According to popular sentiment, 2021 was supposed to come along and make us all feel way better…sunshine, roses, unicorns, gatherings of 10 or more, you know a good life. Well 2021, we’re waiting…anytime now…wait for it…wait for it…almost there…almost there…stay on target…stay on target…well there’s always next year. So it turns out that reality doesn’t necessarily attend to our current 12 months, 56 weeks, 7 days, 24-hour scheduling system. Real-life can be so high maintenance sometimes, am I right? Here are my thoughts….P.L.E.A.S.E. stop waiting around for fate to make an appearance. There are 7 things you can do right now for better stress management and these 7 things are fairly simple. Simple, not easy. Simple push-ups are simple. I feel pretty confident that 98% of you out there could tell me how to do a push-up. “Uh, well, you lay on the ground and you push…up…”. And yet, even though I know how simple and effective they are, I still struggle daily to talk myself into doing a few simple push-ups. Simple doesn’t mean easy. So these changes will take effort, however, with time this 7 point stress management checklist has the potential to completely revolutionize your life.
We’ve already looked at the first two letters of P.L.E.A.S.E.: Physical health, and Lather/Laundry. If you missed the first installment of our discussion on stress management and healthy living click here. Now let’s look at E – Eat Well.
3. PLEASE Eat Well to Manage Stress and Live a Healthy Life
What we eat matters. We have embodied beings which means we do not just have a body but our bodies are an essential part of who we are and what it means to be human. So as human beings there are certain rules that apply. One of those rules is “I must eat to live”. What I eat has a direct effect on how my physical body functions, including my emotions which are full-body responses to internal and/or external experiences. Let’s think about what we eat and what, what we eat does to us. In order to eat for stress management, we need to eat foods that don’t put added strain on our physical bodies. Here’s a great place to start if healthy eating and nutrition are a bit foreign to you.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025 (https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf#page=31) a healthy eating plan:
- Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
- Includes a variety of protein foods such as seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), soy products, nuts, and seeds.
- Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars
- Stays within your daily calorie needs
Additionally, it is so important that we pay attention to the quality of the food that we eat especially the convenience and processed foods. Our bodies often struggle to know how to break down these foods and what to do with all the additional ingredients and preservatives within them. These convenience foods (i.e. fast-foods) are a major contributor to the rise in completely preventable health conditions in the U.S. because of the connection between these foods and chronic weight gain.
According to the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/causes.html), people who have obesity, compared to those with a healthy weight, are at increased risk for many serious diseases and health conditions, including the following:
- All causes of death (mortality)
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- High LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides (Dyslipidemia)
- Type 2 diabetes
- Coronary heart disease
- Gallbladder disease
- Osteoarthritis (a breakdown of cartilage and bone within a joint)
- Sleep apnea and breathing problems
- Many types of cancers
- Low quality of life
- Mental illness such as clinical depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders
- Body pain and difficulty with physical functioning
If our bodies are fighting to survive we will have very little energy left over for stress management or creating for ourselves the life we want to live.
There is one other consideration when trying to eat well, and that is to eat well. I mean well in the sense of conscientiousness. How was this food produced? Was the earth exploited or poisoned to make this food? Were animals confined, tortured, and terrorized to provide this protein? Were other humans expected to work in deplorable conditions to process and package this item? It is important to remember that we are a part of this world; we do not exist above it or beyond it. So our treatment of the earth, the animals, and other people will have a profound effect on our own mental and emotional health. I can’t prove this to you scientifically so I ask you simply to consider on a spiritual level how the quality of life of the organisms we consume may deeply impact our own well-being. Imagine an animal born into captivity, living out its life in a cage or a box barely big enough to turn around in, forced to eat cheap food that does not agree with its own biology, pumped full of medicine and antibiotics because it has been dying its whole life, and finally slaughtered, a terrifying end to a terrifying existence. Age-old wisdom states: “We are what we eat.” If there is even the slightest correlation between the stress in these animals’ lives and the stress in our own perhaps it is time that we no longer participate in this model of food production.
So here it is, our third key to stress management: PLEASE eat well. This means we make an effort to regularly eat foods that our bodies need and recognize as nourishing such as organically grown fruits and vegetables, humanely and conscientiously raised animals, plenty of water, nuts, and legumes, and even splurge a bit, occasionally of course, on fancy dessert or good old comfort foods that contain only a handful of simple, recognizable ingredients.