A Healthy Diet Is Critical
There is no question – at least not for me – eating healthy is key in controlling stress.
An unhealthy diet is a major factor in stress overload. It hurts you physically and mentally. It weakens your system and puts you at risk for all kinds of health issues. It depletes your energy, makes you subject to depression, and increases your stress levels, when your goal should be to reduce stress.
If you want to live a healthy, productive life, you must eat well.
Tips for eating healthier:
- Plan Ahead
Mindless, “eating on the fly” is a sure way to fill your body with empty calories, very few nutrients, and massive amounts of additives that poison your body.
Eating well requires that you plan ahead. When you plan your meals, you have much more control. Thinking about your meals, planning your menu, and creating a shopping list keeps you on target for a healthy diet. If you are new to this idea or pressed for time, there are some good meal-planning sites to help you.
- Avoid Caffeine & Limit Alcohol
Caffeine is dangerous to your health! If you are among those that need caffeine to start your day to keep you going, you are definitely addicted. The very best thing to do is stop – cold turkey. Take off a few days from work and STOP! Or, if that is not possible, cut down slowly over the next month. Cutting out at least one cup or “power drink” each day until you have stopped completely. If your addiction is strong, you may have some withdrawals like headaches, foggy brain, or even the shakes.
If you simply like the taste of coffee and enjoy your morning cup of coffee – switch to decaffeinated – it tastes the same and has very little caffeine.
Go easy on the alcohol. if there is a possibility that you are an alcoholic, do what you need to do to take care of this disease before it ruins your life.
For others, a glass of wine for dinner or just before bed is not a big deal, but drink a normal 4-ounce serving, not a large tumbler (or two) filled to the brim. Choose dryer wines to avoid a sugar kick.
If alcohol disturbs your sleep – waking up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep, waking up the next morning with a headache or feeling dehydrated, you may want to limit your wine intake to an occasional occurrence rather than a nightly routine.
- Stop Self-Medicating with Food
It is not uncommon for people to use food to make themselves feel better. It is their drug of choice. If you think (or know) you are a stress eater, pay attention to your eating patterns. Do you eat at certain times of the day; do you have cravings that you always satisfy; do you think about food all the time – especially when things are not going well?
Rather than trying to fight the urge to eat, replace the junk food, sugary snacks with something healthier like fresh fruit or nuts. Do not buy into the rumors that fruit is bad for you (canned/bottled fruit juice is bad – basically sugar water). Most people, even diabetics can find good fresh fruit that they like and can eat. There are a number of low-sugar fruits such as berries that you can munch on and thoroughly enjoy.
- Make Mealtime Stress-free
Home should be a quiet, safe-haven and meal time should be a peaceful, loving environment. If your meals are eaten standing up with everyone rushing around, yelling at each other, with general unhappiness prevailing, your digestion is going to suffer.
Set up some ground rules: No TV; no cell phones; no answering calls during meals; and everyone sits down together for dinner. Work with the family to get their buy-in. Make mealtime something to look forward to. Prepare healthy, tasty meals. Get the children involved in the planning and preparation.
Set a nice table and have everyone cooperate to clear and clean afterward. When everyone contributes, it is not only more fun, the stress dissapates.
- Eat Foods as Close to Nature as Possible
Eat whole foods including lots of plants for maximum health. This type of diet will help you be the healthiest version of you. You will lose or gain weight, as needed, lower your cholesterol, and minimize the risk of other serious health issues.
On this type of diet, nutrition is a given, you will no longer have to worry about getting what you need for good health. A natural, plant-based diet is filled with nutrients.
- Eliminate Processed Foods
Learn to read labels and don’t buy anything that contains additives (if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it). Avoid white sugar and white flour products, pre-packaged dinners, and all fast foods. These types of foods are filled with empty calories and contain practically no nutrients. They are more harmful than helpful for your body.
- Drink Plenty of Water
Staying well-hydrated is critical for good health. You can do this by drinking lots of water and eating water-rich foods. The amount you should consume depends on climate, height, weight, body mass and more. The general consensus is 8 – 10 glasses of water a day for an average adult. The best guide, however, is if you are thirsty – DRINK! Soda and coffee are not substitutes for water.
- Eat Enough Food for Your Body
Your required daily caloric intake depends on your height, weight, muscle density, and activity level. Health issues can also affect the amount of calories you should eat each day. As a general rule, women should eat at least 1500 calories a day and men about 2000 calories per day. Eating less can cause problems such as low energy, headaches, and higher risk for disease.
- Supplements Have Become a Necessity
Because of the heavy use of pesticides and the need to wash fruits and vegetables well, most people need to supplement their diet with Vitamin B12. A deficiency may take years to show up, but it can cause permanent neurological damage. Ask your doctor to test you to see if you are deficient. If so, s/he will prescribed a supplement for you. I get mine as a monthly injection, but there are other types of supplements.
