Posts Tagged ‘Stress’

9 Strategies for Staying Health at Work

Let’s face it, most of us eat more meals and spend more time at work then we do at home. With working lunches, parties and stocked snack drawers and fridges, our workplaces can have more food traps and temptations to lead us astray from our diets than anywhere else. At home we have more control of what is brought into our kitchens, at work, not so much. So what can you do to stay on the right nutritional track while at work? Here are some strategies you can implement now.

A little planning goes along way – Take a little time over the weekend to plan your meals and snacks and do any necessary prepping like washing and cutting fruits and veggies. This will save you some time during the workweek. No one wants to get up early to pack lunch or do it the night before. Set aside an hour or two on Sunday afternoon to wash, prep and portion your healthy snacks and meals.

Pack your own snacks and meals – We all know making our own meals from fresh, whole foods is better for our waistlines and wallets than eating out every day. Does your office occasionally order in for a working lunch or meeting? You can take a pass from the takeout by eating what you brought. Also, there are a lot of BPA-free storage containers and bags on the market now, so buy some of those to pack your food in.

Drink lots of water – Avoid the bottled water in the work fridge. Instead, buy a large BPA-free water bottle that you can fill up in the morning with purified water from home and drink from it throughout the day.

Create a buddy system – Find a friend or two at work with whom you can lend and receive support. If you have someone watching your back, you’re less likely to grab that doughnut in the morning or have that piece of cake at the birthday party.

Pack a piece of dark chocolate – Have trouble passing up that piece of cake, as mentioned in the above point? When packing your lunch for the day, add a piece of dark chocolate to your bag and get your sweet fix that way instead of eating a big piece of cake.

Don’t dine at your desk – Never mind that our desks are often filthy, germ-filled areas, but eating at your desk is a distraction to mindful eating. Plus, lunch is meant to give you a break. Hence the term lunch break. So step away from your desk, eat in the cafeteria or break room with co-workers or if it’s nice outside, take your lunch outdoors and enjoy some fresh air and just get out of the office!

Communicate with coworkers – Let your coworkers know that you’re trying to stay on track. If they’re aware then maybe they won’t unknowingly tempt you with sweets by coming to your office or desk with diet derailing treats. Even better, start a healthy movement at work and get everyone involved.

Take a stroll – Grab your buddy and take stroll in the afternoon. It’s good to get out of the office and if you tend to get the 3:00 slump in the afternoon, a short walk will wake you up and energize you. Plus, a walk will help relieve stress and it’s better than grabbing a sweet, a soda or a cup of coffee as a pick me up.

Take the stairs – Why take the elevator when you can take the stairs? Climbing the stairs is good for your heart and helps you burn calories.

Control Emotional and Stress-Induced Eating this Holiday Season

Author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Hormone Weight Loss, Alicia Stanton, MD, offers tips to reduce emotional eating

Enfield, Conn. (November 1, 2011) – The holiday season is meant to be a time of joy, but for some it can be stressful. There’s so much to do and never enough time to do it, and money is tighter than ever for many people. It’s enough to stress out even the calmest personalities and trigger emotional eating. To avoid this annual trap, Alicia Stanton, MD, leading hormone health expert and author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Hormone Weight Loss, provides some tips to regain control of eating habits and manage stress during the holidays.

“Stress wreaks havoc on our cortisol and insulin levels, which is why during stressful times our bodies crave sweet and starchy foods,” said Stanton. “People who are normally restrained eaters are more likely than others to eat more during times of stress. Stress eating is a way to soothe or suppress negative emotions, but it can really derail weight loss efforts.”

Dr. Stanton offers these tips for combating stress eating:

  • Tame your stress – if stress contributes to your emotional eating, try a stress management technique like yoga, meditation, etc.
  • Check to see whether you’re really hungry – Is your hunger physical or emotional? If you ate recently and your stomach is rumbling then you’re probably not really hungry. Give the craving a little time to pass.
  • Keep a food diary – Writing down what you eat, when you eat, how much you eat and how you’re feeling when you eat, may show a pattern over time revealing your connection between mood and food.
  • Get support – You’re more likely to give in to emotional eating if you lack a good support network. Lean on family and friends or join a support group.
  • Remove temptation – Don’t keep supplies of comfort foods in your home if they’re hard to resist. And if you are feeling stressed or sad, postpone your trip to the grocery store until you’re sure that you have your emotions in check.
  • Don’t deprive yourself – Let yourself enjoy an occasional, small treat to help curb cravings.
  • Get enough sleep – If you’ve tried self-help options, but still can’t get control of emotional eating, consider therapy with a professional mental health provider.

