Categories
Food and Nutrition

7 Strategies To Manage Stress Eating

Do you find yourself turning to food for comfort — whether consciously or unconsciously — when you are facing a difficult problem, feeling stressed, or even feeling bored? If yes, then welcome to the world of stress eating.

  “The purpose of eating is to have energy,” says nutritionist-coach Timothy Jeffe Ting, RND (www.timnutrition.com). “Stress eating occurs when you consume food for another purpose, which is to regulate your emotional state.”

 Occasionally using food as a pick-me-up, a reward, or to celebrate isn’t a bad thing. But when eating becomes your primary emotional coping mechanism, it can impact your health in many ways. Obviously, physical health would be the first one affected. “You stress eat because you have problems — would you really want to add becoming overweight and increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease to those problems?” asks Timothy. “Then there is also your mental health. When you reach for food as a reaction to stressful stimuli, you are exhibiting impulsiveness; you use food to fill your emotional needs instead of finding healthier outlets.” In addition, while eating may feel good in the moment, the feelings that triggered the eating are still there. And you often feel worse than you did before — even ashamed and guilty — because of the unnecessary calories you’ve just consumed. 

While it is possible to stop stress eating, Timothy suggests that a better alternative would be to curb it. Here are some strategies.

  1. Don’t label food as “good” or “bad.” “Food is food,” he points out. “When we start to label a particular food, we shift focus from overall healthy eating patterns, which is what really defines a person’s well-being.” 

After all, while vegetables do have a better nutritional profile, eating them all day, every day will not be good for you. On the other hand, depriving yourself of ‘bad’ or ‘forbidden’ food like ice cream or pizza will only make you crave them more intensely.

  1. Tame your stress. While Timothy is not a mental health expert, he shares the following stress management tips:
    • Practice time management. “Most of the time, we feel stressed because we are not available to fulfill our tasks at work or in school efficiently,” he says. “So find ways to plan and control how much time you spend on specific activities.” Some ways you can that include:
      • Not spreading yourself too thin. When someone tries to draft you in to take on an additional task, say “no” more often than you say “yes.”
      • Prioritizing your “Most Valuable Activities” (the tasks you excel at) over “Less Valuable Activities” (other responsibilities that can be delegated to others).
      • Avoiding back-to-back appointments so that you have time to relax and breathe. 
    • Do cognitive reappraisal. “If you were told that you were not accepted for the job that you applied for, would eating an entire pizza help you get another job?” Timothy asks. “No, right? So instead of feeling like a failure and reaching for food for comfort, treat the rejection as a learning opportunity or as redirection.” When you reframe your mindset this way, you will no longer be triggered by the stress.
  1. Take away temptation. Don’t keep hard-to-resist and unhealthy comfort foods within easy reach. “We are all designed to be lazy,” Timothy points out. “If you surround yourself with cakes, cookies, and ice cream, then you will definitely eat them often. And don’t just think about yourself — even if YOU are able to exercise willpower and avoid eating them, what about the rest of your family members?”
  2. Make healthier food alternatives more convenient. We all have fruits and vegetables at home, but no one eats them because they still  have to be washed, peeled, chopped, and, sometimes, cooked before we can eat them. “Compare them to a bag of chips that you can just rip open in one second — of course you will eat the chips,” says Timothy. 

So rearrange the items in your pantry or refrigerator. Place the junk foods on the highest shelf of the cabinet and the ice cream at the very back of the freezer; then put the fruits and vegetables within line of sight and easier reach.

  1. Add, don’t subtract. Don’t deprive yourself of treats. “If you want to eat a chocolate bar, go ahead, but eat a piece of fruit afterwards,” advises Timothy. “Then next time, try eating the fruit FIRST before the chocolate.”
  1. Eat in moderation. How to define what is moderate? Timothy suggests the 70-30 rule. “If you eat four meals a day, make the three meals healthy, filled with veggies, fruits, and lean proteins,” he shares.
  1. Snack healthy. If you must eat for comfort, choose wisely. Timothy shares his list:

Best foods to eat when stressed:

  1. Anything that’s warm, like hot teas. “Green and black teas contain L-theanine, which has been proven to improve mental focus and increase relaxation,” he says. “Hot drinks also force you to slow down and take deep breaths before drinking them, which can lower your stress.”
  2. Dark chocolates. Not only are they a lower-calorie alternative, they also contain theobromine (which combats the oxidation in the body caused by stress) and magnesium (which helps people to  relax and fall asleep).
     
