Stress relief in the now – an instant stress relief series: Eat a little snack

Assorted snacks

Jeffrey O. Gustafson at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Everyone likes to have a little snack every now and then, it doesn’t matter if you’re a non-vegetarian, a vegetarian or a vegan; we all like a snack. The thing is most people look down on snacking because:

  1. There are people who feel that aside from breakfast, lunch and dinner you shouldn’t eat or else you will get fat.
  2. Apart from health buffs, most people snack on unhealthy foods like chips and candies and stuff like that.

I’m not going to lie; there is some element of truth to these points. However, these points tend to be exaggerated, to the point where you either refuse to take any snacks or you start to think, “I’m going to be fat no matter what I do so why should I care,” but that’s not how it should be.

It’s okay to have a snack as long as you do it in moderation. If you are going to snack then actually make it a snack; don’t eat ten packets of chips and say it’s a snack, that’s a meal (and not a very good one either). Just eat half a sandwich or a few biscuits or one packet of chips (not a jumbo one either, a regular one), or you could go the healthy route and eat some fruit like a banana or some vegetable like a carrot if you wanted. The point of a snack is not to fill your stomach but to just take edge of your hunger.

Now the question you might be asking is how does a snack help me with stress? Our brain and our stomach are strongly connected; it’s called the gut brain axis. Back in the olden times when we couldn’t just buy food off the shelves and we had to hunt and gather, an empty stomach would be bad because obviously you need food to power up your body, your immune system and to survive so our brain would put us in a stressed out mode to let us know we need to get some food to eat. When we did find food and filled our stomach we knew we were going to survive and our brain would reward us with a feeling of peace as if to say, “Good job we’re going to live another day, here take some feel good hormones as a reward.”

As we have evolved as a species getting food became much easier but the instinct to get food to survive never changed, so our brain still gives us that little feel good reward when we get some food in our bellies.

A little side note: The gut brain axis is also responsible for why a lot of us get constipated when we are stressed out. Again back in the olden times you would usually get stressed out when your life was in danger like if you were being attacked. When you are in that type of situation you can’t just squat down and take a poop, you need to defend yourself or run away. So our brains would put the brakes on the poop so we could do just that. Nowadays we get stressed for completely different reasons but once again the system is still the same, so when we get stressed, we get constipated. It sucks but that’s the way it is.

Another side note: We’ve all probably heard of stress eating where someone tends to eat something whenever they are stressed out. Eating too much is never a good thing but eating when you’re stressed doesn’t have to be a bad thing, as long as you are mindful of what you eat and how much you eat.

So if you tend to get stressed out really easily try keeping a little snack with you; even if it doesn’t get rid of your stress completely, you will feel at little better, which is especially useful if you need stress relief fast. So go ahead and snack away, just be smart about it.

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