One of the four ingredients needed to get rapid career progression is a healthy mind and a healthy body. However, with the amount of stress which is just the norm in the professions, it is not always easy to obtain the healthy mind and healthy body bit. I have noticed that due to my very restricted diet – I am a dairy intolerant coeliac – I tend to eat very, very healthily. Consequently, this means that I rarely pick up colds or bugs, despite what little nasties my children and husband are trying to donate my way. However, it isn’t only your immune system which can benefit from your diet,  your stress levels can also be positively (or adversely impacted) through good food and drink choices.  Jon and I asked our trusted adviser, Peter Moorhead of Celebrate Health and Fitness, for some tips for controlling work stress through diet.

Eating, drinking and stress

Certain food and drinks amplify stress, by increasing blood pressure and heart rate, irritating your digestive system and changing hormone levels. Have you ever noticed when you feel stressed, you generally feel bloated, tired and less than motivated? These are symptoms of your body being out of balance; then it produces hormones to restore balance.

5 stimulants make stress simmer

Here are five food/ drinks to control, prevent stress from simmering, and make you feel better when coping with work stress.

  1. Cut down the caffeine. Caffeine gives a quick high, but stimulates your nervous system (see below) and makes stress simmer. Fresh coffee is the usual culprit. Try substituting some of your favourite caffeine beverage for fresh lemon and ginger steeped in boiling water (my personal favourite), herbal tea or even just hot water.
  2. Don’t overdo the alcohol. It may feel relaxing, but it makes you produce stress hormones (see later) and make you want more alcohol. Be disciplined about what, when and how much you drink.
  3. Blood Sugars. Avoid food with high sugar content. At last, even the media is waking up to how bad the evil white stuff is. Keep your blood sugars in balance and you will keep your hormones that control blood sugars happy. Changes in insulin levels affect stress.
  4. Eat Clean. Avoid processed foods, as most of them have a lot of salt. Sodium increases blood pressure and makes you feel more bloated. Opt for fresh, preferably organic, local real food.
  5. Smoking – it really is time to quit.

One tip to help manage work stress.

Drink more clean water. Use a filter if you can and if you prefer bottled water, choose water in a glass bottle. Water helps your body to deal with everything you throw at it.

Getting technical, looking inside the body

Hormones are chemical messengers controlling our physical and mental capacity, emotions, cravings and bodily functions. Indeed our resilience to everyday challenges. Under stress, your adrenal glands produce adrenalin and cortisol. Adrenalin provokes a rush of energy in a fight or flee situation.

Stress and Stimulants – A double whammy

Most of us turn to some kind of stimulant when suffering work stress. It seems to help us keep going.  Whenever you take a stimulant (coffee, a cigarette or alcohol) your body produces cortisol. Cortisol is transported round the bloodstream to interface with the cells and do its job. But, cortisol is also produced in reaction to stressful situations. So we have stress, which produces cortisol and our stimulants of choice that we reach for when stressed, which in turn makes – more cortisol.

The hormone problem

Imagine your hormones as gadgets; say a mobile phone, camera, or tablet. They all have some similar characteristics (e.g. could all take a photo). But, each of them has a different main function and needs a different connector to your PC. If your mobile is plugged into the USB port, you cannot use the same port for your camera at the same time. When suffering work stress your body receptors are more receptive to cortisol, those receptors become unavailable to other hormones. The net result of being under work stress (increased by stimulants), is fewer other hormones doing their jobs. Furthermore, with cortisol locked into the receptors (and therefore unavailable), the body sends a message to the brain to produce more cortisol. Too much cortisol is associated with loss of bone density and also with weight gain (especially around the middle), not least because of the adverse effect on progesterone in women. Stress also affects the male hormone testosterone (also produced in the female body) creating an imbalance of oestrogen and testosterone, resulting in a whole different topic!

What else helps control work stress?

There is plenty more you can do for free to reduce the effects of stress such as getting good sleep and exercise in the fresh air, follow your passion, love, laugh and live! What do you recommend that helps you manage work stress? Author Credit. Both Jon and I would like to thank Peter Moorhead for his expertise on coping with stress at work. His corporate Resilience Programme and personal training and weight loss through diet and exercise  programmes have really helped the two of us.

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