When is stress a problem?

When is stress a problem?

First, a quick story. 

During my 20s and early 30s, I thought stress was in my head.

“Stress is for wimps,” I thought. “I’ll deal with it.”

So, I did. I threw on my blinders and charged for the finish line. I plowed through all-nighters, relationship drama, job uncertainty, immigration issues, unexpected cross-country (and trans-Atlantic) moves and corporate overwhelm. ‘Cause there was nothing a yoga class, a glass of wine or a good night’s rest couldn’t fix.

Meanwhile, during phone-calls, my mom would offer out-of-the-blue, “I think your problem is stress.”

“Mom. I’m not stressed!”  Of course, I was. Moms just know.

The truth is, while I looked calm on the outside, I was building up like a pressure-cooker inside. In reality, because my body was in stress overload for years, my adrenals had taken a beating. And this led to issues like weight gain, PCOS, low blood pressure, low thyroid and major “hanger” outbursts.

Turns out, by ignoring my stress, I had created a monster. I was on the fast-track to burnout, but just didn’t know it yet.

Acute versus Chronic Stress

Let’s be clear: stress is a crucial survival instinct – your body’s way of protecting you. And after your initial fight-or-flight response, your body is wired to bounce back and restore balance. This is called acute stress.

Chronic stress, on the other hand, is sneaky – lingering long after the original stressor passes, and sometimes involving multiple stressors. For example, receiving a health scare right after you’ve spent months planning for your big wedding. Or, navigating a marital challenge, loss or grief during a global pandemic.

This persistent and prolonged stress is destructive and can mess with everything from your digestion to blood sugar to mood to immunity. Chronic stress throws off your body’s balance and can show up in the form of belly fat, high cholesterol, hormone imbalance, acid reflux, infections, joint pain and more.

So, when Is stress A problem?

When does stress become chronic? When should you pay attention to your stress levels and learn strategies to buffer it? When should you ask for help?

Only you can answer this. Reflect on these prompts, and be honest with yourself. Awareness is the first step to understanding and buffering your stress response.

1. When it’s prolonged.

Chronic stress is described as stress that occurs for “several weeks or longer.” Consider how long you’ve felt stress or overwhelm. Maybe a big event triggered your stress response, and your body didn’t have a chance to fully recover from it. Meanwhile other daily stressors took over, keeping your body in a constant state of fight-or-flight.

2. When it makes you sick.

When your stress response is consistently activated, your body will send you notifications, much like your trusted smartphone.

“Your phone battery is low.”

“Your phone is overheating.”

“Restart phone now for updates.”

Your body sends you similar signals to unplug, recharge, take a break, stretch, eat and hydrate. And if you keep ignoring them (no judgement here; I do it too), the signs get bigger and louder until you pay attention.

I created the picture below to illustrate the many ways chronic stress can show up in your body (not an exhaustive list).

As you can see, stress is linked to several health conditions. In some cases, it’s the root cause; in others, a catalyst.

Don’t ignore these signs. Your body is throwing you red flags and wants you to pay attention!  It’s time to slow down, take stock of your stress levels and adopt daily habits that nurture and support you.

Which brings me to #3.

3. When you have insufficient resources to navigate it.

Stress and coping researchers, Lazarus and Folkman describe stress as when, “the demands of a situation exceed our resources to cope.”

Resources can include external ones like a reliable support system; or internal ones, like nutritional mineral reserves (more on that in a later post).

During my toughest months of chronic stress, I thought I had ample support. A loving family and friends, a regular yoga practice and healthy diet…all checked out. Turns out, I still had major gaps in my resource tool-kit.

For one, I didn’t know how to say ‘no,’ or create boundaries where it mattered. Next, I didn’t know how to support my nervous system when my stress-response kicked in. Finally, I didn’t know how to ask for help, or who to turn to.

If this sounds like you, please know that a) you’re not alone, and b) you’re in the right place.

