Stress can be a problem in itself, of course. But stress often leads to unhealthy lifestyle patterns, which in turn lead to more stress. For example, when we’re harried and under stress, we tend to make poor food choices. Unfortunately, these food choices can create more stress in the long run, as well as other problems.
However, there are several things you can do to make healthy food choices. Here are just some ways to insure better nutrition that can work for even the busiest people. They will help you feel healthier, more productive, and best of all less stressed. After a few weeks, they’ll become habit and you won’t even have to think about good nutrition. And your body, not to mention your stress level, will feel the difference.
You may rationalize that you’re not hungry yet, that you don’t have time, that lunch will come soon enough, that you need to diet anyway, or that the milk in the latte you pick up on the way is all the good nutrition you need. But skipping breakfast makes it harder to maintain stable blood sugar levels and effective functioning during your busy morning; you need it. Just grab a hard-boiled egg and a piece of fruit on your way out the door.
Opt For Green Tea:
If you’re a coffee junkie, you may not realize the effects caffeine has on your system. However, you can reduce your stress levels and improve your mental performance throughout the day if you gradually wean yourself off of large amounts of caffeine. A relatively easy and healthy way to do that is to replace coffee with decaffeinated green tea, which has a soothing taste and the added benefit of loads of antioxidants.
Try Sparkling Juice or Perrier:
If you’re a cola drinker, you’re probably experiencing the same health consequences from caffeine that coffee drinkers experience. A more healthful alternative is sparkling fruit juice, or sparkling water. You’ll still be getting a refreshing treat, but you’ll be adding water to your system, rather than detracting it (caffeine saps your system of water, so drinking it is akin to un-drinking water!), and you’ll be avoiding other caffeine-related side effects.
Carry a Snack:
Having some protein-rich, healthful snacks in your car, office, or purse can help you avoid blood sugar level dips and accompanying mood swings and fatigue. Trail mix, granola bars, and certain energy bars all contain good nutrition. Along these lines, you should always have water handy, as it’s so vital to health and proper physical functioning.
If you find that you absently munch when you’re stressed, or have a pattern of snacking at certain times in the day or week, you can replace chips, cheese puffs and other less-healthy munchies with carrot sticks, edamame, celery sticks, sunflower seeds or other more healthy choices. (Even popcorn is a better choice if you leave off the butter and salt!)
Brown Bag It:
Many people go out for lunch to fast food places, coffee shops or restaurants that serve less-than-optimally-healthy fare. While this does save a bit of time, you can save money and usually eat much healthier if you take a few extra minutes to pack and bring a lunch from home. Even if you do this only a few days a week, it would be an improvement over eating every lunch out.
No Caffeine After 2pm:
Since caffeine has a half-life in your body of at least 6 hours, caffeine you ingest with dinner can interfere with your sleep at night. (See this article to learn more about the importance of sleep.)
Banish the Bad Stuff:
It’s easier to avoid sugary, fatty, and otherwise unhealthy foods if they’re not in your home, practically begging you to eat them! This may sound like a no-brainer (yet it’s sometimes harder to do than you’d expect), but you should go through your kitchen and throw out anything your body can’t use in a healthy way. (Or at least most of it.) That way you’ll be forced to snack on healthy food when you’re stressed.
Stock Your Home With Healthy Fare:
Even more important than getting the bad stuff out of your house, is getting healthy food in! The best way is to plan a menu of healthy meals and snacks at the beginning of each week, list the ingredients you’ll need, and shop for everything once a week. That way you know you’ll have what you want when you need it, and you won’t have to stress over what to eat each night; you’ll already have thought of it! (This makes eating at home much easier, too!)
Adopting stress reducing techniques should also reduce your stress-induced cravings for unhealthy or excessive food. I recommend yoga, martial arts, journaling, laugher and PMR; here’s a fuller selection of relaxation techniques you can use to calm down and turn off your body’s stress response.
A good beginning makes a good end.