There are times when life can be super stressful. In turn, that stress affects everything from our immunity to productivity. While we know that it’s important to lower stress, often we don’t have time to do the things that help us cope, such as taking a walk or performing a breathing meditation. Good news, there is a small but significant hack for lowering stress – by chewing gum!
Our brains are optimized to process our situation constantly and feed the appropriate amount of hormones to help us react accordingly. When we are in danger, it gives a jolt of adrenaline that makes us react faster and narrows our focus to one thing at a time. When we are stressed, like when there are problems to solve but not enough information or confidence to solve them, it secretes cortisol which raises the heart rate and blood pressure while increasing the consumption of sugars from the bloodstream for quick energy. By the way – this explains why we crave sugary snacks during stressful times.
When we chew gum, it sends confusing signals to the brain. If we are eating, the brain reasons that clearly we are not in mortal danger and probably not actively problem-solving either. The brain adjusts which hormones are secreted and we feel calmer. The act of acknowledging the stress then acting in a way that reduces it, trains the brain to calm down faster.
Try this: Keep a pack of gum in your purse, car, or bedside table. If you hate gum, mints can work as well as long as your mouth is actively working for several minutes. The next time you realize you are stressed, pop in a piece and take a moment to breathe. After a few minutes, survey how you feel and take a moment to recognize the decrease in stress.
Storytime: Stress turns me into a sugar bug. I always thought it was weird but didn’t think much about it until I realized the cortisol stress connection and how it affects metabolism. Strangely enough, knowing that gave me a cue that if I was craving sweets, my stress levels were pretty high. I’m not a huge gum fan myself, but I do like mints and now I want to pay closer attention if I can tell the difference after reading this study about stress and chewing gum. I’ve also found the act of drinking tends to be calming – not to mention hydrating – so when I’m at home and feeling stressed I make myself a nice big drink. Today, it’s iced mint tea.