Start here:

  1. Download The Chronic Stress Survival Cheat-Sheet for 15 tips to nourish, recharge and support you when you’re stressed. Print it out, keep it handy and refer to it often.
  2. Talk to me. I offer a free 30-minute “Break-the-Cycle” consult (no strings attached) and am here to support you in creating a calmer, more joyful and nourished life with food and lifestyle tweaks.

Stress doesn’t go away. But learning tools to navigate stress and support your nervous system can change how you respond to it, and ease your body back into balance over time.

While my chronic stress journey was one of the scariest times of my life; I’m thankful it gave me a newfound appreciation for my body’s nervous system as well as the skills to soothe and support it going forward. I hope it’ll do the same for you.

I’d love to hear if you learned something new in this post. Let me know in the comments below!

xo, Mukta

Spiced Walnut Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies

Spiced Walnut Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies

This cookie is a far cry from the usual gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan cookie of my dreams.  And it uses a lot more ingredients than I’d normally care to mess with…

But I’ve been obsessing over this combo ever since I found out it was a thing.

Tahini and dark chocolate? In cookie form? Sign me up! 

And in the spirit of searching for levity and delight this year, I decided it was time to make these cookies already. There are several variations on this recipe out there, but I used the Tahini, Rye & Chocolate cookies from Green Kitchen Stories (one of the OG food blogs) as inspiration.

Why I love this recipe…

It uses:

  • Whole-grain flours: Stone-ground rye gives it depth and nuttiness while the addition of gluten-free teff (you can use buckwheat instead) makes it lighter.
  • Healthy fats: Tahini (sesame seed paste), walnuts, sesame seeds and eggs provide satiety and blood sugar balancing properties.
  • Wholesome sweeteners: Dates lend extra fiber, iron and magnesium, and coconut sugar adds extra minerals.
  • Spices: Grated ginger and black pepper give it a subtle warmth and makes these cookies more interesting. You could add ground cinnamon, cardamom or even chili flakes for an added kick – but I didn’t this time around.
  • Dark chocolate: Need I say more?

Plus it’s so versatile! You can swap out most of the ingredients (check out the notes below) and make this your own special create-your-own-cookie adventure.

If you’re skeptical about baking with whole-grain flours and unrefined sweeteners, let this cookie be the one that converts you.

Try this recipe, and let me know if you love it! xo

Spiced Walnut Tahini Rye Chocolate Chip Cookies

These spiced cookies bring warmth to a cold wintry day. Rye flour, tahini and walnuts add a nuttiness and ginger adds an extra layer of spice to this classic cookie. Plus they're subtly sweetened with mineral-rich dates and coconut sugar.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Chilling time20 mins
Course: Cookies, Dessert, Snack
Keyword: chocolate, cookies, dessert, rye, snack, tahini, wholegrain
Servings: 20 cookies (30 smaller ones)

Equipment

  • 1 Food processor or hand-chopper (helpful - an electric mixer would work too).

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rye flour I used stone-ground, medium rye
  • 3/4 cup teff or buckwheat flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 100 ml tahini sesame paste
  • 3.5 oz unsalted butter at room temp
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar or raw cane sugar
  • 6 pitted dates
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or more if you like!
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp crushed black pepper (optional)
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds or more, to coat.

Instructions

  • Start by combining the rye flour, teff/buckwheat flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
  • In a food processor or hand-chopper or separate bowl, mix butter, tahini, sugar and pitted dates for a few minutes on high speed until properly combined.
  • At this point, add your spices or other flavorings. I added the grated ginger and crushed black pepper, but see notes below for other options.
  • Add the eggs to the processor and mix until combined.
  • Now, add the flour mix to the food processor, one cup at a time and mix completely. You don't want to overmix this.
  • Pour the mixture into a bowl, add the chopped chocolate and walnuts and mix to combine.
  • Refrigerate for 2 hours until firm or freeze for 20 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 380 degrees F and line two baking trays with parchment paper.
  • While the oven is pre-heating, use a tablespoon measure to make small-ish balls and coat them in sesame seeds. Then place them on the baking trays an inch apart.
  • Bake for about 7 minutes, then remove the trays and bang/smack them down on your kitchen counter a couple times to let them flatten and crack.
  • Put the trays back into the oven for another 6-8 minutes until they get slightly golden/browned.
  • Remove from the oven and cool the cookies on the baking tray for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Seal in an airtight container for up to 5 days, and enjoy!

