Solving Stress Symptoms Series... Managing Moods and Emotions

Grouchy, gloomy and down...doesn’t sound fun, yet that is exactly how ongoing stress can make us feel. I am sure we have all felt that way when we have too much on our plate, we find ourselves snapping at family, friends and colleagues over nothing and everything leaves us feeling overwhelmed and sends us over the edge. These seemingly irrational emotions and moods makes sense given the impact that stress is having on our body. There are so many stress-related issues and imbalances that can have a huge impact on your mood. If you are feeling anxious, down or feel your emotions are all over the place, explore some of these possible reasons for feeling this way and helpful solutions to feeling better.

Flight or Fight State is Activated. When we are feeling stress we often are very reactive and irrational, but there is a reason for it. When we are dealing with stress, our cortisol and adrenaline levels put our body into a “fight or flight” state. When we are in this state, our body is on high alert, looking for every possible threat. So it’s no wonder that we have the tendency to overreact and be overly sensitive about the situations we are in. This inevitably will lead to ups and downs in our mood and emotions. We can manage these ups and downs by switching off our flight or fight by:

  • Incorporating deep breathing into our daily routine.

  • Committing to a regular gratitude practise.

  • Using short bursts of cold exposure.

  • Taking time to laugh, sing or hum.

Blood Sugar Imbalances. Stress can cause a blood sugar roller coaster in your body. This is because cortisol, our stress hormone, is also responsible for releasing stored sugar from our liver and muscles into our bloodstream when we need it.If our cortisol levels are out of whack, then we can count on our blood sugar levels to be off as well. When we experience dips in our blood sugar, we not only feel exhausted, but also irritable and anxious… you know, hangry. Luckily we can manage these dips simply by modifying our eating through:

  • Eating within an hour of getting up.

  • Eating snacks or meals regularly (about 2-4 hours).

  • Ensuring you are getting adequate protein and fat with every snack and meal.

  • Avoiding refined sugars.

Sleep issues. Whether we realize it or not, our stress has a major impact on the quantity and quality of your sleep. Not to mention when we have too much on our plate, our sleep is often the first thing to get sacrificed in the need to get it all done. And I am sure we can all attest to not feeling our best, vibrant self when we are lacking sleep, so it's understanding that our mood is a little unstable when we are sleep deprived. We can ensuring we are are getting enough, restorative sleep by:

  • Aiming for consistent bedtimes (ideal before 10pm) and wake-up times.

  • Avoiding screens and other stimulating activities 1-2 hours before bed.

  • Reducing alcohol and caffeine intake, especially in the afternoon and evening.

Microbiome Imbalance. It is mind blowing how much our microbiome impacts our overall well being, including our mood. This is because 90% of our serotonin, our happy neurotransmitter, is actually made in our gut. Unfortunately, this only happens when our microbiome is healthy and thriving, which isn’t the case when we are stressed out. We can take some steps to ensure we have a diverse, nourished microbiome, including:

  • Eating a variety of whole foods, especially those fibrous fruits and vegetables.

  • Eating fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt and kombucha.

  • Taking probiotics with a variety of cultures and high colony counts.

B Vitamin Deficiencies. When we are dealing with stress, unfortunately the B vitamins get depleted over time. B vitamins play so many crucial roles in your body, so it shouldn’t be surprising that low levels can impact your mood. Vitamin B deficiencies, especially B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folate) and B12, have been linked to irritability, depression, anxiety and other mood issues. We can increase our B vitamin levels by:

  • Adding in great food sources of B vitamins including leafy greens (eg. spinach, collard greens), legume and beans (eg. black beans, chickpeas, edamame, kidney beans, lentils), seafood (eg. salmon, sardines, tuna, oyster, clams and mussels) and eggs.

  • Adding a B complex supplement. It is ideal to get a supplement that contains B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folate) and B12.

Vitamin D Deficiency. Similar to vitamin B, our vitamin D levels are slowly depleted with ongoing stress. For anyone who doesn’t live in an area with an abundance of sunshine year round (hello Southern Ontario), I am sure you can attest to how a vitamin D deficiency can lead to low moods and and even lower energy. In addition to mood and energy levels, low vitamin D can also impact memory and cognitive issues. We can increase our vitamin D levels by:

  • Adding in great food sources of vitamin D including fish and seafood (eg. salmon, tuna, herring, haddock), fortified foods (eg. milk and non-dairy milk, cereals) and wild mushrooms.

  • Getting additional sunshine, ideally 10-20 minutes, in the middle of the day.

  • Adding a vitamin D supplement.

Iron Deficiency. Iron deficiencies are unfortunately so common among women, especially those dealing with chronic stress. Fatigue, headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath and paleness are all other signs of iron deficiencies. We can increase our iron levels by:

  • Adding in great food sources of iron including leafy greens (eg, spinach, swiss chard), legumes and beans (eg. lentils, chickpeas, edamame, kidney beans), nuts and seeds (eg. pumpkin seeds, chia seeds), meats (turkey, chicken, beef) and tofu.

  • Adding an iron supplement.

Magnesium Deficiency. Magnesium is a powerful mineral when it comes to relaxation, so it shouldn’t be surprising that low magnesium levels have been linked to anxiety and depression. Other symptoms of a magnesium deficiency are fatigue, muscle twitches and cramps, headaches, blood sugar imbalances and sleep issues among others. We can increase our magnesium levels by:

  • Adding in great food sources of magnesium including leafy greens, nuts and seeds (eg. almonds, cashews, flaxseeds, hazel nuts, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds), legumes and beans (eg. black beans, lima beans, edamame), avocado, bananas and dark chocolate.

  • Adding a magnesium supplement. There are many types of magnesium supplements available. I personally use magnesium glycinate before bed to support my sleep, however magnesium taurate and magnesium threonate both have been shown to have calming effects and positive impacts on mental health.

Zinc Deficiency. Zinc, another nutrient depleted when we are stressed, has been linked to mood imbalances, anxiety and depression when too low. This is because zinc plays a crucial role with the neurotransmitter GABA which regulates mood. Other signs that your zinc might be low include thinning hair, skin issues, fatigue, loss of appetite and getting sick often. We can increase our zinc levels by:

  • Adding in great food sources of zinc including leafy greens (eg, spinach, dandelion greens), legumes and beans (eg. chickpeas, lentils), nuts and seeds (eg. pumpkin seeds, hemp hearts, cashews, sesame seeds, chia seeds), meats (pork, chicken, beef), oysters and tofu.

  • Adding a zinc supplement.

I know, I know, it sounds like a lot of work to balance your mood and bring you back to a place of joy and happiness. But it will be worth it when you are no longer on an emotional rollercoaster, no longer snapping about anything and everything and aren’t crying at the drop of a hat. Not to mention, dealing with these issues and imbalances will resolve how you are feeling way beyond your mood.

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