If desserts truly helped with overall stress whether it was short lived or longer term, I’d be one happy camper! Take out the added calories, high fat and high sugar content that the most delicious desserts are made with of course as that just adds to the stress! To be honest, I’m not a huge sweets fan but wouldn’t hate having a warm raspberry turnover with vanilla bean ice cream on the daily - my fav and definitely will calm my stressed out mind!
Now I am in no way saying that desserts are the cure-all to stress as we all know that excess sugar can cause unwanted weight gain, is a precursor to type 2 diabetes, fatty liver and heart disease, as well as it’s a no-go for some people due to already having underlying health conditions. Although they may give us a temporary “high” and calm our stress a little, it’s best we first try and find out what is truly causing us stress before we reach for desserts as it’s just a short term “fix”.
Stress is an absolutely normal feeling that we all get at different points in our life for different reasons, and it can be emotional or physical tension that lasts short term (acute) or becomes chronic pending on what the cause is. It triggers your body's nervous system which controls your heart rate, breathing, vision changes and more - or better known as our body’s “fight-or-flight response”. In short bursts, stress can actually be positive, such as when it helps you avoid danger or meet a deadline. But when it lasts for a long time (chronic), it could be harmful to your health.
Chronic stress causes wear and tear on your body - physical, emotional and behavioral symptoms such as these below can occur.
- Physical symptoms may include:
- Aches and pains, chest pain or a feeling like your heart is racing, exhaustion or trouble sleeping, headaches, dizziness or shaking, high blood pressure, muscle tension or jaw clenching, stomach or digestive problems, trouble having sex, weak immune system.
- Emotional and mental symptoms may include:
- Anxiety or irritability, depression, panic attacks, sadness.
- Unhealthy behaviors may include:
- Drinking alcohol too much or too often, gambling, overeating or developing and eating disorder, participating compulsively in sex, shopping or internet browsing, smoking, using drugs.
Some of the more severe symptoms listed above, may require you seeking professional help or simply speaking with your doctor on what might be the best ways for you to manage your stress. You can’t avoid stress altogether but what you can do is attempt to identify your triggers and prevent some of the stress that does occur in your day to day life.
Here are 15 simple ways to relieve some of your everyday stress:
- Get more physical activity - regular exercise may help reduce stress and improve symptoms related to common mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
- Follow a healthy diet - following a nutrient-dense diet and limiting ultra-processed foods may provide your body with the nutrients it needs for optimal health and decrease your risk of deficiencies in nutrients that help regulate stress. (Hey! Eat Well has some great options to help you follow a healthier diet!)
- Minimize phone use and screen time - by minimizing these it may help reduce stress and improve sleep in both children and adults.
- Consider supplements - certain supplements may reduce stress levels, including magnesium, L-theanine, rhodiola and B vitamins (speak with your doctor before starting any supplement regime).
- Practice self-care - this is an important part of managing stress.
- Reduce your caffeine intake - large amounts of caffeine may increase stress and anxiety.
- Spend time with friends and family - having strong social ties may help you get through stressful times and is important for overall mental well-being.
- Create boundaries and learn to say no - it’s important to create healthy boundaries in your life by declining to take on more than you can handle. Saying “no” is one way to control your stressors.
- Learn to avoid procrastination - if you find yourself regularly procrastinating, staying on top of your to-do list may help ward off related stress.
- Take a yoga class - this is widely used for stress reduction. It may help lower stress hormone levels and blood pressure.
- Practice mindfulness - practicing meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy may help reduce stress levels and improve your mood.
- Cuddle - positive touch from cuddling, hugging, kissing, and sex may help lower stress by releasing oxytocin and lowering blood pressure.
- Spent time in nature - spending more time outside may help reduce levels of stress and boost your mood.
- Practice deep breathing - this activates your body’s relaxation response, thereby counteracting some of the physical sensations of stress.
- Spend time with your pet - this activity is a relaxing, enjoyable way to reduce stress.
There are so many different ways for you to manage your stress levels other than these. The most important thing is to take the time to figure out what the stressors in your life are and what triggers them. Once you identify what they are and consciously take the time to figure out the best ways to deal with each, the less chronic stress you will have. Keep a stress journal whether on paper or on your phone even! Write it all out and look at what you can truly control and what you cannot. Some everyday stresses are things that are completely out of our control, hence overly stressing about them doesn’t do our bodies any good. At that point, I say it’s time to breathe, relax and treat yourself!
Indulging in your favorite dessert or comfort food to reduce stress isn’t the craziest idea actually - portioned out correctly and in moderation that is! Here are 3 surprising benefits of indulging in your favorite desserts:
- They elevate your mood! The sugar in desserts causes your brain to release endorphins such as serotonin - the feel good hormone.
- They can help reduce stress! Sugar brings down cortisol (the stress hormone) levels to a certain degree.
- They are a great pick-me-up! Sweet treats after a stressful day or work week can be a positive way to reward yourself for getting through it.
See?! “Stressed” out days can turn completely around and end in “desserts”! To keep things a bit healthier than the usual chocolate chip cookie, or tub of ice cream that I am sure a lot of you are thinking. Here are a few healthier alternatives than the norm that I really love:
- Cinnamon sugar microwave popcorn
- Greek yogurt and berries
- Peanut butter and bananas on a rice cake
- Eat Well Protein Pucks
Or to make your healthy dessert options even easier, check out our snacks page for at least 8+ dessert options that we offer!