From the moment we get up, until the moment we go to bed, we experience stress in all its many forms. There are schedules to keep, tasks to perform, people to please, and families to manage. Even on the best days, we are bound to experience friction in some form or another. This friction creates stress, and as we all know, stress affects everything from our immunity to productivity.
While it’s important to keep our stress levels in check, often we don’t have the time or resources to do the things that help us cope, such as taking a walk or performing a breathing meditation. That’s where today’s Strong Mom Tip can be super helpful – chewing gum can help lower stress levels.
When we chew gum, it sends confusing signals to the brain. If we are eating, the brain reasons that we are not in mortal danger or working to solve a complex problem. The brain adjusts which hormones are released and we feel calmer.
Why does this work?
Our brains are optimized to constantly monitor our situation constantly and release the appropriate amount of hormones to help us react. It’s all part of our brain’s constant effort to keep us safe and stems from cavemen days when those who couldn’t pay attention tended to be eaten first.
Perceived danger, whether it be an aggressive driver or a child throwing a tantrum, gives us a jolt of adrenaline that makes us react faster and narrows our focus to one thing at a time. When we are stressed, it secretes cortisol which raises the heart rate and blood pressure while increasing the consumption of sugars from the bloodstream for quick energy. This also explains why we crave sugary snacks during stressful times.
Our cavemen selves could only eat when their lives were peaceful. The act of eating reinforced the idea that nothing bad was lingering on the horizon for the next while. Our earliest memories are rooted in the act of eating as a comfort. No baby is more content than when they are snuggled close and nursing or taking a bottle.
Eating all the time is not a great idea for obvious reasons. But, you can hack the eating as a comfort response by chewing gum or sucking on a mint. Keep a pack of gum in your purse, car, or bedside table. The next time you realize you are stressed, pop in a piece and take a moment to breathe.
Relearning healthier stress management
Stress turns me into a sugar bug. I never really thought much about how I started seeking snacks when I was tired or overwhelmed until I learned about the cortisol-stress connection and how it affects metabolism. Strangely enough, knowing about it gave me a cue that if I was craving sweets, my stress levels were pretty high and I should take a moment to regain some control of the situation.
I’m not a huge gum fan myself, but I do like mints. I’ve also found the act of sipping a drink calming – not to mention hydrating – so when I’m at home and feeling stressed I make myself a nice big drink and take a moment to reset.
Discussion Question: Do you have a go-to snack when you’re feeling stressed?