5 Foods to Avoid When You’re Feeling Stressed

When you’re struggling to tackle a long to-do list or are feeling the pressure of an upcoming deadline, your first instinct may be to reach for a quick snack or caffeinated beverage to help you power through your tasks. Unfortunately, your favorite go-tos may be causing you to feel even more anxious. Step away from these five foods the next time you’re feeling stressed — they’ll do more harm than good!

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1. Coffee

When you’ve got a deadline that’s fast approaching, your first instinct may be to brew some coffee in hopes that the caffeine will energize you. Consequently, that cup of java may be having the opposite effect. Livestrong notes that drinking coffee throughout the day can cause you to experience fluctuations in energy and alertness.

In addition, Stephen Cherniske, author of Caffeine Blues, says caffeine can cause your body to be in a state called “caffeinism,” according to Livestrong. When you’re in this state, you’re likely to feel anxious, irritable, depressed, and tired — none of which will have a positive impact on your stress levels. And, while the caffeine in coffee may cause you to feel instantly alert, that feeling will be short lived, explains The Daily Mind. Soon after, you’ll experience a caffeine crash, which can cause you to feel even more stressed.

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2. Energy drinks

Here’s another caffeinated beverage to avoid guzzling when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Energy drinks are a combination of caffeine and sugar, which will wear off shortly after consumption and cause you to crash. “That dynamic duo of trouble … the combination of both the caffeine jitters and the sugar crash, that can be taxing on your body, so it does add stress,” Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D., author of author of The Flexitarian Diet, told the Huffington Post.

In addition, Shape explains that caffeine stimulates your nervous system, which can increase your blood pressure, lead to a rapid heartbeat, and cause you to feel jittery. Shape adds that too much caffeine can also interfere with your sleep, thus causing you to feel even more anxious. Web MD notes that when you are tired, you’re more easily agitated and less patient, both of which can increase your stress levels. Instead of chugging an energy drink the next time you’re facing a never-ending to-do list, reach for a calming cup of tea instead. Your stress levels will thank you!

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3. Candy

Do you reach for the candy jar when you’re battling feelings of anxiety? To Your Good Health Radio says that eating refined sugar causes your cortisol levels to rise. Cortisol, referred to as the stress hormone, is released by the adrenal glands in response to fear or stress, according to Psychology Today.

High cortisol levels can make you feel even more stressed and can cause serious health problems, including lower immune function and bone density, and an increase in weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart disease. Furthermore, shortly after eating sugar-riddled candy, you’ll experience an energy crash. The Huffington Post explains that a candy-induced sugar crash can cause you to feel irritable and may increase your food cravings.

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4. Processed foods

Fight the urge to stress-eat your way through a bag of processed chips, cookies, or munchies — they’ll only make your anxiety worse. Livestrong explains that candy isn’t the only food that contains refined sugar; processed foods are also packed with it. The sugar may give you a temporary increase in energy, but that feeling will be short-lived. As soon as your blood sugar levels drop, you’ll begin to feel tired.

If your blood sugar gets too low, not only will you feel tired, but you’ll also feel more stressed. Furthermore, this high to low swing in your sugar levels will cause your body to release hormones, adrenaline, and cortisol, which will make you feel anxious and panicked, according to Livestrong. Looking for a healthy snack to replace your processed goods? We suggest munching on these 10 foods; they’ll help you de-stress!

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5. Alcohol

Sipping a cocktail may seem like a great way to relax, but it can actually increase your levels of stress and anxiety. Shape notes that alcohol can cause a spike in cortisol production, a hormone that makes you feel more stressed. Furthermore, Science Daily reports that a study completed by the University of Chicago found that stress and alcohol can “feed” each other. The study looked at 25 healthy men who performed a public speaking task, in addition to a non-stressful control task.

Upon completing each activity, the participants either received a placebo or the equivalent of two alcoholic drinks. The results revealed that alcohol can lengthen feelings of stress-induced tension. “Stress can also change how alcohol makes a person feel: it can reduce the pleasant effects of alcohol or increase craving for more alcohol,” Emma Childs, research associate at The University of Chicago and corresponding author for the study, told Science Daily.

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