Written by Melissa Herrmann Dierks RDN, LDN, CDE
April is Stress Awareness Month and the perfect time to get stress in check and learn ways to minimize anxiety whenever possible. Many things can bring on stress as we gear up for the summer months, from trying to lose those extra pounds for summer to filing your taxes.
According to the recent “Stress in America Survey,” an annual analysis by Harris Interactive for the American Psychological Association, stress is a major concern for American adults. Adults are getting fewer hours of sleep, skipping exercise, and engaging in unhealthy eating behaviors. In fact, 38 percent say they have overeaten or eaten unhealthy foods because of stress, and 43 percent say stress has caused them to lie awake at night in the past month.
It’s clear from these results that stress is taking a major toll on our overall health. Stress not only causes poor health behaviors but the unintended consequences of these habits can in turn cause more stress leading to a vicious cycle. Below are quick health tips to help you get started down the road to improve stress management.
Bump up Physical activity – Regular exercise is one of the most important steps to take for stress management. Using an activity tracker such as a Fit Bit (www.fitbit.com) can motivate you to move more as you set goals and monitor your activity. No time to work out? Take 10 minutes three times a day to get moving. You can add up activity points by taking the stairs at work, parking at the edge of the parking lot for a longer walk in to work or taking a walk around the building at lunch.
·Get Back to Portion control – Stress can lead to overeating which can zap your energy and leave you feeling sluggish and even more stressed. Before eating, ask yourself, “Am I hungry?” and “Is this a good food choice?” Whenever possible try adjust your overeating with smaller portion sizes such as the 100 calorie packs or mini soda cans.
Plan Meals Early- By setting at least 20 minutes aside on the weekend to think ahead about your meals, you are setting yourself up for success. Additionally, the effort to prepare can minimize the stress around cooking meals during the week when your days are more hectic. Think about your schedule for the following week, and create a grocery list that includes ingredients for healthy quick and easy meals. Find a healthy Brand Name Shopping List at www.supermarketsavvy.com.
Keep Choices Interesting with Mood Boosters – Keeping a healthy routine of meals and healthy snacks helps stabilize your blood sugar and your overall mood for the day. You should aim to eat every meal, maintain variety and stay hydrated. Many times when you think you are hungry you are actually thirsty. Remember, all drinks hydrate even those with caffeine. If it’s water with a twist of flavor you desire, try vitaminwater zero or get into the spirit of the season with fizzy lemonade or tropical pineapple fruitwater flavors that taste great and have zero calories. Also aim for healthy snacks such as high fiber cereal with skim milk, fresh fruit with almonds, or low-fat yogurt for that extra boost.
Get Some Rest – Research has shown that adequate sleep is just as important to good health as a healthy diet. A small bedtime snack that contains both carbohydrate and protein eaten about an hour before bed can help product serotonin and calm you. Apple slices and walnuts, leftover baked potato and milk or a half of a chicken sandwich on light bread are healthy snack examples that may help.
Don’t let stress get in the way of spring!
Melissa Herrmann Dierks RDN, LDN, CDE owns the Huntersville based Eat Smart Nutrition Co. and is a consultant to food and beverage industry including The Coca-Cola Company although her opinions are her own.