  3. Quality carbohydrates like root crops, potatoes, or corn. “Air-popped popcorn — the ones you cook on the stovetop, not the buttered ones they sell in cinemas — is extremely low in calories and high in fiber. Eat it plain or put in some salt and herbs for flavor,” shares Timothy.
  4. Bananas, because it also contains magnesium.
  5. Other fruits. “Anything high in Vitamin C will be helpful in reducing stress levels, because the stress hormone cortisol is mitigated by Vitamin C,” says Timothy.
  6. Whole nuts like pistachios and almonds. According to Timothy, these contain B-vitamins that help unlock energy, since tiredness may also cause stress. 
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

On the other hand, think twice before reaching for these foods for comfort:

  1. Anything caffeinated. “Caffeine is a double-edged sword,” points out Timothy. “It gives you an energy boost when you want to get out of a tight spot, but the problem is you will develop a tolerance for it; eventually, you will need increasing amounts of caffeine to give you energy, and when you don’t get you fill, you might experience an energy crash.”

The solution: drink in moderation. “If you drink one cup of coffee a day in a week, try not to drink on Sundays. If you are on vacation and not feeling stressed, don’t drink at all. Also, try to get your energy from whole foods and good sleep,” Timothy advises. 

  1.  Alcohol. “Alcohol gives you a buzz so you don’t think about your problems, but the problems are still there,” says Timothy. It also lowers your inhibitions, so you end up eating mindlessly, which leads to a lot of health problems in the long run.”
  1. Anything with a huge amount of carbohydrates and fats together, without protein, such as pastries, refined goods, cookies, cakes, pastries, pizza, etc. “These are very high in calories, very easy to overeat, and will lead to a lot of problems down the line if you are overweight,” Timothy cautions.

Emotional eating tends to be automatic and virtually mindless. Before you even realize what you’re doing, you’ve reached for a tub of ice cream and polished off half of it. But if you can take a moment to pause and reflect when you’re hit with a craving, you give yourself the opportunity to make a different decision.

If you need help building better eating habits, schedule a consultation with our WellBeing Coaches now. They are available 24/7 and rest assured that all conversations are secure and confidential. Book now through FB Messenger http://m.me/themindnation or email [email protected]

Categories
Employee Wellness Get Inspired Mental Health 101 Self Help Work in the New Normal

3 Things You May Be (Unconsciously) Doing That’s Causing Stress

Stress may be inevitable, but it’s also important and manageable.

Stress is defined as any type of change that causes physical, emotional, or psychological strain. It is our body’s response to anything that requires attention or action.  

“Stress is a spectrum,” says Kana Takahashi, Chief Executive Officer of MindNation. “There is a good kind of stress, which provides us a sense of urgency to get important things done. On the other hand, there is bad stress, which can lead to physical and mental health problems.”

Everyone experiences bad stress to some degree, mostly because we may not even be aware that we are doing things that contribute to stress. Three of the most common causes of bad stress are:  

  1. Comparing ourselves to others

Doing this will leave us feeling happy and dissatisfied. “Instead of thinking about what others have, you should remind yourself of the positive things in your life,” says Kana. “This can be easier said than done, especially if you are a competitive person, but once you do, the rewards are worth it.”

  1. Procrastinating

When you put off a task, you build anxiety and feel nervous, which is a huge obstacle to peace of mind. “But when you take the time to adequately prepare for the day or week ahead, you can help eliminate stress,” Kana advises. 

  1. Sweating the small stuff 

Are you a worrier? “If so, it’s probably adding unnecessary stress to your life because when you focus on what could go wrong, you’re not letting yourself appreciate what’s going right,” points out Kana. “It’s especially important not to waste your emotional energy on things that are out of your control. So when you’re late for work because of a bad Internet connection, just take a deep breath and accept that it is what it is. 

