When times get stressful, sometimes the first things to go are our healthy habits. You might startovereating, you don’t exercise, you don’t sleep, and you’re grumpy and negative.
These will all make stress even worse! So it’s important to stick to your health plan.
Here are ways to keep your health in check during stressful times:
Stop over-dramatizing your stress and get organized:
When you are stressed out, it is tempting to go into “freak out” mode. Fight this urge! Don’t be overdramatic about what you have to do because that will only make your work harder to start and complete. Take inventory about what you have to do and write it down. If you are a list person, make a list. If you need to plan a little bigger picture, get a planner and look at what your next couple days/weeks/months actually entail.
Focus on one thing at a time, and once you decide you’re done with it, be done with it! This will help you focus and feel a certain amount of accomplishment once you complete small tasks. Overloading yourself will only make you feel worse. Once you have a plan, get working! The longer you procrastinate, over-dramatize and freak out about the work that you have to do, the more stressed out you will find yourself.
Fight the cravings:
When you are stressed out, you may always crave foods that make you feel more comfortable. Maybe you have a major sweet tooth and crave cake and cookies, or maybe you want something fried and salty like fried food. Fight the urge to overeat! Even though ordering takeout food can be easy and tasty, your body and wallet will thank you if you take a few minutes to make healthier food yourself. The bloated feeling you get after eating those unhealthy types of food may make you less productive and you will crave those types of food again in a few hours. Make getting the right vitamins and nutrients during times of stress a priority. You will have more energy, focused and able to get more done!
But don’t deprive yourself too much:
Though you should fight excessive junk food cravings, depriving yourself of your favorite foods usually leads to increased binging. Don’t completely deprive yourself of your favorite foods, but instead try to find healthy ways to eat them. For example, if you crave sweets, reward yourself with a piece of dark chocolate, but don’t binge on a bunch of cookies or brownies. Dark chocolate will satisfy the craving while delivering antioxidants to your body! If you love cheesy things like pizza or mozzarella sticks, add some shredded parmesan or feta to a salad or have a few slices on the side. There are EASY ways to indulge yourself without binging and abandoning your healthy eating routine during times of stress.
Make healthy food—it can be easy and cheap!
Don’t use the excuse “I don’thave time” to avoid making healthy food and so you “have to resort to take-out or fast food.” Healthy food can be super cheap to buy and even easier to make. Granted, it may not be quite as immediately satisfying as fast food or a gourmet meal at your favorite restaurant, but getting adequate nutrition can help improve concentration and your ability to work. Inadequate nutrition can lead to a number of health issues, which will only stress you out more. Being stressed is no excuse to not keep tabs on what you are putting into your body. Here a couple of suggestions of easy, yummy healthy food you can make in seconds:
- Salads: Buy packaged (organic) mixed greens or other lettuce and throw it in with a drizzle of olive oil, lemon juice or vinegar, and salt and pepper. Other chopped vegetables are wonderful, but optional. If you don’t have time to add them, just eat the greens with dressing, it is yummy!
- Sweet potatoes: Put a sweet potato in the oven for about an hour and eat it plain or with a little salt and pepper. Sweet potatoes are filling, delicious and full of vitamins and nutrients. If you have leftovers, you can even toss them with a salad! Side note for runners—according to Runner’s World Magazine, sweet potatoes are a runner’s superfood!
- Steamed veggies: A great number of vegetables can be steamed in minutes. Just buy a steamer insert and put it in a pot with less than an inch of water. The water will boil fast and after 10-15 minutes, you will have a bunch of healthy teamed veggies. Eat as many of these as you want! A large volume of steamed vegetables will not have many calories, but fill your stomach up for a while.
- Plain Greek yogurt: Greek yogurt is a great protein source. Add a bit of raw honey to it to add some sweetness and some berries for an antioxidant boost! This is a perfect “power breakfast” or “anytime snack” for a busy girl.
Opt for water instead of coffee:
Are you one of those people who constantly have a cup of coffee next to your computer at your desk? If you are, try keeping a bottle of water instead. Caffeine, though it is great for staying alert and awake during times of sleep deprivation, is a diuretic and causes dehydration. Dehydration can contribute toenergy loss and a lack of concentration. You might find that a glass of ice-cold water is preferable to a cup of hot coffee because you won’t experience the caffeine crash later.
Drinking water will also help your waistline if you are someone who usually adds a lot of cream and sugar to coffee. If you are a black coffee drinker, opting for water instead will help preserve your stomach lining and decrease your risk of certain stomach and digestive issues. Of course, there will be days when you really need the caffeine to get through the day. Just make sure you have a bottle of water next to the cup of coffee.
Don’t stop exercising:
Maintaining your usual routine can really help you stay healthy during stressful times. Often times,exercise is one of the first things to go, but it can help burn off steam that too much work can cause. You will most likely find that after moving your body a bit you are able to concentrate even better than before the workout. It is also important to gage what your current mood/state of stress is before you go out and exercise. Maybe you really just need a relaxing yoga class to burn a few calories and relax your mind, or maybe you need an intense cardio workout to forget your stress for 30 minutes to an hour. Whatever your preferred type of exercise is, don’t abandon it during stressful times!
Try your best to get enough sleep:
The importance of getting enough sleep cannot be emphasized enough. Getting a good night’s sleep can increase memory, concentration,energy and other aspects relating to cognitive function. Lack of sleep can lead to insulin sensitivity, which can lead to even morecravings for that highly caloric sugary and/or fatty food. Ideally we should all get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. While this can be hard to achieve and sometimes even impossible, try to use 8 hours as a goal. Individuals also may vary on the amount of sleep needed, so try keeping a sleep journal to determine what is best for you.
Though napping can disrupt your sleep patterns at night, if you are particularly sleep deprived, a quick power nap, lasting between 20 and 30 minutes, can help increase your alertness for up to hours after. Just make sure you do not take a longer nap too close to bedtime, or you may not be able to fall asleep for a long time.
The repercussions of an “all-nighter”:
Maybe pulling an “all-nighter” is a thing of the past, something that you abandoned in college. However, if you still stay up all night to finish lingering work, you are doing a lot more harm to your body than you might think. Severe lack of sleep like staying up for the whole night can not only contribute to short termmood swings, lack of concentration and tiredness, but will affect the next half a week after the all-nighter and may even eventually cause conditions as serious as high blood pressure, attention deficit disorder, depression and even heart failures or attacks.