Restoring a Sense of Calm and Balance

Summertime, and the living is easy, right? Or so we’re told. But for many of us, this has been a more stressful time than usual. Tornadoes and wicked storms have been devastating many parts of the country, and watching scenes from Joplin last weekend made us all heartsick.  Tornadoes ripped through the town next to mine a few days ago, wreaking havoc on homes and businesses I visit all the time. Adding fears about how to protect your home and family from situations over which you have little control to an already high stress load can take a toll on your health. And while stress reduction is a theme we address often here, I think it makes sense to offer a few more tips for restoring a sense of calm and balance: 

  1. Regain your sense of control. Some of the most common stressors are triggered by a sense that we’ve lost control of something. Beating yourself up over money worries, time management issues, poor eating habits, or work challenges can become habitual and contribute to poor self worth. Empower yourself by working on one challenge at a time, and forgive yourself for letting the other things slide. For example, if poor eating is an issue, write down what you plan to eat tomorrow (three healthy meals plus two snacks). Prep-make whatever you can the night before, and keep it simple. Tick off all the healthy things you’ve consumed as you move through your day, and praise yourself each time. Not having to think about food gives you a sense of freedom and the ability to focus on other tasks, and keeping your focus on one day at a time helps you avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  2. Claim at least 15 minutes for yourself every day. Schedule time on your calendar each day to do whatever you want – go for a walk, sit in a quiet spot to meditate, or grab a magazine and curl up in your favorite chair. Make sure everyone in the family knows you are “off the clock” for at least 15 minutes and expect no interruptions. Enjoying some daily “me time” is one of the most important gifts you can give yourself, and helps you get into the habit of making sure you get to be your number one priority at least once every day.
  3. Have sex! Way too many Americans who are married or in relationships don’t make time every day to reconnect with the person they love. Complaints of being too tired or too stressed out are common excuses people make – and then suddenly months and even years roll by without their having been intimate with their partners. This, of course, is not healthy and can add tension to a relationship. But couples who make regular sex a priority enjoy a host of health benefits – with stress reduction topping the list. Check out WebMD’s rundown of the top 10 health benefits here

Remember that stress is something all of us have to live with. Learning how to manage stress instead of letting it manage you is key. Got great tips for managing stress? Share them with us by posting a comment!

Dealing with Stress in Times of Uncertainty

Lately a lot of events have taken place across the world that could leave anyone, even the most laid back person, a little on edge. Earthquakes, tornadoes, the war on terrorism; and if that isn’t enough, hurricane season is right around the corner. Having anxiety in times of uncertainty is understandable, but worrying about things you have no control over isn’t doing any service to you either. Below are some techniques that can help you deal with stress in times of uncertainty. These will keep you physically and mentally healthy.

Deep Breathing Technique – You can do this anywhere (traffic, a tense meeting) and you don’t need any equipment. Take a deep breath through your nose to the count of six. Make sure that your belly distends so the air goes all the way into the base of your lungs. Hold the air in for a count of six. This allows the oxygen to go through your body. Release the air through your nose for a count of six. Repeat 4 to 6 times, at least 3 times per day.

Pay close attention to what is bothering you, and then ask yourself – “Is this my business, someone else’s business or God’s business?” If it is something you truly have control over (taxes), decide what you can do to alleviate the stress and do it. If it is someone else’s business (a relative’s drug problem), let them handle it. You might ask if there is anything you can do to help. However, if it’s not yours to handle, don’t try to. Lastly, if it’s God’s business (hurricane, terrorism), realize that there is nothing you can do to control it and that worrying about it won’t improve the situation.

Preparation – You can’t control events like terrorism or natural disasters that are out of your hands, but you can prepare for them. Have a home kit of supplies in case of a disaster or emergency – water, batteries, radio, food, etc. Pick a place for your family to meet in case phones are out of service.

Know your sources of stress – One of the first things that you need to do when you begin thinking about stress management or stress reduction is to appreciate what creates stress in your life. One way to do this is to get out a piece of paper and write headings that correlate with various aspects of your life: your home life, your job, your family, your relationships, your hobbies, etc. Under each heading, write down the things that create stress for you whether it’s your boss, your commute, not feeling satisfied at work, a family issue or any number of other things. In order to start creating solutions, you have to truly understand what the problems are. As your problems and stressors become clearer, it will be easier to set goals and establish boundaries that will reduce your level of stress.