The next time you find yourself spiraling into stress, take a moment to step back and see if you are doing any of the above. When you begin to understand the cause, you can take steps to combat it and protect your mental and physical health.

If you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or just need someone to talk to, you can reach out to MindNation’s chat helpline on FB Messenger http://m.me/themindnation for FREE. The service is available 24/7 and is completely CONFIDENTIAL. 

— Written by Jaclyn Lutanco-Chua of MindNation

Categories
Employee Wellness Get Inspired Mental Health 101 Self Help Work in the New Normal

6 Ways To Be More Resilient At Work

Learn ways to cultivate your mental strength so that you can cope with stress better

Job stress poses a huge mental health challenge to the 21st century workforce. According to a recent survey by The Regus Group, as many as  60% of workers worldwide experience stress, with the number reaching as high as 86% in China! These figures do not even take into account the COVID-19 pandemic, which has unequivocally triggered or aggravated tensions in the workplace. 

If left untreated, stress can lead to increased levels of anxiety and burnout, which in turn will translate to chronic absences, low productivity, and low morale.

While you may not be able to eliminate the daily pressures that come with holding down a job, you can respond to the stressors better by becoming more mentally resilient. Mental resilience is defined as the ability to mentally or emotionally cope with a crisis or return to pre-crisis status quickly.

“Resilience is not tenacity,” clarifies Cat Trivino, Chief Marketing Office of MindNation. “More importantly, resilience is not about bouncing back and going back to our normal selves. It is about moving forward and becoming better versions of who we are.”

Resilience can make you more motivated, better equipped to cope with setbacks, and become less susceptible to burnout. 

Here are some ways you can build better mental resilience at work:  

  1. Try to establish good work-life balance. Self-care is an essential strategy for building resilience and helps to keep the mind and body healthy enough to deal with difficult situations as they arise. So pay attention to their own needs and feelings, and to  engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Examples include: 
  1. “Listening to what your body needs, whether that’s extra time to breathe or a little stretch in the mornings,” advises Cat. 
  2. Making time for fun and relaxation outside of work. If physical distancing is an issue, remember to at least get some sunlight periodically instead of staying cooped up in the home office all day. “If you can, and only if it’s safe, open the window and bring in that vitamin D,” Cat adds. 
  1. Meditating. “No need to stress if you don’t do it right the first few times,” Cat assures. “The simple act of breathing, grounding, and of being aware of their surroundings can make them less anxious and bring them back to what they need to address.”

2. Maintain connections. Having friendships outside of work can provide you with a safe space to express pent-up frustrations and anxieties. “Social distancing does not mean emotional distancing,” Cat reminds. “Please do keep connected, and as much as possible, call. Hearing someone else’s voice, especially someone we love, can give us the instant calm that we need.”

3. Be thankful. When something bad happens, always remember that things could be worse. “Be grateful for anything and everything good. Starting or ending your day with a grateful mindset will only set us up to see things in a better light,” cays Cat. 

5. Ask — even if you won’t receive. Many of us are afraid to ask –for help, questions, or anything — because we fear hearing the word “No,” looking inadequate, or coming across as unintelligent. “But constantly avoiding rejection will not make us resilient,” counters Cat. Instead of staying away from the “No’s,” get your mind used to the feeling of being rebuffed to build your resilience threshold. Start with small things like asking for an officemate to help with a task, or requesting a manager to repeat a point raised at a meeting. “You may get rejected or rebuffed for various and legitimate reasons, but the point is to get used to hearing no!” she advises. “Once you realize that rejection is not debilitating, you build inner strength and become confident enough to ask for bigger things.”

6. Cultivate positive self-talk. “The next time you face challenges or adversities, identify how you’re describing them and see if you can reframe the words in a more positive way,” instructs Cat.

A. Instead of: “ I feel like a failure for not being able to lead my team through this pandemic.”

Say: “Being a leader during this pandemic is an obstacle, but not one I will face alone.” 


B. Instead of: “Working from home is horrible.”

Say: “Working from home is challenging.”

C. Instead of: “I asked for a promotion, and got rejected.”

Say: “I asked for a promotion, and got redirected.”

