As caretakers, moms, dads, and workers, you often face high levels of stress. Stress does a lot of things to the body—including increasing levels of the hormone cortisol in the bloodstream. Cortisol is a “fight or flight” hormone that helps us deal with stressful situations by giving us a burst of energy.
This is great if a tiger is chasing us, but not so great if we’re trying to get through the day. Elevated cortisol levels lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, and other health problems.
There is no one-size-fits-all for managing stress, but there is one thing most people can agree on: good comfort food is particularly delectable when stressed. Sometimes when you're feeling anxious, nothing sounds better than reaching for a piece of chocolate or a slice of cake.
In this blog, we will share how comfort food affects your stress levels and how to fight stress.
What Is Considered Comfort Food?
Comfort food is cuisine typically high in carbohydrates, fat, and sugar. Comfort foods can include macaroni and cheese, creamy soups, ice cream, cookies, and cake.
But does comfort food actually reduce stress levels? Let’s look at how it impacts the mind.
Comfort Food Meets Stress
Whether you have fond memories of your grandma's cookies or you’re just craving some carbs, comfort food can take you back to a simpler time when stress wasn't a factor. Most comfort foods are associated with happy memories, which reduce stress in the present moment. They are often soothing and familiar, providing a sense of security and comfort.
Another way comfort food may help reduce stress is by increasing the level of serotonin in your brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that has a variety of functions, one of which is to regulate mood. Eating comfort food increases the level of serotonin in your brain, which improves your mood and reduces stress levels.
Endorphins also regulate your mood. They are hormones often released in response to pain, but they are also released in response to pleasurable activities—such as eating. They have several functions, one of which is to produce a sense of well-being. When you eat comfort food, your brain releases endorphins, which help improve your mood and reduce stress levels.
Sense of Control and Security
In our fast-paced world, it can be difficult to feel like we have any control over our lives. When feeling stressed, eating comfort food can help you feel like you have some control over your life, which can help you feel more secure and less stressed.
How to Fight Stress
In addition to comfort food, here are other ways to fight stress:
Aromatherapy can help relieve stress in many ways. The scent of certain essential oils can help to boost mood, improve focus and concentration, and promote relaxation. Aromatherapy can be used in a diffuser, as an inhalation, or topically.
Exercise is a great way to relieve stress and promote overall health. In addition to comfort foods, exercise helps increase endorphins to improve your mood and reduce pain as well. Exercise can also help improve sleep quality, which also reduces stress levels.
Mindfulness is a type of meditation that focuses on being present in the moment and accepting thoughts and feelings without judgment. Mindfulness can help to reduce stress by increasing awareness of your thoughts and accepting things as they are. Practicing mindfulness while enjoying comfort foods can help you to appreciate an experience in its entirety.
Yoga combines physical activity with mindfulness. Yoga can improve flexibility, strength, and breathing. It can also reduce stress by promoting relaxation and mindfulness. Yoga slows down the mind and allows you to focus on your breath and your body.