The Effects of Stress on Health & Nutrition

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Don’t we spend our days slaving away on our computers working and staying connected to technology? Talk about STRESS!

The dreaded Monday is upon us (Is it Friday yet?) and with it comes the heavy work week ahead. There’s no diminishing the daunting tasks that we have to balance between work, school, family, and personal time. If you’re like me, then you’re probably wondering, “How the heck am I going to get all of this done?!” Tossing regular exercise and healthful eating into the mix seems absolutely ridiculous.

But beyond our busy schedules, are we letting our stress affect our health? Answer: YES! There is growing evidence about the negative effects that stress has on our bodies. Chronic stress can reduce our immune system and leave us more susceptible to inflammation, weight gain, depression, and diseases. Nutritionally, we tend to make poor food choices when we are so focused on our work/stress, which only adds to our stress! How many times have we regretted going to the vending machine and picking the pop tarts and snickers bar. By the end of the day, we think, “Dude, I wish I ate healthier today.” (You totally say, “Dude,” right?)

Here are some tips for managing your stress in that specific moment:

(1) Close your eyes and take one deep breath
(2) Take 10 slow, deep breaths
(3) Count slowly to 10
(4) Clench your fists for 10 seconds and slowly release
(5) Get out of the situation and go for a 15 minute walk outside

Here are some daily habits that can reduce your stress when you’re not in that stressful moment:

(1) Exercise rigorously for 30-60 minutes a day
(2) Plan/pack your lunch with healthy snacks
(3) Say “No” to things when your plate is full
(4) Go to bed earlier (every morning, we all regret not going to bed earlier)
(5) Turn your computer off when you’re not at work/Put your phone away when you’re with friends/family

Now, you may be thinking that I’m crazy for suggesting these things: Who has time to work out regularly or eat healthfully?! I definitely agree that many people may not have the job or workload that allows for personal time to take care of themselves. It’s different for everyone. However, I think that we have more say in our schedule than we realize (or what our bosses say that we do). Ironically, making time to recenter ourselves (whether through exercise or other personal time) actually makes us better at our work!

Recently, a good friend of mine told me that he really wanted to exercise more frequently, but he was always so busy with work and meetings all day. My suggestion to him was to block out one hour on his computer calendar each day. This would hopefully discourage others at work from scheduling a meeting at that consistent time because he would be unavailable (and everyone could see that the time was blocked off). I know not everyone can do this, but this is a good example of someone making his health a top priority. Work is important, but so is your health! It has positive effects of reducing our constant stress and improves our overall health, physical, emotional and mental. Why is it we only make time for our health when we fall ill and have to go to the hospital? Let’s start taking daily measures to reduce our stress and improve our health. If it’s okay to schedule a doctor’s appointment, then it’s totally okay to schedule a daily gym session. How ever you can include time to exercise regularly and eat healthfully, you should do it.

Go You! You can do it!

Thomas Ngo
Dietetic Intern
NASM Certified Personal Trainer

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