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Karen Schuppert

Karen Schuppert

Last week, I was feeling pretty blue. I couldn’t pinpoint any one thing that triggered it, but it was a difficult time — even with those beautiful Baja sunsets I keep sharing on Instagram. I’m fairly certain we’ve all had rough patches in life, whether it be from troubles at work, school, home or outside circumstances.

Stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior – your health. You may think illness is to blame for that nagging headache, your frequent insomnia or sudden outbursts at work. But stress may actually be the ultimate culprit, and I for one, am a firm believer in that theory.

According to the Mayo Clinic, several common effects of stress on your body could be:

— Headache

— Muscle tension or pain

— Chest pain

— Fatigue

— Change in sex drive

— Stomach upset

— Sleep problems

Common effects of stress on your mood

— Anxiety

— Restlessness

— Lack of motivation or focus

— Feeling overwhelmed

— Irritability or anger

— Sadness or depression

And common effects of stress on your behavior

— Overeating or undereating

— Angry outbursts

— Drug or alcohol abuse

— Tobacco use

— Social withdrawal

— Exercising less often

When stress starts interfering with your ability to sleep, the worse it is for both your mind and body. You might feel fatigued, unable to concentrate or irritable for no good reason, for example. But chronic stress eventually creates deeper health issues which can have lasting effects, such as depression or increased cardiovascular risk. (Krantz, D.S. & McCeney, M.K. (2002). “Effects of psychological and social factors on organic disease: A critical assessment of research on coronary heart disease.” Annual Review of Psychology, 53, 341-369.)

There are many options for stress reduction, and just as with diet, every body has a different response. Of course, I’m here to help with the food piece, but I cannot overstate the importance of rest and replenishment as well.

We tend to be an overstimulated society in general, losing sleep, then using caffeine to pick us up. According to chef/author Jason Wrobel, refilling our coffee cup over and over again throws off our adrenal glands, affecting the adrenal and nervous systems. In turn, that creates stress, anxiety, or the jitters - the things that keep us lying awake in bed at night, or tossing and turning until the alarm goes off.

As usual, there are foods to help calm our system and in turn, support a good night’s sleep:

Almonds are high in potassium and B vitamins, which help our nervous systems to relax.

Bananas, like almonds, are packed with B complex vitamins and potassium, making them a favorite insomnia-fighter.

Brown rice is good because it contains GABA, which is a natural ambien. GABA is an amino acid that calms the nervous system.

Cherries allow the body to release melatonin, which promotes a cycle of falling asleep and waking up naturally. I load up before long trips to help with jet lag.

Chickpeas boast vitamin B6, which is needed to make melatonin.

Walnuts are a great source of tryptophan, which is a sleep-enhancing amino acid. Pop a few after dinner to get the body for sleep.

Sure, it’s a breakfast staple — but oatmeal will help you get your snooze on, too. Oats aid the body in releasing sleep hormones (melatonin again). I’ve been having fun making hearty bowls of porridge for dinner. This is one of my favorites. Good night.

Savory Oatmeal with Spinach and Mushrooms

Serves 2.

2 cups high-quality bone broth

3/4 cup organic rolled oats

1-2 eggs

1 handful spinach, washed

1 tsp. sesame oil

1 tsp.  minced ginger

1 handful shiitake mushrooms, sliced into thin strips (other mushrooms are OK)

2 scallions, thinly sliced

In a small saucepan on high heat, bring the broth to a boil. Add in the oats and turn down the heat. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, add a teaspoon of oil in a small skillet and cook the shiitake mushrooms until softened. Set aside.

Add the spinach and ginger in the oatmeal and stir until wilted. Make a slight well in the middle of the oatmeal with a wooden spoon, and crack an egg (or two) in the well. Cover the saucepan and simmer for another 5-7 minutes, depending on how cooked like your egg.

Serve the oatmeal into a bowl and top with the shiitake mushrooms and scallions.

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