Just like other traits, resilience is something that can be learned and developed. All it takes is an awareness of the bad thoughts and actions that you may be doing, learning about the good ones, and having the discipline to enact them when the need arises.

But if the situation continues to be difficult for you and you are finding it hard to cope, always seek the help of a professional. A good place to start will be MindNation’s chat helpline on FB Messenger, available 24/7. The service is free, completely confidential, and the staff is trained to ease your anxieties.

— Written by Jaclyn Lutanco-Chua of MindNation

Categories
Featured Get Inspired Self Help

7 Things You Can Do to Effectively Deal with Unexpected Situations

Some of the unexpected things that we encounter in life can be pleasant – surprise birthday parties, random acts of kindness from strangers, or a rainbow appearing after a downpour.

But distressing things can also occur without warning — traffic accidents, the loss of a job, or the death of a loved one.

As human beings, our instinct is to respond to these events with panic, anger, fear, or frustration. There is nothing wrong with feeling bad, but when we let these negative emotions get the best of us, we cause the executive network of our brain (which is responsible for problem solving) to constrict and work less effectively.

So instead of running around in a panic or falling into despair, we should try our best to keep ourselves calm and be patient so that our brain can come up with solutions to these problems.

Below are some ways can we control our response and channel positive emotions in the face of unexpected stress:

1. Accept that unexpected events are a part of life

As humans, we thrive on routine and predictability; but not only are the occasional mishaps unavoidable, they are inevitable. Once you begin to learn how to acknowledge this fact of life, you will find unexpected events and experiences less troubling, and you will become more receptive to deal with them when they happen. 

2. Keep calm

When faced with an unexpected twist of fate, try your best to resist the instinct to launch into a tirade or run around in a panicked state. One shift you can do to keep yourself calm is to practice mindful breathing, you can do this by first closing your eyes, then begin taking a deep breath, and followed by exhaling slowly. Do this for 10 counts. Once you noticed that you were able to slow down your heart rate, open your eyes and try your best to take on the situation with a fresh mindset. 

3. Look at it from another point of view

Maybe what happened is just a minor incident that’s not as bad as you initially thought? Maybe it’s something temporary that can be fixed in the long run? Getting fired from work could even turn out well, as you might even find a better and more satisfying job. Even if what happened is unequivocally a major disaster, like your house burning down, taking a pause will at least abate your temper or panic and help you calm down long enough to formulate a better response.

4. Don’t take it personally

When something happens, do not immediately label it as “good” or “bad”; it is your response to the situation that determines whether the event becomes positive or negative. For example, if your partner breaks up with you and you blame yourself, become despondent, or think that no one will ever love you anymore, then the break-up becomes something negative. But if you accept that it was not the right relationship for you, maintain a positive attitude, and believe that some good will come your way, then the break-up becomes a blessing in disguise. You never know what will come of a situation, so rather than assuming a situation is bad, which only generates a lot of unhelpful, negative emotions, make an effort to look ahead with optimism.

5. Focus on the solution, not on the problem

When you get hit with unexpected bad news, give yourself time to understand what you need to feel. Then pick yourself up and shift your attention to finding solutions. The moment you ask yourself what you can do to make something better, you have taken the first step in turning a bad event into a more positive outcome. You will also start to feel better because you have regained control over the events.

6.  Believe in yourself.

If you are in an unexpectedly difficult situation, think back to all the other times you encountered challenges and obstacles and ask yourself, “What did I do to get through those events?” If you lack self-confidence, ask someone who knows you well to give you a boost. When you know that you have what it takes to handle the problem, you will start to feel better. 

7. Train yourself to welcome the unexpected

Once in a while, take a different route when you go jogging. Order something else from your favorite restaurant. When deciding what to watch on Netflix, pick a genre that you have never tried before. Doing these small but trivial things will help you become more accepting of change and cope more easily with surprises and unexpected events.  

There is nothing wrong with getting flustered or upset when something unexpectedly bad happens to you. But you must find a way to rise above the stress and turmoil so that you can come up with solutions to the problem. By following the above-mentioned tips, you will feel less agitated, find composure, and be able to manage difficult situations better.

Written by Jacq of Mindnation