There is good news – symptoms of burnout and chronic stress can be improved with dietary and lifestyle interventions that are good for you regardless of your stress levels. I normally recommend a combination of these approaches. They work in tandem to decrease stress levels and support the proper functioning of the body’s stress response.
Cortisol has a natural rhythm much as your sleep cycle does: Levels are highest in the morning, which helps you get out of bed and get moving, and lowest in the evening, when it’s time to rest. What, how, and when you eat plays a major role in regulating cortisol and maintaining a healthy cortisol rhythm. So if you’re looking for a new way to stress-eat, this is your ticket.
1.Start the day with a breakfast that helps manage blood sugar levels.
Think low sugar and high protein, with plenty of healthy fats and fiber.
2.Make lunch the biggest meal of the day.
Include protein, healthy fats, whole grains, and vegetables.
3.Have a lighter and earlier dinner to promote a restful night’s sleep.
When we eat, our cortisol levels naturally increase a little. If we eat too close to bedtime, it can disrupt sleep. Try to leave at least three hours between dinnertime and bedtime to give your body time to digest its food and allow your cortisol levels to decrease.
4.Aim for both a variety and an abundance of vegetables in your meals, along with one serving of complete protein per day.
Animal protein—like eggs, dairy, fish, poultry, or red meat—offers a full spectrum of amino acids and has the highest bioavailability of nutrients; this means it is more easily absorbed. If you are vegan or vegetarian, make sure to get at least one serving of complementary proteins (like beans and rice) or non-GMO soy products per day to ensure you’re getting all the essential amino acids.
5.Reduce your intake of caffeine, sugar, refined carbohydrates, and alcohol.
These foods are easy to become dependent on. If you’ve ever felt like you needed a coffee, a piece of chocolate, or a glass of wine, you know what I mean. Moderate intake of these foods can be a part of a healthy, balanced diet, but sometimes we need to check in with ourselves. I often find it easier to go cold turkey for a period of time to overcome dependency and curb cravings. (My Reset program is great for this.) The first few days can be rough, but you will find your natural energy soon after—and it’s well worth it.
6.Eat balanced meals at regular times during the day.
And don’t go more than three or four waking hours without eating. This pattern helps regulate your blood sugar levels and maintain a healthy cortisol rhythm.
In addition to a healthy diet, lifestyle interventions are critical for stress management. Here are a few places to start.
Lack of sleep leads to increased levels of cortisol, more irritability, and dependence on stimulants to get through the day.
2.Do your best to remove unnecessary stressors.
Sometimes the triggers are unavoidable, but if you can turn off the news or tune out negative energy, do it.
3.Make room in your schedule for free time and activities that you truly love.
If you like to paint, read novels, journal, ride a bike, or get a manicure, try to find time for it.
4.Exercise daily and spend time in nature.
Sometimes a quick workout video or a walk outside is all you need—twenty minutes of movement goes a long way.
5.Develop a daily mindfulness or meditation practice.
Studies show that meditation alone can effectively decrease cortisol levels and help improve the circadian rhythm.
Since we’re taking a 360-degree approach here, I’d be remiss not to mention supplements that can support the body’s stress response. Few favorites are fish oil, B vitamins, magnesium, and vitamin C found in various products combined together. These are most effective when used in conjunction with a healthy diet and stress-management techniques.
Some of these tools might seem easier said than done, and I get that.
Start with one thing—maybe breakfast, exercise, or meditation—and build from there. Keep a journal to track your progress, and find support and community where you can.
Sending love to you who is reading this today!