Life is stressful. Between juggling work, relationships, finances and health, stress can take a toll on you. A recent survey by the American Psychological Association found that American adults are getting fewer hours of sleep, skipping exercise, and engaging in unhealthy eating behaviors because of stress. In fact, 38% of adults surveyed say they have overeaten or eaten unhealthy foods in the past month, and 43% say stress has caused them to lie awake at night in the past month.
April is Stress Awareness Month, and there’s no better time to take charge of your stress! Follow these simple tips to prevent it from sabotaging your health or weight management plans.
Curb cubicle cravings.
If you turn to food when stressed at work, make the best of the calories you eat.
- Keep healthy snacks accessible including granola bars, fresh or dried fruit, nuts, whole grain crackers, popcorn, veggies, dry cereal or yogurt.
- Practice portion control by packaging snacks into single servings.
- Stay hydrated. Drink water and other no- or low-calorie beverages throughout the day.
- Eat three balanced meals and at least one snack daily to stay satisfied.
Survive the mid-afternoon slump.
Don’t run to the vending machine or reach for the latest coffee concoction.
- Eat an energy-boosting snack that combines healthy carbohydrate and protein or fat.
- Whole grain crackers with a low-fat cheese stick
- Dried apricots and almonds
- Apple slices with peanut butter
- Veggie sticks with hummus
- If caffeine is in order, select a no- or low-calorie beverage.
- Plain coffee or hot tea with creamer and a low or no-calorie sweetener (or limit to 1 teaspoon of sugar)
- Diet soda
- Did you eat too much at lunch? Large meals, especially those that are high in fat, may cause you to feel tired.
Utilize the unique powers of exercise.
Exercise makes us feel good, says 53% of those surveyed, but we may skip it when stressed. Exercise is a health risk-reducer, and the endorphins released during activity also make it a stress-reducer.
- Any time is a good time for exercise, so determine what time and how long is best for you.
- Get motivated by exercising with a friend or participating in an activity that you enjoy.
- Schedule exercise like it is an appointment.
- Have a positive mindset! Look forward to exercise rather than dreading it.
Get a sound snooze.
Adults need an uninterrupted 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night for stress and weight management. We eat more when we are tired because of an imbalance of “hunger” and “fullness” hormones. Less sleep also increases cortisol, a stress hormone that promotes weight gain. Get a good night’s sleep by:
- Avoiding caffeine, spicy and high fat foods, chocolate and alcohol at least four hours before bedtime.
- Winding down by turning off electronics and reading a book, writing in a journal or making a list for tomorrow.
- Creating a sleep schedule of going to bed and waking at approximately the same time daily.
Our stressors are not going away, and they may in fact be increasing. Learn and practice techniques that help you take charge of your stress!