Written by Christine Couch, Mustard Seed Coaching & Mediation
Weddings can be stressful. Can I get an amen? Stress affects our bodies and brains, and well, your brain is what you use when communicating with loved ones and vendors and your future spouse (or already spouse). When we are stressed, we can sometimes have a communication failure that really derails our days and causes unintended conflict. Maybe you are in the throws of wedding prep, or are a newly minted “Mrs” and are post-wedding/honeymoon, possibly moved across town or across the country, and have had a LOT of transition already in your new life. Getting married is a major life stressor; even though it is a good one, it’s still stressful. Add to that a move which is one of the top 10 stressors in life and boom chakalaka you have a mix of stress and exhaustion and cranky – a perfect tee-up for a meltdown.
Knowing this, what proactive things can we do to lessen the stress, and increase the good hormones that keep us charged up and productive instead of doing things that (perhaps unknowingly) sabotage our efforts and pursuit of peace and joy? I’m so glad you asked! (tee hee hee).
Using Food as Medicine
The more I learn about brain health the more geeked I get about sharing what I’ve learned with friends, family, readers, and clients because your ‘thinker’ is central to executing a great life and relationships. Whether consciously or subconsciously, our brain is doing its thing, before we do anything, whether that be choosing to lay on the couch and nap when we should be making favors for the reception or checking off our list because we fed our brain and body what it needed. Most people understand that a healthy diet will help you be healthy. That’s a no-brainer. Hehe (I crack myself up!) A lot of people, however, don’t think of food as medicine, like food actually helping you function more highly when strategically consumed to help conditions like ADHD, Depression, etc.
Mood Boosting: Using Carbs & Protein the Right Way!
Did you know that when we eat carbohydrates, ‘carbs’, serotonin levels in your brain will spike? You might be asking, “And what’s serotonin and why should I care?” As Dr. Daniel Amen says, serotonin is your ‘don’t worry-be happy’ hormone. Serotonin is why you may feel happier after a big plate of spaghetti for dinner or waffles on a Sunday morning. The problem with eating carb-laden foods at the wrong time of day is that they can help you with your happy factor, but they also can make you sleepy and unmotivated and sabotage getting anything accomplished. Simple carbs aren’t good for your ‘thinker’, or your blood sugar, which will spike and then plummet-as can your mood. Complex carbs in the evening meal, such as sweet potatoes, apples, oatmeal, and chickpeas (hummus) cause a more gradual increase in serotonin. These things can be a help for relaxation and sleep when consumed in the evening but sabotage your efforts to get things done during the day (especially if you have them without protein).
Protein, however, generally helps boost dopamine levels. What’s dopamine? Dopamine is the neurotransmitter involved in motivation, emotional significance, relevance, focus, and pleasure. So if you need to get things done, if you want a focus factor, you want eggs, cheese, nuts (walnuts and almonds), seeds, beef and fish, protein powders, and green tea. Avoid sugary drinks, pasta, cakes, cookies, waffles, and fries – highly processed carbohydrates.
I wish I would have had this knowledge when I was younger. I struggled to focus and stay awake after lunch in grade school, through high school, and into college and work life, not realizing it was massively linked to what I was eating. I started my days off with simple, highly processed carbs for breakfast and would be mentally crashing, hangry, and struggling to focus by 10 a.m., counting down the minutes until lunch. Now I have a protein shake in the morning and it keeps me rolling and focused for hours. I use an egg white protein powder and frozen berries, coconut oil or almond butter, matcha green tea, and stevia, and mix my shakes from scratch as opposed to a premixed protein shake powder due to not wanting artificial sweeteners, sugars, or soy proteins added to the shake mix.
*** I personally don’t enjoy drinking green tea – it tastes bitter to me on its own, so I add a little scoop of it to my protein shakes so I can enjoy the health benefit but sneak it like sneaking in broccoli to a little kids food by making a casserole. 😊
In part 2 we will talk about other strategies to combat unhealthy stress. Stay Tuned!