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Handling student stress with food

James Stokes / Mainstream
Chris Mintz, student, strengthens mind and body in the campus fitness center.

4 healthy ways to de-stress with food

1. Have a whole grain English muffin with jam or honey. Complex carbohydrate-rich foods raise serotonin levels, boosting your mood and helping you relax.

2. Snack on a handful of nuts. They’re packed with magnesium, which seems to help keep cortisol levels low. Nuts are high in calories, so if you’re watching your weight, make sure not to eat more than a dozen a day.

3. Drink a glass of milk. It contains tryptophan, which as it is metabolized is converted to mood-boosting serotonin. Plus, its calcium, magnesium and potassium content may help keep blood pressure down.

4. Order black tea instead of coffee. A study by University College London shows that drinking black tea four times a day for six weeks lowered the stress hormone cortisol after a stressful event.

Stress is often misinterpreted as being “all in your head”; the truth is that it’s more than a mental game.
“Mentally we say, ‘Oh, I’m feeling stressed.’ But it is very much linked to the physical,” Georgann Willis UCC psychology professor, says.
“When you start to feel stressed, your body goes into this mode where it thinks it’s being attacked, and that’s going to release norepinephrine.” This in turn, will cause fast-shallow breathing, elevated blood pressure and increased heart rate.
Caroline Hopkins in her role as SSS TRiO director sees a lot of students and how they react to school related stress, as well as stress in general.
Hopkins helps students who are maxed out to the point of exhaustion, but she has also noticed over the years that the more experienced students have developed their own successful techniques to handle stress.
“A lot of them who have been through more terms are aware of all the planning that is necessary in order to keep up along the way,” Hopkins said. “For example, keeping a planner and working with tutors to ensure they understand the material and don’t fall behind.”
Hopkins has experienced her share of college stress. “When I was in college, I used to have to write like six different essays [a term] that were five pages long because I was an English major.” In order to complete these overwhelming tasks, Hopkins’ stress strategy was to break up her work into smaller pieces.
Willis advises reacting to stress positively. “Really, the most important thing is to find something, I call it meditation, but it could be prayer, or it could just be focused breathing, where you just clear your mind for a few minutes a day. And just reduce your level of stress in that moment in time,” Willis said.
Two other very helpful stress coping strategies are proper nutrition and physical exercise.
Focusing on the moment, by exercising instead of worrying about the stressful situations or intractable problems, encourages relaxation and dissipates stress, according to Livestrong Foundation.
“I feel that exercise is a major contributor to getting rid of my stress,” John Fett UCC student, says. Fett also felt that good diet is important in keeping lower stress levels.
The Stress Management Society relays that “fresh fruit and vegetables provide an array of vitamins and minerals that are great for reducing stress.” On the other hand, foods and drinks that can trigger and aggravate stress include tea with artificial additives, coffee, energy drinks, fast food, butter, cheese, meat and shellfish, sugar, alcohol, soda, soft drinks, chocolate drinks, and even coconut oil.
The brain consists of a high percentage of fatty tissue, thus it makes sense that certain kinds of fat would be good for the body.
In 2012, Forbes released a study showing Omega-3 supplements dramatically boosted the memory in young adults. The well-known Omega-3, Omega-6 and Omega-9 oils are essential for the healthy functioning of your brain.

10 Quick foods to ward off stress

•Asparagus • Avocado • Berries • Garlic • Oranges • Oatmeal • Spinach • Ginger • Cottage Cheese • Watermelon

Ginger Johnson / Mainstream