After 12 years in Corporate America, trust me, I know what you’re going through. The meetings, the deadlines, pressure to perform, sitting for long periods of time, toxic co-workers, fear of being laid off, I’ve seen it all. These can all add up and wreak havoc on our mind and body, impact our physical and emotional health, and interfere with our job satisfaction, productivity, and performance. And you’re not alone. Most American workers in corporate America are experiencing the same and are looking for ways to cope and counteract these harmful side-effects.
But how do we continue to work and thrive in these environments?
Below are my top tips you can learn to protect yourself from the long term damaging effects of stress, while improving your health and happiness at work.
Nutrition and stress go hand in hand. We are what we eat, and with the correct foods and nutrients we are better equipped to face the challenges and stressors of the day. When our bodies endure times of stress – three primary stress hormones are released, adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine. These are our “fight our flight” hormones causing our bodies to increase levels of blood sugar (glucose) to feed our heart, muscles, and brain to handle the stress successfully. After that initial burst of energy, we typically crash and need nutritious foods to replenish. Fueling our bodies with the right foods helps us endure and recover from this process faster and with less side effects. Eating at least three healthy meals a day(breakfast lunch and dinner), and if you have a fast metabolism and get hungry between meals, don’t reach for that snickers bar or bag of doritos. I like to keep healthy and filling snacks by my desk – unsalted nuts like almonds or walnuts, a piece of fruit, an organic protein shake or bar, almond butter and whole wheat crackers, celery and carrot crudité with hummus. Snacks help to maintain your blood sugar and energy levels before your next meal, so having them on hand was truly lifechanging for me. Throughout the day, I urge my clients to eat a good balance of green vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, nuts), complex carbs (think beans, sweet potatoes, brown rice) and supplements to ensure your body is getting essential nourishment, and is maintaining your blood sugar levels. Although contrary to common belief, try to moderate caffeine, sugar and alcohol, as these can amplify stress levels.
We weren’t made to be sedentary. Exercise 3X a week for 30 minutes is a good minimum. If you can work into your schedule, as a general goal, aim for 30 minutes a day. Exercise is a powerful stress buster, and aerobic exercise is said to increase blood flow to your brain, lift your mood, supercharge your energy, sharpen focus, and relax you all at the same time. Regular exercise also promotes better sleep and deepens your sleep cycle. Lastly, exercise should be fun! It’s your chance to unwind and decompress from the stress you’re experiencing at work. If you don’t like the gym, try running outside, martial arts, yoga, pilates, walking, bicycling, swimming, dancing, weightlifting or competitive sports. Bottom line, engage in activities that make you happy. It will be easier to do everyday, and that much more worth while.
According to Dr Oz, this is the biggest problem in America. We’re not getting enough and as a result we are slipping mentally, physically and emotionally. Additionally, sleep helps us produce Human Growth Hormone which is natures youth beauty ingredient – hey, they don’t call it “beauty sleep” for nothing! Working long hours is stressful and arduous, but when it starts to cut into our sleep hours, studies show that it stress levels actually go up higher. “A good night’s sleep allows you to tackle the day’s stress easier,” according to the Sleep Disorders Health Centre on www.webmd.com . Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep a night to ensure you are arming your body and mind to effectively deal with stress.
Foster good, healthy relationships
Lisa Rankin, MD, author of “Mind over Medicine” argues that loving nurturing relationships and a strong support system is our number one most important factor for optimal health. Some argue healthy relationships are even more important than the food we put in our body. Having a strong network of supportive family, friends, and co-workers helps to lighten the load of the negative effects stress can have on us when we are alone. Try to have at least five solid relationships you can call on when feeling stressed at work to share your work experiences, and talk through potential solutions.
Make time for Relaxation and Fun
Americans don’t take vacations – on average they work 60+ hours a week and there is very little down time. As a result, this increases our stress responses and decreases our relaxation responses. Just remember, no amount of kale will counter repetitive chronic stress responses in the body. Because of that, finding time to unplug and unwind is critical. We need to find respite, and we need to remove our bodies and minds from the chaos. A brief walk outside in nature, a 10 minute mediation in a quiet room, deep breathing exercises, five cartwheels in the park, eating a high- vibrational food like an apple or a cup of green tea, taking a vacation, stowing and turning off electronic devices every night when you get home. These are all exercises that you can do to help remove you from the madness, center you, and help press the reset button for your body and mind. We get so wrapped up in our everyday work stresses that we forget we are such a small part of the universe, and chances are the stuff you are worrying about today, you wont be worrying about a year from now. Lastly, start a gratitude journal. When stress hits you hard, list five things you are grateful for. Not only does this broaden our perspective on life and the things that truly matter, it helps melt stress away. It helps us to be happy, grateful, and whole again. And when we feel that way we are inviting more of that into our lives.