Manage Your Stress During the 2020-2021 School Year
This school year is so different from the rest. There are a lot of new variables and that can make things a little more hectic or maybe less hectic depending on your adaptability.
If you’re feeling more stressed this year, you aren’t alone. We understand what you’re going through and how this can wreak havoc on your gut. The new school year is enough on its own. But then having to decide to either keep the kids home, makes it even more stressful.
Making the initial decision is difficult but your stress doesn’t end there. Then you have to deal with the consequences of your decision, whether it’s becoming a teacher yourself or worrying that your children might be exposed to COVID-19.
Being a parent right now is rough, but we are all figuring this out together. So here are some tips to help support you no matter what your decision is this year. Let’s get down to business.
Why Your Gut Matters in Stressful Situations
Your body is a complex place. But if you ever sit back and take notice, it’s like a watch: it looks simple on the outside, but inside there are tons of gears and wheels turning and moving to make everything work properly.
Remember any time you’ve gotten nervous about something. You probably ended up with an upset stomach. This isn’t a coincidence, there’s actually very scientific evidence as to why this happens.
You see, when your body goes into a stressed-out state, hormones are released. These hormones are used to stimulate different processes to help your body once it enters the fight-or-flight mode. This is super helpful when outrunning lions, but not so helpful when it comes to the stress of a new school year.
Unfortunately, our bodies don’t know the difference. They’re told, “Hey I’m stressing out.” And they respond with, “no problem! I know exactly what to do for that. Have a shot of cortisone that’ll help.”
But it doesn’t help, it just makes you have to run to the bathroom (generally at really inconvenient times).
All hope isn’t lost. You can take control of your stress and anxiety. Maybe not all of it, but these tips will be a great start.
1. Eat a Well-Balanced Diet
Remember the food pyramid you learned in school, the one that is now a plate? That’s the best guide to making sure you’re eating enough of each food group during the day.
A well-balanced diet keeps your gut microbes in check. When your microbes are fed the right nutrients they’re able to fight off bad bacteria and give off special byproducts (postbiotics) that help strengthen your body. These postbiotics help to communicate with your cells and improve the function of them, too.
That’s the main way your gut is able to affect your brain and stress levels. The microbial byproducts are a crucial aspect of hormone regulation to help calm down the stress you’re experiencing.
On the other hand, if you feed your body high levels of sugar, sodium, and unhealthy fats the bad bacteria take over. These send out signals to your body that there’s something wrong and the immune system is activated. The immune system puts your body on high alert but instead of the red flashing light and blaring siren, your body systems become inflamed.
The next couple of tips will be on how to eat a better, more all-inclusive diet.
2. Meal Prep
Meal prepping sounds like a daunting task, but honestly, it doesn’t have to be as drastic as cooking a week’s worth of meals in one day. That’s what deters most people from starting meal prepping. Here we’ve prepared some tips for meal prepping that doesn’t require becoming a restaurant chef.
The easiest way to get your meal prepping done is to:
- Make a list of the meals you want to eat each day during the week (include all three meals, just two, or just dinner but plan these meals out)
- If you need ideas, check out our blog. We post several recipes a month so you always have healthy, fresh, and new ideas!
- Figure out what ingredients you need for each meal and snacks
- Put them into a list
- Get your groceries
- Portion out serving sizes for your snacks so they’re in easy to grab containers or bags
- Keep the stuff out of the freezer that will be used soon
- Put on the calendar what foods will be for each day
- If you have the time at night, prep the next days’ meals (at least breakfast and/or lunch so it’s easy to implement)
Studies also show that parents who involve their children in meal prep create better habits around food choices and self-efficiency. Plus, having the kids help will take some of the work off of your plate.
3. Plant-Based Products
Polyphenols are the major reason you want to consume plant-based products. Polyphenols help your body to not only manage oxidative stress with their antioxidant powers but they’re also great for helping you manage your psychological stress as well. Polyphenols have no shortage of incredible helpful properties, but right now we will focus on the ones for your psychological health.
Green tea and is going to be the best drink for you. Green tea is chock full of catechins like EGCG that help you to feel relaxed, better manage stressful situations, and make better decisions because your cognition is better. Green tea is also great for its antiviral capabilities helping your body to fight viruses.
Some other great polyphenol-filled foods to help you avoid stress and put your mind at ease because of their antiviral properties include citrus fruits, berries, grapes, nuts, seeds, and green leafy vegetables.
4. Sleep Well
If you’re getting into a good routine on everything else, do the same with your sleep schedule. All of these things are going to require a little extra brainpower and that means you need your rest.
A study was done on medical students to see if there was a correlation between their sleeping habits and their stress levels. Not only did poor sleep habits make them more stressed out, but it also decreased their GPA. The students with good sleeping habits had higher GPAs and better managed their stress.
Sleep also helps to keep your microbiome in check which may have something to do with your stress management capabilities.
The best things you can do for this school year are to start implementing good, solid routines.
- Food prep ensures you eat healthier and manage stress levels so you aren’t waiting until the last minute.
- Sleep schedules mean some quiet time for you and better functioning for both you and your kids’ brains.
- Keeping a good routine is also great for your kids to learn how to have more structure in their day so they accomplish what’s necessary to look forward to the parts they enjoy.
What are you planning to implement so you have a great routine for you and your family this year? Let us know in the comments.