Managing stress is more important than what you eat. That is quite the statement I know. I believe that statement more every day though. As someone with food allergies you may be wondering how I believe that. Making sure you don’t eat something that you are allergic to must be way more important than managing stress, right?
Of course I am over stating my position a bit. Making sure you avoid eating food containing something you are allergic to is extremely important. We do not want to even come close to eating something we shouldn’t. Yet, some days I’m not sure what is worse or causes more damage, stress or eating that potentially contaminated French fry.
The Industry of Stress
We have entire industries devoted to dealing with stress. What is the purpose of a Nightguard from your dentist? To mitigate the negative consequences of stress that causes you to grind your teeth at night. You can go to someone that will help you learn to manage your stress. Hotels and spas market directly to being a haven from the stress of modern life. Delivery services market to reducing your stress. Why have the stress of grocery shopping with your kids or having to put your pants on to get dinner when it can be brought to you!
Is it all bad?
Stress can be good too. Mild stress in the right situation helps us to grow and become stronger. A difficult client at work can help us become better at sales or customer service. Exercise is literally stressing the body to make it stronger. Education is “stressing” the brain to learn more and new things.
What about being chased by a bear? That is certainly stress! Being chased by a bear is not good but that stress causes our body to release adrenaline and other hormones and helps us to get out of a bad situation. The stress itself in that situation is not good, we don’t want to be chased by a bear, but the stress helps to save us from a bad situation.
The Dark Side
Why do I say managing stress is more important than what you eat? Long term, unmanaged stress is known to be a health issue. According to the Harvard Medical School “New Research even supports the notion that high levels of stress somehow speed up the aging process”. I know I certainly don’t want to age any faster than normal!
You may say “Sure, stress is bad, but I know if I get gluten, even by Cross Contact, I WILL get sick. I won’t necessarily get sick right away from stress.” Perhaps that is so, but that might not always be true. It used to be that unless I got completely and utterly stressed out for days I would not get sick. Unfortunately that has changed. Now unless I manage my stress properly I get sick fairly quickly. When I say quickly I mean within an hour or so. My neck locks up and starts to hurt and my stomach hurts just as much as if I ate gluten. I always knew I should not be stressed, but I never thought I would be here.
How do we balance the two?
Where do we go from here then? I am not saying we should not be concerned about what we eat. Yes we should! Staying away from food that makes us sick is super important! How we go about it is what matters.
How stressed does it make you to go out to eat? Can you comfortably ask the questions you need to determine if it is safe to eat there? Or does it amp your stress level up to try and figure out what is and is not safe on the menu? I know I have certainly been there. Choose not to go out to eat, or only go out when you are not already stressed.
Does your job require such a huge commitment from your life that you have no time for the other things you need to do, or the time to spend with your family? Remember they will not be paying the medical expenses for your heart attack in 30 years brought on by your stress, or help you put your family back together because you were not there.
Ask the question first are these “requirements” actually there or are they self-imposed? Am I making myself do more than my boss actually requires? Do I really have to work 5 hours on Saturday when I should be at my kids soccer game? Do I truly have to be subject to every whim of this customer?
The answer to those questions could be yes or no. If the answer is no, than stop! Fantastic customer service is crazy important, it’s even more important to care for your family though! If someone cannot understand that, maybe they need to go away, or you need to go away. I’m NOT saying go out right now and quit. I am saying start asking questions, possibly erect proper boundaries, and maybe even start looking for another job.
Off Kilter Brownies is not my sole job at this point. I would like it to be that one day Lord willing but it is not yet. I have certain boundaries I have erected for my day job to help mitigate stress. My work phone effectively turns off on Friday night and I don’t turn it back on until Monday. There are ways people can get a hold of me if they TRULY need to. Sometimes I will check it mid-weekend just in case, sometimes I don’t. There is basically nothing that cannot wait until Monday morning.
It’s Not Just Allergies
Perhaps you are reading this and thinking “That is all well and good, but I don’t have food allergies, so saying managing stress is more important than what you eat does not really apply to me.” That could be true, but what else do you care about? Many people care about eating healthy food. The same concept applies, especially for the little stuff.
Food additives and chemicals are a serious concern. The amount of round up that ends up in our food supply is scary. Is it truly feasible to make sure you never get anything that has ever potentially been sprayed though? Do you refuse to eat at a friend’s house because they are not as strict as you? Maybe you don’t refuse but do you get stressed out when you go over because you know they might use velvita in a dish? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not excited about eating velvita, but is it going to kill you in one meal? Is it worth potentially ruining a relationship over? Is it worth making myself sick with worry because of what I might eat at my friend’s house? The answer to all of those is no.
You have a much higher likelihood of causing yourself long term physical harm by worrying all the time about making sure you avoid every drop of red 40, than you ever will by accidentally having one drop. Yes what we eat is important. My wife and I care a ton about what we eat, but sometimes it’s just not worth it to worry. You take the steps to mitigate the risk and you move on.
I hope this has gotten you to think about the stress in your life. Is it always true that managing stress is more important than what you eat? Maybe not, but it is important as well. Monday we will talk about some ways to help deal with stress.
Take the time this weekend to relax, and take a deep breath. Whatever it is, it’s not the end of the world. Do what you can about it and then move on. Every day is the first day of the rest of your life as a friend of mine recently talked about.
Make it a tasty weekend folks,