Notes

Potential swaps that could work (I have not tried these):
  • Flours: If you don't have rye, unbleached whole-wheat flour or whole-wheat pastry flour could work. Buckwheat or any other gluten-free flour should work in place of teff.
  • Butter: If you want to make it vegan, replace the butter with coconut oil. It will have a different flavor, but will still taste good.
  • Eggs: If you want to skip the eggs, you could use "flax or chia eggs." For every 1 chicken egg, you'd use 1 tbsp ground flax or chia seed + 3 tbsp water. Allow it to thicken for 5 minutes, then use. 
  • Tahini: You can try almond butter or peanut butter in its place. This will change the flavor of the cookie, but should still work!
  • Coconut sugar: You can use raw cane sugar as a replacement, although the latter might make it sweeter. 
  • Spices: I've used ground black pepper and grated ginger, but you could use ground cinnamon, cardamom or even chili flakes! 
  • Walnuts: Use other nuts or skip! 

Liver-loving Green Smoothie

Liver-loving Green Smoothie

This is my go-to green smoothie when I’m feeling run down, or when I just need a pick-me-up. It’s a wonderful snack or light breakfast, tastes like a dream and makes a treat for the whole family. 

With liver-loving kale, ginger and flax, amazing fats and fiber (nuts, seeds and oats) – this smoothie feels like your favorite detox without the deprivation.

Liver-loving green smoothie

Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time2 mins
Course: Drinks, smoothie, Snack
Servings: 2

Equipment

  • High-speed blender

Ingredients

  • 1-2 cup raw kale or 2-3 stalks
  • 1 banana
  • 1/4 cup oats gluten-free if possible
  • 1/4 cup raw, unsalted cashews - soaked in water for 30 minutes or nut-milk
  • 1-2 inch ginger
  • 1 tbsp hemp hearts
  • 1 tbsp flax seeds
  • 2 cup water plus ice to thin out

Optional:

  • 1/2 apple
  • 1 tsp spirulina
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp almond butter unsalted

Instructions

  • First soak raw cashews (or other nuts if using) in filtered water.
  • Wash & dry the kale (use the whole leaf, stalks and all!).
  • Add all the ingredients to your high-speed blender.
  • Blend until smooth. Sip & enjoy!

Notes

The recipe is listed with a prep time of 30-minutes because this includes soaking time for the cashews. 

Persimmon Ginger Chia Pudding

Persimmon Ginger Chia Pudding

Have you gotten your fill of persimmons this year? If not, hurry – season’s almost over!

What’s a persimmon?

If you’re not familiar, persimmons make their grand and brief appearance in California from September to November. While they are native to North America, the variety that shows up most often in US grocery stores are the Japanese “kaki fruit.” There are two types to watch for: the Fuyus, which have the texture of a tomato or peach and flavor of a cloyingly sweet papaya or sapota (mamey/chikoo). And then there are the Hachiyas, which are astringent due to tannins and best enjoyed in baked goods.

Despite their overbearing sweetness, persimmons are surprisingly good for you. They’re rich in antioxidants (vitamins A & C, polyphenols and other phytochemicals) and a good source of fiber. They’ve been studied for various benefits, including cardiovascular, cholesterol lowering and for promoting healthy skin (to mention a few).

They’re also a feast for sore eyes – adding persimmons to salads, desserts and smoothies treats you to a welcome burst of color on a drab wintry day.

