How to Stay Calm in Stressful Food Situations
You’re at a party, there is food all around you, scratch that there is GLUTEN all around you. You see cross-contact everywhere but you’re hungry and you want to enjoy sharing snacks and a meal with your loved ones. You want to stay calm in stressful food situations like this because stress does the body no good. In fact, stressing too much could trigger the very symptoms you want to avoid.
So how do you:
- Stay safe
- Feed your tummy
- Enjoy your time
- And Minimize stress?
tips on how to stay calm in stressful food situations
1. Employ Allies
Often when I go to events or meals with friends and family, I attend with a few people who I know are in my corner, allies if you will.
My allies are friends who’ve made an effort to understand my needs and family who’ve jumped aboard my support train. Hopefully, you have similar allies too (because support is VITAL to living a safe gluten-free lifestyle).
When I am trying to stay calm in stressful food situations, I employ my allies. This means I let them know my concerns and start delegating tasks to help make sure I’m safe.
While of course, you are always your best advocate, carrying all of the weight of watching for cross-contact, keeping your food safe, etc. can be burdensome.
Sharing the load can do wonders in limiting your stress. Even just simply asking your allies to watch for points of cc can be helpful
2. Tell a Trusted and Supportive Friend your Concerns
Sharing your concerns with trusted and supportive friends can also do wonders to help manage your stress.
Simply getting your worries off your chest is powerful. In addition to that, you might find that you add more allies to your team by sharing your concerns.
For example, a conversation about the concerns of bread being in between gluten-free dishes on a buffet table can do a few things. It can employ your friend to potentially take action and try to move the bread to the end of the buffet table or even to a completely different table. Lastly, it can educate your friend on how to be an ally.
Worse case, your concerns are shared and validated and some weight is lifted off your shoulders.
3. Trust your gut
I say this alot, and I mean this in two ways. 1. I mean trust your gut in the literal sense in that if something seems to upset your stomach avoid it. And 2. I mean it in a figurative sense by which if a situation seems “fishy” or the safety of something is questionable, trust that feeling and avoid the food.
And I know a lot of people say that they can’t trust their gut, or they feel like their gut has failed them, but to them I ask, have you’ve been listening? Have you been paying attention? Taking notes? Tuning in to your body takes work. Especially if your relationship with your body has been broken by years of misdiagnosis.
Need help getting in tune with your body? Send me a message, let’s chat!
4. Take deep breaths
Cheesy and cliche I know, but sometimes a few deep breaths can be all you need to bring you back from the depths of gluten-filled panic.
In fact, researchers have found that people in a relaxed state digest their food better. This is likely related to the calming effects deep breathing can have on the nervous system. By calming your nervous system you’re allowing your body to redirect the energy being used for stress toward energy for use in digestion and other processes.
So the next time you are anxious and sitting down for a meal, try taking 3-10 deep breaths to calm your body. You might also consider other grounding activities to calm you down too.
5. go for a walk / get fresh air
Sometimes the best thing you can do is take a break from the situation.
Going for a walk or simply taking a step outside for a change of scenery can give you a break from whatever might be triggering you.
You can use this time to try to ground yourself, process your worries or BONUS: get fresh air with a friend who you can share your concerns with!
6. trust your preparedness
A huge part of how to stay calm in stressful food situations involves being prepared. Literally any event I go to, I bring snacks. (actually, anytime I leave the house, I bring snacks. I have snacks in my backpack, snacks in my car, snacks in my pocket – I might even be a snack 😉 )
So when I know I’m going to an event that involves a likely stressful food situation (which let’s be real, is pretty much every event), I make sure I come with my own food. I’ll bring veggies and hummus, chips and salsa, ice cream, whatever I want.
When I show up, if the food situation looks dire for me (which often it does), I simply explain that I have my own food so that I don’t get sick. I then make sure it’s clear it’s my food and try to carry it around with me or store it in a way that makes it accessible to me but not obviously accessible to everyone else. So far I haven’t had a problem.
Need help preparing for stressful food events? I dedicate an entire section of the Celiac Self-Care Planner to that, I also offer 1:1 coaching services to help with this too. Which leads me to my last tip on how to stay calm during stressful food situations and that is…
7. Talk your concerns out with a celiac specialist
It’s important to be strict about living gluten-free with celiac, but sometimes we can be too strict. If you’re concerned, share you worries with your celiac specialized health care provider and figure out if these are things you should really be worrying over.
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Stay Calm and Party on
Trying to stay calm in stressful food situations might seem impossible but the more you practice these tips and other coping skills, the easier it will be. It’s important to stay calm in these situations because letting yourself overstress can 1. take away from your enjoyment of the event and 2. trigger the very symptoms you’re trying to avoid.
A reader pointed out that it’s also important not to stress to much about being exposed to gluten. Of course, you don’t want to be exposed to gluten but it happens to the best of us. Stressing out about it can make your gluten exposure symptoms worse. Instead, focus on recovery. Make sure you have a self-care plan in place to handle your exposure and use this as a learning opportunity for the future.
How do you stay calm in stressful food situations? What are common stressful food situations you encounter? Let me know in the comments!