Stress can mean different things to different people, but stress is generally the buildup of anxiety and pressure. There seems to be only so much pressure that one person can handle, and stress will occur when they have had their fill of it.
Life with Fibromyalgia means that it is not easy to prevent stress. Sometimes it feels like stress is coming from everywhere and everything and has a way of taking over life very quickly. Some of the reasons for stress can be the impact fibromyalgia has on our lives, from living with chronic pain, chronic fatigue, and "fibro fog," which can cause mishaps and poor concentration and focus on getting work or daily chores complete. Other reasons for stress can be similar to those without a chronic illness, stress coming from work, family, a terrible or sudden loss of a loved one, an ended marriage or relationship, or life problems in general. Anyone one of these things can provoke an emotional and physical stress response and, in turn, trigger a fibromyalgia flare-up.
If you can identify whenever stress is a trigger, the severity of a fibromyalgia symptom or frequency of a fibromyalgia symptom occurs. In that case, an effective solution to minimize your fibromyalgia flare-up is to achieve a reduction in the occurrence of stress. You can either find ways to avoid or reduce the stressors or learn to deal better with the stress, thereby reducing its impact and subsequent triggering of fibromyalgia symptoms.
There are many useful methods for reducing stress and anxiety; one way to help prevent stress is to have a good diet. I want to share with you how also to use food to reduce stress.
When you’re stressed out, the foods you’re turning to are most likely going to be traditional ‘comfort’ foods – think big meals, take-out, fatty foods, sweet foods, and alcohol. Let’s face it – we’ve all found some comfort in a tasty meal and a bottle of beer or glass of wine when we’ve been stressed out or upset about something. However, this isn’t the right permanent solution.
When you’re turning to unhealthy foods, you can temporarily feel better, but you will feel worse in the long run. When your body isn’t getting the right nutrition, you can begin to feel less energetic, more lethargic, and in some cases, less able to concentrate and focus. All of this can lead to even more stress.
FOODS THAT FIGHT STRESS
It's important to know which foods are best to choose and which to avoid when it comes to combating stress and helping you to deal with feelings of stress and anxiety. The best way to fight stress is to have a healthy, balanced diet that includes a moderate amount of different food groups.
Filling up on foods such as whole grains, leafy vegetables, and lean proteins is the best way to ensure that your body gets the optimum amounts of nutrients to fight both physical and mental health problems. When it comes to choosing the foods to eat, some have a range of great properties that help combat stress.
Some of the best stress-fighting foods include:
These nutrient-dense fruits have the properties to stress-proof your body, thanks to their high glutathione content, which specifically blocks the intestinal absorption of certain fats, which cause oxidative damage. Avocados also contain higher vitamin E levels, folate, and beta-carotene than any other fruit, which boosts their stress-busting properties. Creamy avocados can be eaten in various ways, whether you enjoy them raw, made into sauces, dressings, dips, or in a smoothie. However, be careful with portion control when eating avocado, as it is high in fat.
If you’re feeling stressed out and reaching for the snacks, swapping out cookies or chips for one of the best superfoods is a great way to help you deal with your stress levels and achieve a higher level of calm. Blueberries have some of the highest levels of antioxidants, especially anthocyanin, which means that this berry has been linked to a wide range of health benefits, including sharper cognition, better focus, and a clearer mind – all of which can help you to better deal with stress.
Of course, it’s not all about what you’re eating when managing stress; what you’re drinking can also alleviate or worsen the stress you're feeling. Drinking liquids that are high in sugars and caffeine, such as coffee, energy drinks, or soda, can increase your stress levels if consumed regularly. Chamomile tea has long been used as a natural bedtime soother. It has also been used in clinical trials, which determined that chamomile tea effectively reduces generalized anxiety disorder symptoms.
Although it’s usually seen as an unhealthy treat, there is an undeniable link between chocolate and our mood. Studies have shown that eating chocolate can make you happier. However, that doesn’t mean that you can start munching on chocolate bars every time you're stressed out – chocolate works best as a de-stressor when eaten in moderation and as part of a healthy and balanced diet. In particular, dark chocolate is best, as it contains more flavonols and polyphenols, two hugely important antioxidants that can help combat stress, more than many fruit juices.
Oatmeal is great because it can be filling comfort food and has a large number of healthy properties to make you feel better from the inside out. A complex carbohydrate, eating oatmeal causes your brain to produce higher levels of the feel-good chemical serotonin, helping you feel calmer and less stressed. Choosing oatmeal for breakfast can also help you feel more focused and improve your concentration throughout the morning.
If you’re looking for a healthy snacking option that will help you stay better in control of your stress levels, walnuts are a great choice. There is no denying the sweet, pleasant flavor of walnuts, and they can be a tasty snack for in-between meals or as part of a desert. A versatile nut, walnuts are great for salads or add them to a sweet treat such as walnut cake.
Another food that is great for snacking on and can also help combat stress and anxiety in the long term is pistachios. Studies have found that simply eating two small, snack-size portions of pistachios per day can lower vascular constriction when you are stressed, putting less pressure on your heart by further dilating your arteries. Along with this, the rhythmic, repetitive act of shelling pistachios can be quite therapeutic!
LEAFY GREEN VEGETABLES
Besides helping combat stress, leafy greens vegetables are full of nutrients and antioxidants that help fight off disease and leave your body feeling healthier and more energized. Dark leafy greens, for example, spinach, are perfect for you since they are rich in folate, which helps your body to produce more mood-regulating neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which is a ‘feel-good’ chemical. Making leafy greens a part of your diet will help you feel happier and less stressed out.
Read next: How to Manage Fibromyalgia Flares.