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Hopefully this yogurt blue cheese dressing will provide some comfort, as well as nutritional value.

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Stress eating, comfort eating, overeating, holiday eating; happy or sad, we’ve no doubt done it all. As we enter our new, post-COVID reality this summer, our schedules seem to be getting as busy as ever. Parties, soirées and get-togethers dot the calendar once again and as we return to the office, our stress levels return to their new normal as well. Many of us have found that in working from home, we work even harder and longer hours, the keyboard perpetually at our fingertips. How can we deal with this new normal? Is there a work-life balance to be had now that work has intertwined with our home lives?

Stressin’

Over time, stress can silently wreak havoc on our bodies and build inflammation, the root cause of so many issues. Ever present “cortisol” levels are commonly associated with stress and are blamed for the health issues associated with it, but stress can increase our need for various nutrients as well.

For many of us, stress has become an integral part of our life. We often don’t feel it until it’s wreaked havoc on our health. Perhaps when we take a vacation, we finally notice just how much our work meetings and emails control our lives. Many of us find ourselves in the same boat, floating on a river of stress and anxiety and unless we find time each day to combat it, it just continues to build.

Meditation

An age-old documented stress relief technique, meditation has been around for more than 1,500 years. Meditation has become popular, which may make it more of a cliché these days, but also makes it more accessible. Tons of apps and training programs offer mind-clearing techniques, but meditation itself actually has proven benefits. In addition to being a stress reliever, it’s been proven to decrease anxiety and depression, has been associated with more purposeful thinking and decision-making and has been found to sponsor better sleep. Stress is many things for many people and not all stress relievers work for everyone. If we have a hard time sitting still, stillness just may be the tonic we need.

Movement

While yoga is also an amazing tool for stress relief, exercise in general plays a helpful role in relieving anxiety and releasing stressful feelings. Too often, we turn our attention to a specific exercise because it becomes popular, rather than embracing it because it’s the right movement for us. Dragging ourselves to a form of exercise that we don’t enjoy never has longevity. Instead, find something that soothes, relieves or excites you, whether that’s simply walking around the block, an online workout class, yoga, stretching, simple breathing, a run in the woods or a class with others.

Micronutrients

Certain foods contribute to stress alleviation as well. Vitamins C and B are helpful, in addition to nutrients like selenium, and magnesium. Strawberries, citrus, bell peppers, eggs, legumes, nuts and foods that are high in fiber are helpful. Sweet potatoes, Swiss chard and other greens and the anti-inflammatory properties of parsley aid in fighting stress as well.

Tea TimeLong-proven relaxation techniques have included teas like lavender and chamomile. There’s something about a warm cuppa something that helps us feel calmer. Warm milk before bed, as remedial as it seems, shows up in studies time and time again as an effective stress reliever.

Stress-Fighting Fats

Fatty foods can be comforting, and fatty fish is no exception. Just as they aid anxiety, omega-3s can help relieve stress physically. Found in high-quality fatty fish, like wild-caught salmon, tuna, halibut, herring, mackerel, sardines and lake trout, omega-3s can also be found in options like seaweed, chia seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts.

Ground Ourselves

More and more, it seems as though we have forgotten the simple things in life. We open bags or packages to nourish ourselves and sit at desks, hunched over phones and computers for far too many hours in a day. We’ve not only forgotten how to eat, but we’ve forgotten the simple things in life.

‘Tis the season for gardening and yard work, whether we like it or not, but studies have determined the importance of getting out and getting our hands (or feet) dirty. A practice called “grounding” has been found to relieve stress. It may seem like a no-brainer, but when work gets us busy, we mustn’t forget to play in the dirt, kick our shoes off, wade in the water or lie on the ground. It’s crazy to think that getting outside has been forgotten, but even in the country when we might work a little too much, we mustn’t forget to roll up our sleeves, get our hands in the dirt, or just take a couple of breaths of fresh air.

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Cave to Comfort ... Kind of

If we crave comfort foods, it’s important not to be too resistant to those urges. Fun foods that combat stress include flavanol-rich red wine and dark chocolate. Life can be hard enough without adding food restrictions on top of everything else. When we’re stressed, we crave comfort. Make sure you have some comfort foods in your life that might be healthier versions of the original. Here’s a blue cheese dressing recipe that just might hit the spot.

(Healthy) Yogurt Blue Cheese Dressing

Ingredients

1 cup plain yogurt (use Greek if you want a thicker dressing or dip)

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 clove garlic, pressed (or more if desired)

¼ cup chives, chopped

salt and pepper (to taste)

1/3 cup blue cheese (good quality, chopped)

Method

Mix all ingredients except blue cheese.

Add blue cheese, stir until just combined.

Katharine A. Jameson, a certified nutrition counselor who grew up in Williamsville and Townshend, writes about food and health for Vermont News & Media. For more tricks, tips and hacks, find her on Instagram: @foodforthoughtwithkat.


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