Your Stress Bucket? The Stress Bucket Model
Drinking the recommended eight glasses a day won’t just keep your skin dewy; when we dehydrate, we can feel pangs of hunger as a mask for our thirst. If you don’t have a water bottle glued to your desk, chances are your energy will sap, and make you crave things you shouldn’t (enter vending machine, stage left).
Snacking is the nemesis of trying to stay healthy when stressed, so avoid the temptation of quick pick-ups.
Foods to avoid, and their stress-free swaps
If the stress and anxiety of that work day is getting us down, we opt for sugary sweet treats to keep us going. And while that may be fair enough, your body may not be thinking the same. Some of the foods we stock up on for the difficult days can actually make them much worse.
Comfort food is the go-to for a hard day. Packed full of cheese, and brimming with grease, these fatty foods can thicken our blood, making us feel tired. And feeling sluggish is no way to sort your stressful problems in an efficient way. In fact, it could make you more anxious than before.
Aside from baked goods, we also head for the coffee shops when are stressed; caffeine might be the international symbol for being busy, but this might be worsening the effects of our stress and anxiety. The caffeine can stay in our systems much longer than we think, leaving us with sleeping problems – as if we need yet another reason to toss and turn.
It might seem difficult to cut out our favourite snacks, but there are healthy alternatives to keep you feeling calm. Leafy greens top the list as one of the best foods to help you relax. And there’s no better mascot than spinach. It’s crammed full of folate: this produces dopamine, a pleasure-inducing chemical which will keep you calm and healthy.
Sure, if your evening is full, it might be that much easier to phone for a pizza, but you won’t be thanking yourself later. If anxiety picks up your adrenaline, meeting it with a sluggish response will make your day a little more difficult.
Keeping healthy is one of the best ways to stave off stress and reduce anxiety. And while treating ourselves occasionally is a must for staying happy, too many, too often, won’t feel as good as it tastes.