Needless to say, I buy as many persimmons as humanly possible when they’re in season.

Which brings me to this recipe.

 

This chia pudding combines the sweetness of persimmon with lime and ginger to make a refreshing, delectable, tropical flavor. Throw in some coconut and you may as well fire up the tiki torches!

Enjoy as a light breakfast, snack or dessert – just get those persimmons in before they’re gone!

xo – Mux

For variation: 

I use homemade pecan milk in the recipe, but you could use any nut or seed milk. Use my almond or cashew milk recipe as a guide.

If you run out of persimmons, you can use any fruit with a similar texture – mangoes, chikoo, papaya, peaches or even blueberries.

Add spices! Cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg would be lovely here.

Persimmon Ginger Chia Pudding

Chia pudding made into an extra fancy & satisfying treat with Fuyu persimmon, ginger, lime & coconut.
Prep Time1 hr
Course: Dessert, Snack
Keyword: chia, healthy fats, persimmon, pudding, snack
Servings: 2
Author: Mukta Gadkari

Equipment

  • High-speed blender (if making nut milk from scratch)

Ingredients

1 cup nut-milk

  • 1/4 cup pecans or walnuts (soaked overnight)
  • 1 cup water

Chia pudding

  • 4 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 2 tbsp. hemp seeds
  • 1 Fuyu persimmon
  • 1 tbsp. raw ginger root (finely grated)
  • 1/2 lime (juiced)
  • 2 tbsp. unsweetened shredded coconut (or more)

Optional

  • 2 tbsp. hemp hearts (or hemp seeds)
  • drizzle raw honey

Instructions

For the nut-milk (approx. 1 cup):

  • Rinse and drain the soaked pecans and add to a high-speed blender.
  • Add 1 cup of filtered water.
  • Blend for about 1 minute (until smooth) and pour the pecan milk into a mason jar.

For the chia-pudding:

  • Stir the chia seeds into the pecan milk and mix well (if you don't stir, the chia will clump together).
  • Let the pudding set for 20-30 minutes at room temperature. If your kitchen is warm, leave it in the fridge.
  • Optional: After the chia pudding has set, add 2 tbsp. hemp seeds and mix well.
  • Wash and cube the persimmon and add it to a separate bowl.
  • Add the ginger and lime juice to the cubed persimmon and mix well, mashing the fruit slightly. Once the persimmon is a little mushy and juicy, it's time to assemble the pudding!
  • Take two small jars, glasses or dessert bowls. Layer the pudding by scooping 1-2 tbsp. chia pudding into each jar, then 1-2 tbsp of the persimmon mixture, then more chia pudding, and more persimmon (until it's all gone).
  • Finally garnish each jar with 1 tbsp. of shredded coconut each and a tiny drizzle of raw honey. Enjoy!
Pause & Nourish (Instagram Live Series)

Pause & Nourish (Instagram Live Series)

Pause & Nourish: Managing Stress through Food & Lifestyle

When we are stressed, we often turn to our breath or yoga practice. Or, another mindful activity that brings us back to the present.

But what about food? Surprisingly, nutrition plays a key role in stress; and simple, intentional strategies can help you manage it better.

Join me at Downtown Yoga Shala’s Instagram TV for the series Pause & Nourish, where I offer simple ways to better nourish yourself during times of stress.

Day/Time: Every other Wednesday at 12pm PT (each chat is 30-40 minutes long).

Past & upcoming topics (2020)

(click on the topic for the link to the video):

June 17th: Protein

July 1st: Chew your Food!

July 15th: Healthy Fats

July 29th: Hydration

August 12th: Sleep

August 26th: Eat the Rainbow

September 9th: Liver Health

September 23rd: Daily Greens

October 7th: Gut Health

October 21st: Don’t Skip Meals!

If you want to learn more, register for one of my upcoming Classes or Workshops!