Don't let work, the economy and the looming holidays make you tense. Stress raises your body's production of cortisol and adrenaline hormones, which lowers your immune response, making you more susceptible to illness. With cold and flu season in full effect--and the H1N1 flu vaccine not readily available--it's important to manage your stress. Here are simple ways to keep workplace worries in check.
Short bursts of intense physical activity burn off stress hormones, release endorphins and restore balance. Instead of taking a coffee break, go for a walk around the building or climb the stairs at work. If you can't get away from the office, try doing a few exercises at your desk. Need ideas? Search Shape's exercise finder or stash fitness cards, like PowerHouse Hit The Deck, in your drawer.
Research shows that skipping breakfast may cause you to eat more later in the day. If you're famished by the time lunch rolls around, you're likely to overindulge, which isn't just detrimental to your diet, but your stress levels as well. Putting too much glucose (blood sugar) in your system at one time adds stress to your body. Plus, any glucose that isn't used is stored as fat and carrying around extra pounds is a strain.
Grab a Snack
Another way to keep your hunger pangs and blood-sugar levels in check is snacking throughout the day. When your blood sugar gets too low, your body goes into survival mode. Stash some healthy snacks at your desk so you're not tempted by the vending machine. Keep in mind that a snack should be no more than 200 calories; a handful of nuts, a piece of fruit or nonfat yogurt are good options. By fortifying yourself with food, you'll have enough energy to cope with the day's stresses.
Cut Back on Caffeine and Alcohol
Many people reach for a latte to stay alert at work or unwind with a cocktail after a busy day. These substances only exacerbate your anxiety by releasing stress hormones. Your best bet is to replace your caffeine fix with a walk and hit the gym instead of happy hour.
Stretch It Out
Even if you're stuck in an epic meeting or tied to the phone with constant conference calls, you can still move your body. Hunching over a computer all day can take its toll, so do some stretches to release muscle tension. Reach forward to stretch your upper back and shoulder. To relieve tension from your neck, lift each ear away from the shoulders. Cross one foot over the opposite knee and lean forward slightly to stretch your hip and butt muscles.