Coping with Stress

Managing stress is a big part of healthy living. Stress can be defined as something different to everyone. It may involve family, time, money, health, pets, work or just making ends meet throughout the day. Often we get stressed out over responsibilities, obligations or pressures we place on ourselves on a daily basis.

In times of stress, your body goes into “flight or fight” mode. When this happens your body releases the stress hormones adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol. Hunger levels are decreased when adrenaline is present as your blood flows away from the internal organs to your larger muscles to help you defend yourself.

However, cortisol is left once the effects of adrenaline wear off. Cortisol increases blood sugar to help you fight off the stressor. Too much cortisol (think chronic stress) can increase your blood pressure, slow digestion, impair hormone function and decrease immune function. Ever notice you get sick after a stressful week?

Another way your body can be stressed is by eating a restrictive diet. Not eating enough is stressful for your body and results in the same mechanisms as the “fight of flight” mode.

Once the stressful event is over and our stress levels fall, our glucose levels remain high and that glucose gets stored as fat. Most notably visceral fat (abdominal fat).

How to Cope:

Don’t let the little things stress you out. Remember to breathe. Think positive and stay clear of negative thoughts. Don’t get caught up in a cycle of beating yourself up.

Here are some other tips to beat stress:

  • Make smart food choices
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol consumption
  • Get enough sleep
  • Regular exercise
  • Meditate or practice deep breathing
  • Make time for your hobbies
  • Keep a diary of your feelings to help recognize the factors that trigger your stress
  • Talk to a friend
  • Spend time in nature
  • Unplug from electronics
  • Listen to a comedy routine or think of something that makes you laugh

Favorite Food: Chia Seed

Chia seeds are tiny black seeds that pack a powerful nutrition punch. “Chia” is the ancient Mayan word for “strength.” They contain antioxidants and Omega-3s in the form of ALA (Alpha-Linolenic Acid), which is an essential fatty acid (your body can not make it). Chia seeds also have a satiating effect because they are quite high in fiber and form a gel when mixed with liquid.

A 1 ounce (2 Tbsp) serving contains:

  • Calories: 137
  • Fiber: 11 grams.
  • Protein: 4 grams.
  • Fat: 9 grams (5 of which are Omega-3s).
  • Calcium: 18% of the RDA.
  • Manganese: 30% of the RDA.
  • Magnesium: 30% of the RDA.
  • Phosphorus: 27% of the RDA.

How to add them in:

Chia seeds are rather bland in taste so they can be added to almost anything!

I regularly add chia seed to oatmeal, pancakes, and waffles.

Take advantage of their gelling properties and make a chia pudding or fruit jam

Use as an egg replacment. To make this vegan option, mix 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water and let sit for 15 minutes.

Add to baked goods like muffins, granola or bread.

Mix in with yogurt or add to smoothies

Sprinkle on salad or stir fried veggies.

PRO tip: Since they are high in fiber, start with a small serving (1-2 tsp) and make sure you are drinking water throughout the day.

Making Sleep a Priority

One of the best things you can do for yourself, as far as self care goes, is get enough sleep!

Sleep is when your body repairs itself. Your body replenishes it’s immune cells during this time, repairs tissue and this is the time when protein synthesis and muscle recovery take place. Sleep is a big deal for me, probably because I’m a fairly routine person. Can you think of a time or two when you’ve had a few nights in a row strung together of poor sleep?

Getting enough sleep regulates hormones (cortisol, leptin, ghrelin), improves athletic performance, reduces stress levels, improves focus, creativity, and memory. Enough is different for everyone, but typically 7-9 hours each night is recommended.

How do you create a sleep routine?

