It’s 10:30am on a Tuesday, and you’re stressed. You’ve already put out two fires this week, and you haven’t even made it to lunch on the second day of the work week. It’s going to be “A Day.” An email alert pops onto your screen from your boss, the subject: “TIMELY, PLEASE READ.” You sigh, make a quick run to the loo and brace for what’s ahead. On your way back to your desk, you pass a giant box of pastries left over from this morning’s meeting of VIPs in the conference room. You grab a scone, head back to your desk, and dive into the chaos.
This all too familiar scenario illustrates the toxic stress- blood sugar roller coaster – stress cycle that many of us fall into at work. We’re stressed, so we eat something convenient and/or comforting. That spikes our blood sugar – which is already elevated by the stress itself – giving us a sweet but short high before plummeting us into the foggy doldrums of a blood sugar crash. This spike/crash series stresses your body, leaving you more anxious than where you began. To make things even better, blood sugar imbalance can kill your productivity. Ain’t science fun?
I’m a true believer in the value of sweets, simple carbs, and salty snacks. While these things shouldn’t be the foundation of a healthy lifestyle, I believe that there’s a place for them in the nutritional universe. What I’ve learned though, is that the absolute worst place for them is as a response to stress. Instead, let’s look at some blood sugar-balancing, stress-reducing solutions you can apply to your work-week.
Stow high-quality snacks at your workplace
Protein and healthy fats are costars in the blood sugar balancing act. Nuts, seeds, and nut- and seed-butters are easy options that have both protein and a bit of healthy fat to help you stay in balance when workplace stress hits. To highlight a few stars: cashews are high in zinc, which can bolster your immune system from the negative impacts of stress; pistachios can reduce the effects of stress on your cardiovascular system.
We now know that our gut biomes (aka the trillions of bacteria living in our digestive systems) are closely tied to stress and anxiety. Yogurt helps keep your army of gut bacteria happy. Look for options with more grams of protein than sugar and you’ll have the double benefit of a protein-rich snack.
Sneak short walks into your day
Walking to relieve workplace stress is a win-win-win. For one, you get to physically remove yourself from the environment that’s bringing you down. You also get your blood pumping, meaning more oxygen is getting to your brain, likely making you sharper and more productive when you get back to your desk. Finally, as with all exercise, you’ll release endorphins that’ll boost your mood.
*Bonus points if you get a coworker to take a walk with you, because #workfriendsrock*
Drink more water
Drinking sufficient amounts of water helps your body maintain healthy blood sugar, keeping that spike/crash effect at bay. What’s even more compelling, if you’re NOT getting enough water, dehydration can heap side effects like headaches, sleepiness, and dizziness onto your already stressed system. Nobody wants that.
If you struggle with drinking enough water, try setting a “refill” alarm every couple of hours, buying a fun mug or glass to keep at your workspace, or starting a water challenge with your coworkers. (They will only think it’s silly until you all start to feel amazing.) Additional perks of getting enough water may include glowing skin, improved energy, and frequent opportunities to take walks (see above) to the restroom.