Did you know that April is Stress Awareness Month?
(Stressed Inner voice: HOW DID IT SLIP BY ME!?!?! I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN!)
Yes, it’s a whole month in which we should take a deep breath, stop beating ourselves up for not knowing that it’s stress awareness month, and let a few things go in the name of reducing stress.
And stop saying “I should.” Should do more, should be more, should perfect my flawed, real self. Just stop.
Because for all my efforts to eat right an live a healthy lifestyle, I still indulge in some good old-fashioned freakouts. I wish I could tell you that I live in a zen state of perpetual peace, but, let’s just say I am working on it.
This month. Stress Awareness Month.
( Stressed voice again: Although I got a late start, the month is half over….)
Stress kills. Don’t panic, but it does. Running on stress raises cortisol levels, and puts your body into fight or flight mode. This lovely state of being is very useful when you need to flee the scene, or grapple with an attacking predator, but in modern life, it too often occurs when we really don’t need to fight or flee. Instead, our bodies go into crisis mode, and as we drive in gridlocked traffic, or sit at our desks trying to grapple with a difficult deadline, our pulses race.
But the real damage comes because your body sets aside many of its functions to allow all the energy to be shunted to anxiety and escape, and stops doing important things like flushing out cholesterol and regenerating worn out cells. Stress alone can cause you to build arterial plaque, when your body would have been able to keep those blood vessels healthy, if you had just been calmer.
Are you breathing deeply? Drop those shoulders, relax your facial muscles. Let those shoulds go.
That said, food can help support us in times of stress. To balance cortisol, eat leafy greens, which are rich in magnesium. Magnesium is great for undoing the damage, and can alleviate headaches.
Walnuts and other nuts are rich in zinc and good fats, both important for nourishing the systems taxes by stress.
Basil is considered to be an anti-depression herb, so eating plenty of it is a good way to soothe your mood.
Lemons are high in Vitamin C, which has been shown to help in decreasing cortisol levels.
So for today’s anti-stress recipe, I offer up a massaged, lemony basil kale salad with lots of lemon. For extra stress reduction, you even get to work off some aggro by massaging the leaves into submission.
In between calming deep breaths.
This salad has plenty of crunch and allows you to find calmness by chewing the hefty kale. Make a meditation of it, counting your chews, if you have the patience.
Stress Awareness month just got tastier, and more colorful.
Because we don’t need to sweat the small stuff, and it really is true, it is all small stuff.
Lemony Pesto Kale Salad with Walnuts
Of course you can sub spinach and skip the massage if you want. Anything that makes it easier and more appealing to you.
2 cups fresh basil
1 large garlic clove, peeled
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 bunches Lacinato Kale, stems removed
3 medium tomatoes, cored and wedged
2 large carrot, julienned
1/2 cup walnuts, broken
In a blender or food processor, place the basil and garlic and process to mince. Add the lemon, olive oil and salt and process until smooth.
Rip the leaves from the stems and chop the leaves of kale. Put in a large bowl, add the pesto, and massage forcefully for about 2 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and carrots and toss to mix, and add the walnuts just before serving.