5 Ways to Reduce Stress When Living Gluten-Free
Published April, 2021
Getting a diagnosis of celiac disease, or reacting to foods when you have non-celiac gluten sensitivities, can be stressful. Living with a chronic disease for years can take its toll. While GIG’s mission is to make life easier for everyone living gluten-free, removing stress from the equation can be hard.
Some obvious ways of relieving stress when you’re living gluten-free, particularly if you’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease, include
- doing your homework and educating yourself using reputable resources.
- finding support networks with people going through similar experiences.
- building a healthcare team to support your wellness journey.
A more general way to reduce stress is to pay attention to self-care. Experts throw around the term “self-care” as an important part of overall wellbeing, but what does it involve? Managing stress can be a result of self-care, but it doesn’t mean taking a vacation or paying for luxurious spa treatments to feel better (although those things can’t hurt if you can afford them).
Below are five ideas for stress-busting activities that are scientifically proven to help alleviate stress.
1. Mindfulness Practices
What is “mindfulness?” Mindfulness is a calm state of awareness of the present moment. Some ways to achieve this peaceful state of mind are through breathing exercises, meditation, or a yoga practice. Meditation can increase positive emotions and decrease anxiety.
An evidenced-based technique developed in 1979 is Mindfulness Based Stress-Reduction (MBSR). While it does require a time commitment, you can learn MBSR through an eight-week course to become more aware of your stress to help reduce your anxiety, depression, and pain. You can find free adaptations of the full MBSR coursework online such as this one. Try a short introductory MBSR session through this video from MBSR Workbook.
You can also learn to meditate using an app on your smartphone or mobile device. Calm is an app that provides soothing sounds and guided meditations, many of which are free. Insight Timer offers thousands of free guided meditations and a global community that gives you a sense that you are not alone as you sit quietly to meditate.
According to the CDC, the benefits of physical activity include improving brain health, reducing your risk of depression and anxiety – both related to stress – and helping you sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep can help you reduce or better cope with stress.
How can you put more movement into your life in a way that doesn’t feel overwhelming?
Put on some music and dance around the room or house. Download a free app to your phone that leads you through basic exercises, particularly the ones that use video to demonstrate each move. Apps can also remind you to get up and move around if you’re too sedentary during your day.
If you have kids and a gaming console, join them in a video game competition using games that involve movement like Just Dance, available on multiple gaming platforms or Wii Sports Resort. Smartphone apps like Down Dog, 7 Minute Workout for iPhone and Android, and Just Dance Now for iPhone and Android are all free and keep you motivated to move.
3. The Outdoors
Your environment can contribute to the stress you feel. According to a number of studies, including one published in the journal, Behavioral Science, spending more time outdoors, in nature, can help reduce stress. Most of the studies include the benefits of some kind of physical activity in the outdoors, such as walking. Take a stroll through a forest or a light hike over hills and dales.
For some, camping is a relaxing way to spend a weekend in the great outdoors. For others, a road trip outside of an urban area, on less trafficked roads, could be stress-reducing. If you live in a city, even strolling through or sitting in a park or green space can offer relief.
Another health benefit of being outside is the natural dose of vitamin D you’ll get from the sun. Keeping your vitamin D at an optimal level is one way to potentially help improve your mood.
4. Social Connection
Studies show that social connection – or experiencing positive connections with others – can help protect you from the negative effects of stress. Being separated from other human beings can be challenging, and when you’re going through a stressful time, reaching out to connect with someone else can bring some relief.
Making a connection could be as simple as calling a friend to hear their voice or setting up a video call if you can’t see them in person. One-on-one connections could prove more beneficial – and less stressful – than larger gatherings and get togethers. You could also try picking up the lost art of letter writing and write, then mail, a letter to a far-flung family member or friend. Writing the letter could be healing. Receiving a letter in return could be emotionally uplifting.
Another type of connection that can prove helpful when diagnosed with celiac disease is connecting with other people going through similar experiences. GIG Support Groups are local resources offering opportunities to connect with others, both virtually and in-person.
Writing in a journal is a practice that dates back centuries. Research shows that journaling can have positive health benefits, including for people with medical conditions. Whether you’re putting pen to paper or composing a daily journal on the web or through an app, the act of writing down your emotions and experiences can help put things into perspective and reduce stress.
A type of journaling, writing a gratitude journal, adds additional benefits by putting you in a positive mindset as you document things you are grateful for instead of focusing on challenges. Robert Emmons, a gratitude researcher, has written extensively on the connection between gratitude and overall well-being, including reducing depression.
As you can see, there are many ways you can address stress, regardless of the cause. A celiac disease diagnosis can trigger a number of new stressors, from changing your diet to frequently having to explain to others about your dietary needs to budgeting for the higher cost of gluten-free foods. When you’re dealing with a chronic disease or debilitating symptoms from food sensitivities, self-care takes on a whole new level of importance.
Less stress can mean an overall improvement in the quality of your life. If you are able to manage your stress at every step of your gluten-free journey, you can become more resilient over time and be better able to face new challenges as they come up.
What stressors have you faced, from diagnosis to living gluten-free? How do you manage your stress?
Disclaimer: The information on this website is for educational purposes only. Consult your healthcare team when considering this information.
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