Top 10 Tips on Managing Food-Related Stress

Starting a new diet, changing your routine, and avoiding certain foods can all cause stress on our bodies. When you first find out you have an allergy or intolerance, it can create discomfort within and may cause feelings of overwhelm.

How am I going to create new recipes and avoid these foods? How can I eat out? What if the place does not cater to my needs?” 

So many questions start circulating in your head, resulting in a possible increase in stress levels.

Life can already be stressful enough, now add additional stress on top of your everyday stress and it can be all too much. It is important to become aware of your stress levels and have a tool kit of ways to help reduce or ease your levels. Below is a list of things we have found have helped reduce stress levels in the past and maybe of some benefit to you.

1. Relaxation Techniques 

Stress-reduction techniques are a pivotal tool to help calm your nervous system down. There are many techniques to reduce stress and it is important to note what works for one may not work for another. Try a few out and see what works best for you. 

For example, meditation is a common technique with so many benefits. There are apps now that make it easier to sit down and focus such as insight timer, calm, smiling mind… the list goes on! 

Another method is self-hypnosis which is simple, effective and can be done anywhere (such as at your desk or in the car.) One simple technique is to focus on a word or phrase that has a positive meaning to you. Words such as “calm” “love” and “peace” work well, or you could think of a self-affirming mantra such as “I deserve calmness in my life” or “Grant me serenity”. Focus on your chosen word or phrase; if you find your mind has wandered or you become aware of intrusive thoughts entering your mind, simply disregard them and return your focus to the chosen word or phrase. If you find yourself becoming tense again later, silently repeat your word or phrase. 

If you find it difficult to relax, don’t worry. Relaxation is a skill that needs to be learned and will improve with practice overtime. Even the best meditation teachers can struggle!  

2. Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol, and Nicotine 

Yes. You read that right… So many of us love that little hit all three give us, but what if we told you they could be adding to your stress levels? As caffeine and nicotine are stimulants, they increase your level of stress rather than reduce it. Alcohol is a depressant when taken in large quantities but acts as a stimulant in smaller quantities. Therefore, using alcohol to alleviate stress is not ultimately helpful. Our suggestion is to avoid, or at least reduce, your consumption of nicotine and any drinks containing caffeine and alcohol. Try to swap caffeinated and alcoholic drinks for water, herbal teas, or diluted natural fruit juices and aim to keep yourself hydrated as this will enable your body to cope better with stress. 

You should also aim to avoid or reduce your intake of refined sugars – they are contained in many manufactured foods (even in savoury foods such as salad dressings and bread) and can cause energy spikes and crashes which may lead you to feel tired and irritable. Eating a healthy, well-balanced and nutritious diet will only benefit you and your stress levels. 

3. Move Your Body 

When in a stressful situation, it increases the level of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol in your body. These are the “fight or flight” hormones which are designed to protect us from immediate bodily harm when we are under threat. However, the stress in the modern age is rarely remedied by a fight or flight response, and so physical exercise can be used as a surrogate to metabolize the excess stress hormones and restore your body and mind to a calmer, more relaxed state. 

When you feel your stress levels rising, tension taking over your body, try to move your body. Go for a brisk walk in the fresh air, go for a run, attend a yoga or gym class, anything that gets your body moving. Regular physical activity not only works to decrease your stress levels but will also improve your quality of sleep and who doesn’t love a good night’s sleep!? 

4. Increase Your Sleep 

A lack of sleep is a significant cause of stress. Yet, stress can also interrupt your sleep as thoughts keep clouding our heads, stopping you from relaxing enough to fall asleep. 

Rather than relying on medication, aim to maximise your relaxation before going to sleep. Set your bedroom up to be a tranquil oasis with no reminders of the things that cause you stress. Avoid caffeine during the evening, as well as excessive alcohol if you know that this leads to disturbed sleep. Stop any mentally demanding work several hours before going to bed so that you give your brain time to calm down (this also includes being off your phone or technology at least an hour before bed as the bright light affects your body clock). A warm bath or a calming, undemanding book can relax your body, tire your eyes and help you forget about the things that worry you (eg: all your allergies and intolerances). A little tip is to aim to get to bed roughly the same time each day so that your mind and body get used to a predictable bedtime routine.  

5. Keep a Stress Diary 

The power of writing is hugely underrated. The ability to be able to write out your thoughts/emotions and release some tension is a powerful skill that you can use throughout your entire life. It acts like a vehicle navigating your mind through the clouded thoughts. Keeping a stress diary is an effective tool as it will help you become aware of specific situations which cause your stress levels to increase. Note down the date, time and place of each stressful episode, and note what you were doing, who you were with, and how you felt both physically and emotionally. Give each stressful episode a stress rating (eg: a 1-10 scale) and use the diary to understand what triggers you into a stress state and how effective you are in stressful situations. This will enable you to become aware of your triggers and both avoid stressful situations and develop better coping mechanisms in the future. 

