5 Foods for Soothing Stress Relief (Plus More Helpful Tips)

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Oh, the irony. One look at how stress affects the body is enough to, well… stress you out. Among other important facts, consider that 75 to 90 percent of doctor visits are stress related.

That leaves an important component of being less stressed out (and, therefore, healthier as a result) up to us. Luckily there are all sorts of ways we can lower our stress levels—no matter what our professional or personal lives are throwing our way.

Mind Over (Stressful) Matters

Taking steps to reduce or manage your stress is an important part of staying healthy. When we’re stressed, our bodies react physically and we become more vulnerable to everything from colds and migraine headaches to hair loss, high blood pressure, and even heart disease.

To help alleviate stress, schedule some quiet time for yourself (that’s right—actually schedule it by adding it to your daily planner and sticking to your self-imposed appointment—you’re worth it). Just taking 30 minutes for yourself to read a favorite book or indulge in a warm bubble bath allows your mind and body to relax and “let go,” resulting in a much-needed mental break.

You might also want to consider massage, yoga, meditation, or all of the above. Even simple breathing exercises can introduce calming effects to the psyche. In fact, here’s a breathing technique you can try right now.

Put one hand over your diaphragm (just under your ribs) and take a deep breath.

As you breathe in, focus on letting your diaphragm push your hand out, which will expand your abdomen. Exhale naturally and notice how your hand gently falls as the air leaves your lungs. Repeat several times until you begin to experience a calmer state.

If you fear that stress has gotten out of control, there’s no shame in finding a therapist to help guide you toward learning new ways to change the way you might be responding to challenging life events.

Food and Mood

In addition to getting more exercise and sleep, a stress-busting eating plan can also help. You can soothe stress and elevate mood naturally by adding these delicious, nutrient-packed foods to your diet.

  • Steel-cut oats are a whole-grain source of carbohydrates, which stimulate production of serotonin, a feel-good hormone that aids in relaxation. 
  • Researchers at Penn State University discovered that a diet rich in walnuts and potentially help the body’s ability to respond better to stress.
  • A cup of chickpeas provides more than 70 percent of the daily recommended intake for folate, a B vitamin that helps to regulate mood. Low blood levels of folate have been linked to a higher risk of depression. (For a healthy snack, try my Crunchy Spiced Chickpeas.)
  • Vanquish the day’s worries with a calm-inducing mug of chamomile tea. (Feel free to brew a cup of my Chaos Calmer Tea.) This naturally caffeine-free brew can act as a mild sedative and might even help relieve muscle tension, not to mention ease anxiety and irritability.
  • Salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to be great for overall health. And bonus round! These powerful fats also have the potential to boost psychological health.

Laughter Really Can Be the Best Medicine

Always on the outlook for new techniques to relieve stress myself, I love the idea of laughter yoga, which offers improvements to both physical and mental health through laughing for no reason along with playing like a child. You can follow a guided exercise or alternatively, you can find any old random (hilarious!) video and laugh!

Joy Bauer, MS, RDN, CDN, is the health and nutrition expert for NBC’s Today Show and founder of Nourish Snacks.

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