Stress can be great for us, because it motivates us to push through, stay on top of stuff and just get things done. But stress can also be negative and affect our inner balance as well our productivity and our digestive system. Yep, that’s right, stress can totally mess up our digestion and that can lead to acid reflux, stomach cramps and sometimes even just not feeling satiated even after having a big meal. It also leads to a reduced ability of absorbing nutrients and ultimately, it can also lead us to gain weight. The simple explanation for that is that when the fight or flight response kicks in, most blood flow is directed towards our arms, legs and brain so we can move and think quickly. That also means, that our digestion is neglected so if we eat in stressful situations, we don’t absorb nutrients correctly, don’t really digest our food and potentially start accumulating fat around the belly area (because of the high levels of cortisol).
Now there are simple ways to cope with stress, especially around eating times. Most of these tricks are easy to implement but their effects are tremendously beneficial. Read on…
- Breathe! Yep, breathing is not only for your Yoga class but it’s also useful before you eat a meal. Especially if you are at work, running around like crazy and trying to finish this one presentation, while working on 3 emails and dealing with passive aggressive comments from your boss. The solution is to sit down, close your eyes and do some breathing exercises. It immediately relaxes your body and mind. One that I love is inhaling for 5 seconds, retaining my breath for 5 and then exhaling for 5. Repeat this a couple times for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Chew! Chewing your food mindfully versus just quickly swallowing big bites makes all the difference. Your brain needs about 20 minutes to register that you are full so it’s important to take enough time to eat in order to avoid overeating or stomach cramping. Also, digestion starts in your mouth so make it easier for your belly to do the task by chewing your food enough.
- Move! Take a stroll around the block at lunch break, jump around a little before dinner – just move before you sit down to eat. It will enhance your digestion, clear your mind and send a signal to your brain that it’s time for a new activity, namely eating.
These quick fixes go a long way so next time you are feeling you eating under stress, take a break, sit back and follow one or all of the above techniques. It takes time to change habits – but you can do it, just start small!