Eat right to handle business stress
Whether it’s concerns over monthly bills or the increased workloads that are the inevitable result of the drive for greater efficiency, we’re all coming under increased pressure these days. And as someone responsible for running your own business in these difficult economic times, no one knows this better than you do. For you, stress is probably something that you see as “going with the territory” alongside unreasonable customers and untimely tax demands.
And while short bursts of intense pressure can actually be beneficial, giving you the “fight or flight” adrenalin to pull out all the stops for that last-minute project, long-term stress can result in far less positive symptoms.
Stress manifests itself in different ways, with behavioural symptoms ranging from lack of concentration to excessive drinking, but for many, one of the first signs of stress is over-eating.
It could just be an extra mid-morning snack; it might be fast food at lunchtime because you “really don’t have time to eat properly”; it could be a chocolate bar in the afternoon for a sugar rush. For some, weight seems to pile on at times of stress even if you’re eating no more than usual; this is believed to be the result of a slowdown of the metabolism.
Whatever the reason, weight gain can lead to more serious health issues, further impacting on your ability to cope with stress, so it’s important to tackle the issue as early as possible before it creates a vicious circle.
Of course, you don’t have to be stressed to benefit from healthier eating – countless studies have shown that people perform better when they eat better – so here are some tips that can benefit everyone.
Don’t skip meals
Make sure you’re set up for the day with a good breakfast. Porridge, muesli and wholegrain breakfast cereals all provide a good source of fibre, leave you feeling satisfied and release their energy throughout the morning so you’re less tempted to snack on unhealthy foods. It really isn’t cool – or healthy – to be too busy for breakfast!
Graze on healthy snacks
If you do find yourself peckish by mid-morning, a pack of unsalted nuts or a few pieces of fruit can provide that boost so you don’t reach lunchtime craving a big fix.
Are you really hungry?
Food can become a habit, and many of us eat when we’re not actually hungry. If you find yourself tempted by a chocolate bar to go along with that mid-morning coffee, do something else: make a phone call, file some papers, straighten the noticeboard – anything to take your mind off food.
It’s all too easy to take advantage of a plate of biscuits put out for a meeting so avoid temptation and stick to tea, coffee, juice or just water; few people are really hungry during meetings. If you really feel you have to offer a snack during long meetings, put out a bowl of fruit instead.
Avoid fast food!
Cold meat in a pitta bread, prawn salad, chicken tikka wraps, smoked fish on rye bread … none of these take more than a few minutes to prepare and all will leave you far better prepared to meet the challenges of the afternoon than the salt, fat and sugar rush of a fast food meal.
Take a walk
Healthy eating is just one of the ways in which stress-induced weight gain can be tackled. The other is to take regular exercise, whether it’s a brisk 20-minute walk around the park or a trip to the gym. Not only are you burning up calories but you’re also making time to get away from the minutiae of day-to-day business and look at the bigger issues.
Relaxing is easier said than done, of course, but practising skills such as yoga or meditation can give you the break you need to gain a better perspective of the challenges facing your business. Half an hour at lunchtime can leave you feeling refreshed and in the right frame of mind to tackle the afternoon’s work. And less likely to feel the need to comfort eat!