Vitamin D is another nutrient for which you should be tested regularly and supplemented when necessary.
Eating right is simple to do and totally in your control. If you have issues with getting meals on the table at night without pulling your hair out, you need a plan to follow. Create a menu that enables you to shop fewer times each month.
For example, go shopping every two weeks instead of weekly. Try to prepare some portions of your meals in advance so that at meal times you only mix a few ingredients together to make a meal. Example: Make a big pot of rice each week that can be combined with different ingredients to make meals such as rice and beans, stir-fry, wraps and other dishes.
If you can afford it, consider joining one of the meal delivery plans where the food comes to your door and you prepare it per the directions. Many of the meal delivery plans are very healthy, easy to prepare and can (for the right family) save money. They are particular nice if you live alone.
Move Your Body
Our bodies were built to move. They need to be exercised regularly – and the majority of us do not get enough exercise. A mom at home with small children probably gets enough just through her daily activities, but for many, sitting at a desk all day is a big problem.
Exercise has almost become a foreign word and for some even the thought of it brings its own level of stress.
Most people hate the word exercise and feel as if they don’t have the time or energy to do it. But, intentional, regular exercise is essential to good health. Good health helps lower stress levels.
Instead of getting all worked up about working out, find ways to incorporate exercise into your daily routine.
- Exercise at your Desk – Far too many of us are stuck sitting at a desk for the full eight hours. It can be challenging to figure out how to get your body moving under those circumstances; but, it really isn’t a problem! You can do exercises right at your desk. Stand up every hour and take a full body stretch, lift your legs and turn your ankles, squeeze your bottom, do Kegels, and move your arms – all at your desk. There are many more possibilities – check online. A good place to start is Web MD – Exercise at Your Desk.
- Ask for a Standing Desk – Some companies are starting to be aware of the dangers of sitting more than four hours a day. If you can get your company to spring for a sit/stand desk or at least standing stations, you will save your health. You can actually buy your own for less than $100. Not only will you be healthier, some people find that they are more productive at a standing desk, as well.
- Take a Walk at Lunch – Opt for a lunch that you can hold in your hands such as a smoothie or a wrap, and go for a walk. Sit outside on a bench, enjoy the time outdoors even if it is cold. Just bundle up and soak in the sunshine, breathe the fresh air, and enjoy the movement required to walk to the bench and back to your desk.
- Start Taking the Stairs — When you need to talk to someone, take the long way and walk up the stairs – get in as many steps as you can rather than emailing, instant messaging or using the phone. Not only will this help you physically, but getting more face time with people in your office is always a good thing.
- Exercise While Watching TV – Everyone has their favorite TV show. Use that time to exercise. Anytime you watch TV, add some form of exercise to it, especially if you are a regular TV watcher. You can march in place, jog, do jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-ups, and other exercises. It’s so good for you and you don’t miss a thing. You can also rest when you need to.
- Take an After-Dinner Walk – This is a great way to not only get some extra steps in during the day, but is also a good way to connect with your children and/or your spouse. Plus, you can meet other walkers in your neighborhood, which is always a good thing to do. Studies show, deeper connections with neighbors, family, and friends lowers stress levels.
- Spend Your Money on Activities – Instead of going out to eat or doing things that require little movement for fun, find things to do that cause you to move. Miniature golf, hiking, swimming, walking on the beach, horseback riding, bike riding, roller skating and so forth are all fun experiences that cost you little or nothing. Even if they do cost, they are better for you than eating out. You will get more exercise, start feeling better, and draw closer to your family. There are some great benefits in this choice.
- Park Far from the Entrance – When going shopping or to work, park as far from the entrance as you can. You will get in a few extra steps, which add up. Unless you are in underground parking the walk also gives you a few minutes to breathe in the fresh air.
- Use the Waiting Time – We all spend a fair amount of waiting. You wait for the microwave to beep, you wait for the printer at work, you wait in the line at the grocery store, you wait for your kids after school. Each of these moments is an opportunity to add more movement to your day. Squat or jog in place, do some waist turns, stretch your back and neck, carry small weights in the car to use while you are sitting. There are so many ways to exercise, you can have fun finding new ones all the time.
Make Family Time FUN and ACTIVE!
The most important thing is to have fun. Reduce stress and enjoy yourself at the same time. Plan experiences together that are active. After all, a day boogie boarding at the ocean, paddle boarding at the lake or having a hula hop contest in the back yard is more memorable and fun than sitting in front of TV or movie screens.
Sure, there is a place and time for sitting around and cuddling, but the more you move, the more you will want to cuddle – so enjoy both.