  1. Limit caffeine in the afternoon. If I do have caffeine in the afternoon, I am sure to be done drinking it by 2:00pm. This time may be different for everyone, but I’ve found if I do have caffeine after 2:00 I have trouble falling asleep at night. This could also vary depending on what time you go to bed.
  2. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning.  Staying with a schedule helps your body get into a sleep rhythm.  It’s called a circadian rhythm. Your body will start to feel tired at the same time each night and start waking up at the same time each morning. In many ways we are creatures of habit and this habit helps ensure we get enough sleep each night.
  3. Have a wind down routine. Do something quiet at night: read a book to yourself or kids, take a bath, drink hot tea, stretch, yoga, meditate. Try not to use your phone or computer as your wind down routine as the blue light from it’s screen can decrease melatonin levels. Melatonin is a hormone which signals your body that it’s time to to go sleep. It also acts as an antioxidant in your body and has been shown to help prevent and manage Alzheimer’s Disease.
  4. Make sure your room is dark, quiet and the temperature is right for you. Some people find an eye mask or sound machine are helpful. They even have sound machine apps for your phone you can download. These could be helpful when traveling as well.

You may find it helpful to set an alarm at night! This alarm is your signal that it’s time to start your wind down routine and get ready for bed. Prioritize your list of things to do and when the alarm goes off the list is done-zo.

 

Favorite Foods: Avocado

I didn’t grow up eating avocados and was probably in my late 20s when I decided to give one a try. Now, avocados are an everyday food for my family, sometimes making it difficult to keep ripe ones stocked in the fridge. It’s one of those foods that never gets deleted from the grocery list because we always seem to be running low. Their creamy flavor is versatile and goes well with so many foods!

Why you should eat them:

Avocado is a fruit loaded with monounsaturated fats, fiber and many vitamins and minerals (vitamin K, folate, Vitamin C, Potassium, Vitamin E, Magnesium to name a few). It has the same type of fat found in olive oil, known as oleic acid, which has hearty healthy benefits. Avocados are high in antioxidants, including Lutein and Zeaxanthin, which are beneficial to eye health. Adding avocado to salads helps your body absorb fat soluble vitamins and carotenoids.

Ways to eat Avocado:

The most famous use of the avocado is guacamole. Add tomato, salt and a little lime juice for a tasty dip.

Some people, including my daughter, will eat it plain.

Diced or sliced avocado can be used as a topping for a baked potato, chili, tortilla soup, or burgers.

A breakfast food such as avocado toast, or added to eggs and omelets

Added to Mexican food like tacos, quesadillas, nachos or burritos

You can find avocado in a sushi roll or used as a sandwich spread.

You can also blend it and mix it in with hummus, add it to a smoothie, or use it as a replacement for butter or oil in baked desserts.

What’s your favorite way to eat avocado?

More favorite foods posts to come as I highlight my favorite nutrient dense foods, why you should add them in and ideas on how to do so.  Have a great weekend!

Hydration 101

(Repost from Real Spotlight)

I live in a very dry climate and I crush my water intake in the summer, rarely needing to remind myself to drink more. However, sometimes in the winter I forget how dry it is here and end up going a few days until I realize I’ve been slacking.

A few Facts on Water: 1. Water has many essential functions in the body such as regulating body temperature, keeps muscles and joints limber and keeps blood flowing to the kidneys to flush out waste. 2. Water makes up 40-60% of your body weight. 3. You can’t live more than a few days with water.

A good rule of thumb is to take your body weigh in pounds and divide it by 2 to find out how much liquid (in ounces) you need in a day. This does include all liquids such as coffee, tea, juice, soda and water. Of course, filling up the majority of these ounces should be with water.

Another good tip is to drink to quench your thirst. If you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. If you exercise (especially in heat) or are at a higher altitude you need even more water. Exercising while dehydrated can also impair your performance.

If you exercise greater than 1 hour and are sweating, you’ll need to replace electrolytes as well. This can be accomplished with eating a snack such as yogurt and fruit with a handful of nuts while drinking water (or turn this into a smoothie) or drinking a sports drink.

Finally, monitoring your urine is another good way to know if you are drinking enough water. Your urine should be a light, yellow color. If it is darker than that, is a sign you are dehydrated. If it is more white, you may be drinking too much.

Other signs of dehydration include:

Dry mouth

Eyes stop making tears

Sweating may stop

Muscle cramps

Nausea and vomiting

Heart palpitations

Lightheadedness (especially when standing)

Weakness

 

PRO tip: Take 2-3 days and keep track of how much water you drink and monitor your urine color. Anyone conscious of their health, does this, I swear 😉 If they don’t, they should 🙂