BOULDER PSYCHOLOGIST

ANXIETY SPECIALIST

The Importance of Nutrition in Coping with Stress and Anxiety

Collage of healthy lifestyle

It is not uncommon to feel physically ill when faced with stress. Additionally, the physical symptoms of anxiety can be very debilitating and make it difficult to eat. I often hear clients describe stomach nausea and stomach aches with urges to vomit, that on occasion can occur. Other symptoms such as a feeling of a lump in the throat, erratic breathing, and shakiness can obviously have a negative impact on appetite.

We have all heard the phrase “a nervous stomach” and with the various aches and muscle tension that arises with anxiety, it is no surprise that someone’s nutrition may be the one of the first things to go. When your nervous system is highly aroused and you perceive threat and harm, that last thing on earth you may want to do is eat.

Ironically, not only eating but eating quality nutrition is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. When you are stressed and anxious, your body is literally overworked. It is not surprising that when one is suffering from intense stress and anxiety, he or she is exhausted. When your nervous system in on high alert and your muscles are ready to fight or flee that expends a tremendous amount of energy. Our bodies need fuel (and hydration) to keep functioning. Not eating or eating sugury and processed foods will not help, it will make you physically sicker.

When you develop the self discipline to eat three daily meals and two snacks (optimally recommended to maintain consistent energy levels) then it becomes important to make healthy choices. Your brain and your organs need good nutrients to function best and when you are fighting the effects of stress and want to turn anxious behaviors around to brave behaviors you will need all the strength you can get.

Healthy portions depend on age and size, but some general rules of thumb to keep in mind are multiple daily serving of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, healthy fats, and plenty of water. It is best to avoid foods high in sugar, fried foods, and processed foods, and for adults keep alcohol and caffeine to a minimum. Do your best to choose whole foods with low sodium content and learn how to read labels so you become an informed consumer.

When you can prioritize self care as far as nutrition I would expect you will find an increase in energy, improvements in mood, greater flexibility in thinking, and better ability to use healthy coping skills such as minimizing stress and facing fears rather than engaging in anxious behaviors such as avoidance, obsessive checking and reassurance seeking.

When you prioritize taking care of your nutrition, exercise and sleep habits will also be beneficial in helping you achieve a stable mood and making the behavioral changes that will support your progress. ¬†Self care is therapeutic and a good goal for anyone in today’s busy fast paced life. If you are struggling with anxiety and stress and would like to schedule an initial phone consultation to learn if Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a good fit for you, please click on “Book Online Now” to schedule your free 10 minute phone consultation.

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