Stress and Anxiety Tips for Healthcare Coaches

Stress and Anxiety Tips for Healthcare Coaches

Food for Thought!

As healthcare clinicians and certified health coaches, we engage many patients day-to-day seeking nutrition and dietary guidance for better management of chronic conditions, weight loss and maintenance, and health risk. However, as the pandemic continues to cast a spotlight on the mental health of our population and its healthcare providers, we are beginning to also take note of foods in particular that help to reduce stress and anxiety. What are these foods that have gained our attention? How do they work to do the body good?

Stress and Anxiety Affecting Healthcare Clinicians and Certified Health Coaches


A body under stress causes the adrenal glands to release cortisol, which works well for us in stressful "flight or fight" situations. However, cortisol (often called the "stress hormone") secreted at high levels long term, created by a hectic, stressful and ever-fast paced lifestyle, doesn't bode the body well resulting in (1):

    • Inflammation
    • Diabetes
    • Weight gain; obesity
    • Suppressed immunity
    • GI problems
    • Fertility dysfunction
    • Hypertension
    • Chronic fatigue, insomnia and depression

While the public may think that nurses, who comprise the largest number of healthcare workers, would be more physically fit due to the constant motion required of their tasks, they have high stress levels (not surprising) and obesity. A Maryland School of Nursing study found that in survey of a 2,000 + nurses, over half were obese (2). Considering that it's not uncommon for obesity to be in tandem with other health conditions, this finding is troublesome.

a healthy diet helps stress and anxiety for healthcare coaches

Eating foods that lowers inflammation reduces cortisol levels(3). So what are these foods that can help us help ourselves? These are most often found in the Mediterranean diet:

    • High levels of B Vitamins: fortified whole grains, chicken, eggs
    • High omega-3 fatty acids: avocados, flax seeds, olive oil, salmon, walnuts, tuna
    • Magnesium: bananas, broccoli, dark chocolate, spinach
    • Protein: almonds, lean beef, lentils, peanuts, turkey breast
    • Probiotics: greek yogurt, sauerkraut, vinegar, garlic

Need a quick food de-stressor, Barth suggests 90% cacao dark chocolate!(3) 

It's not enough to know what foods to eat, but to work through the ambivalence about why these foods are not eaten at all or in quantities to be helpful! The food on the table of a Grecian family is typically loaded with fresh colorful produce, fish, lean meats, and olive oil, with lemon juice ever present.

A trip to Greece a few years ago sold me on their Mediterranean diet! While I fall off the wagon for a triple decker loaded pimento cheese or great steak now and then, I remember thinking as I looked over the bountiful spread on the table of my host, "This is the freshest, most colorful and wonderful tasting food I've ever had in my life!" That was the ambivalence changer for me!

While we understand that food intake alone can't resolve our stress and anxiety altogether, don't forget, "We are what we eat" in so many ways!

Check out: Self-Care for Practitioners!

(1) Aronson, D. (Nov, 2009). Cortisol — Its role in stress, inflammation, and indications for diet therapy. Today's Dietitian, 11 (11), p.38.

(2) Pulse Uniform. (2012). Why obesity is more common in nurses than you think.

(3).Barth,C. (June, 2021). Eat these foods to reduce stress and anxiety. Cleveland Clinic. Health Essentials: Nutrition.

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Self Care for Practitioners
Healthcare Clinicians