6. Talk to Someone 

We can all relate to this one. How good do you feel when you just talk to someone and unlock everything you’ve been holding in. Simply talking to someone about how you feel can be helpful. Talking can work by either distracting you from your stressful thoughts or releasing some of the built-up tension by discussing it. Often times you find that the person you’re speaking with has experienced something similar, and there is a sense of shared understanding, of belonging, of community. 

Stress can cloud your judgement and prevent you from seeing things clearly. Talking things through with a friend, work colleague, or even a professional can help you find solutions to your stress and put your problems into perspective. If you are wanting to share some of your experience, the FFACOMMUNITY is here for you and can be a great place to do so. Everyone is welcome! 

7. Learn to Say ‘No’ 

 We have all been guilty of saying “Yes to something when we ought to have said “No”.Fear of missing out or disappointing someone is a huge driver of saying yes despite having little time to do it or having too much on. Learning to say “No” to additional or unimportant requests will help to reduce your level of stress and may also help you develop more self-confidence. 

If you find saying “No” difficult, spend some time uncovering the deeper cause. . Many of us find it hard because we want to help, are trying to be nice and be liked.  Whilst others have a fear of conflict, rejection or missed opportunities. It is important to remember that these barriers to saying “No” are all self-created. 

You might feel reluctant to respond to a request with a straight “No” at first. So instead, think of some pre-prepared phrases to let other people down more gently. 

Practice saying phrases such as: 

“I am sorry, but I can’t commit to this as I have other priorities at the moment.” 

“Now is not a good time as I’m in the middle of something. Why don’t you ask me again at….?” 

“I’d love to do this, but …”  

This can increase your confidence and can help build your self-worth and relationship with yourself.  

8. Time Management 

In many cases, we all feel overburdened by our ‘To Do’ list which is a common cause of stress. Accept that you cannot do everything at once and start to prioritise your tasks. 

Make a list of everything you need to do in order of genuine priority. Note what tasks you need to do personally and what can be delegated to others. Keep track of the tasks that need to be done immediately, in the next week, in the next month, or when time allows. 

By editing what might have started out as an overwhelming and unmanageable task list, you can break it down into a series of smaller, more manageable tasks spread out over a longer time frame, with some tasks removed from the list entirely through delegation. 

Remember to create buffer times to deal with unexpected and emergency tasks, and to include time for your own relaxation and well-being.  

9. Empower Yourself to Solve Your Own Problems 

Stress can be triggered by a problem that may seem impossible to solve. Learning how to find solutions to your problems will help you feel more in control thereby lowering your level of stress. 

One problem-solving technique involves writing down the problem and coming up with as many solutions as you can. Decide on the good and bad points of each one and select the best solution. Write down each step that you need to take as part of the solution: what will be done, how will it be done, when will it be done, who is involved and where will it take place. Another technique is asking someone else for their opinions or advice on the situation. They may be able to provide some guidance on the situation as they may have faced something similar before – we can always learn something from the experiences of others.  

10. Rest When You Need to Rest 

Listen to your body. Every day our bodies talk to us and provide signs to help us stay healthy. Start tuning in and listening to these signs. If you are feeling unwell, do not feel that you must carry on regardless. A short spell of rest will enable your body to recover faster which means you will be back on your feet in no time. It is when we continue to push on and deplete our bodies that we end up being out of action for longer than we would have been if we had listened to the signs initially.  

 Remember, stress is something everyone deals with in various ways. Everyday life is stressful and when you add intolerances and allergies to the equation it can make it difficult to manage. By incorporating, some of these techniques into your daily routine, it can help manage your stress levels and reduce the effects it has on our bodies. 

Jump into our FFACOMMUNITY on Facebook and speak out about what may be causing you stress throughout your health journey. You never know, someone else in the community could have experienced a similar situation and found something to help them which ultimately could help you. 

Lauren Minicozzi 

Free From + Allergy Team 

Method: 

1- Soak almonds in boiling water for 30min + or until the skin can be easily peeled off (if you have brought a skinless nut skip this step). 

2- Drain the nuts, peel them (skin should pop off if soaked for long enough) and rinse them. 

3- Soak nuts in boiling water for 30min+ (note the longer you soak the more milk you will make with it). 

4- Drain and rinse the nuts again. 

5- Add nuts, water, salt and date to the blender and mix until creamy and smooth. 

6- Pour mixture into nut milk bag and squeeze milk out of the bag into a bowl (transfer to a jar afterwards and use a funnel to help reduce mess). 

7- Store in the fridge for 3-4 days (if it has a weird after taste, that is when you know it has gone rancid). 

TIP** with the leftover nut pulp, you can dehydrate it and create a nutmeal with it and use for baking later! Alternatively, you can skip the dehydration process and use it in its damp form for baking. 

There you have it. It may seem tedious to start with, but after a few goes you will see how simple and easy it is.  

Do not let your goodbye to dairy mean goodbye to the foods and drinks you love. This nut milk recipe is a perfect replacement so you can have your childhood milkshakes again. You can have those warming creamy lattes again. You can welcome back your favourite cereal again! 

Enjoy! 

Lauren Minicozzi 

Free From + Allergy Team 

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