Gratitude Journal – It is impossible to feel stress and gratitude at the same time. When you stop focusing on what you don’t have and start focusing on what you do have, you will immediately feel more peaceful. That is the beginning of your attitude of gratitude. As you continue to write in your gratitude journal, the attitude of gratitude will become natural to you and you will experience less stress in your life and more freedom. There is no specific way that you have to write in your journal. You can write long descriptive paragraphs about your activities of the day and what you appreciated about them. You could make a journal that just lists the things your grateful for a year, choose a preset number or leave it open to write as much or as little as you want that day. Your main goal is to be in a state of mind that reflects gratitude as you write in your journal. The best way to be successful in keeping a journal is to create a schedule and stick to it. The more often you write in your journal, the more likely you are to continue doing so.

Stress Less this Holiday Season

Many people find this time of year to be stressful, when in fact it should be a joyous time. It is true, there is a lot going on and a lot of money can be spent, which can lead to more stress, elevated levels of cortisol and eventually weight gain and other symptoms of hormone imbalance. However, with a little planning and stress management techniques, this can be the most wonderful time of the year for you and your family.

To keep spending within your budget and not consuming all your time, make a list and start early. Make a list of everyone you’re buying for and what you’re buying them, and then stick to that list. Start your shopping early, so you’re not running around until the last minute. Just like any other time, find time for yourself to do the things you enjoy, whether that it is getting a manicure, having quiet time to read a book, playing a round of golf, going for a walk or to yoga class, etc. 

In order to not put additional stress on your cortisol levels, keep up with your diet of eating every couple of hours and including lean proteins, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. I know it’s hard to avoid all of the yummy treats that seem to find you during this time. Just try to limit yourself. A good rule of thumb is to eat some healthy snacks prior to going to a party in order to keep from going overboard. Also try not to drink too much alcohol. Especially avoid the overly sweet or rich drinks and alternate with sparkling water or club soda between alcoholic beverages.

The Secret Life of Sperm

By Jenny Block
Published December 02, 2010 |

We know where it comes from and what it does. But sperm is an amazing thing, with more secrets than most of us would have guessed.

And we’re not just talking trivia here (although these fast facts might help you win a bar bet or two…) But upping your sperm IQ can help you to protect your health and your reproductive interests. And, who knows, you just might impress your partner with your sperm know-how.

Dr. David Shin, the Chief at the Center for Sexual Health & Fertility in the Department of Urology at the Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, offers up 13 facts about the little swimmers that may surprise you.

  1. Sperm are produced in the testes and take 10 weeks to mature.
  2. Mature sperm can wait up to two weeks in a holding area called the epididymis before they make their debut. The epididymis is a storage reservoir for sperm. It is an organ that sits on top of the testicle.
  3. Sperm only contribute 5 percent of the total semen volume. The rest is comprised of fluids, which provide nutrients and protective medium for the sperm as it travels through the female reproductive tract.
  4. Healthy men make 70-150 million sperm a day.
  5. Sperm can live up to five days in a woman’s uterus, which explains why women can get pregnant over several days each month based on when she ovulates.
  6. The Y sperm, which are sperm that makes males, swim faster than X sperm, which are sperm that makes females. The Y chromosome is smaller and has less genetic material compared to the X chromosome, so the Y carrying sperm can swim faster because it has less weight to transport compared to the X carrying sperm.
  7. Human sperm measures 55 microns (micrometers or one millionth of a meter)
    long. The average width of a human hair is 100 microns.
  8. Sperm is derived from the Greek word sperma meaning “seed.”
  9. Sperm can only swim forward and not backwards.
  10. Normal sperm have a head, mid-piece and a tail. Abnormal sperm can have two
    heads or two tails.
  11. In the United States, sperm counts (which refer to the number of sperm present per milliliter of semen at the time of any given ejaculation) are the highest in New York. This is according to a study published in the journal “Fertility and Sterility,” although researchers have no idea why. They do know that men in New York have 50 percent higher sperm counts than men in Los Angeles.
  12. Extended time in hot tubs or saunas can decrease a man’s sperm count, as heat adversely affects sperm production.
  13. Lubricants, lotions and saliva all result in decreased sperm motility. In a study published in “Fertility and Sterility,” researchers noted that many lubricants tended to be ‘toxic’ to sperm, despite labeling. The researchers found it was the ingredients in the lubricants, such as glycerin, and that the slight acidity created poor conditions for sperm.

According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, giving sperm a leg up can be achieved through:
* Taking a multi-vitamin daily
* Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables
* Reducing stress
* Getting regular exercise
* Watching your weight
* Steering clear of toxins, tobacco use and illicit drugs
* Limiting alcohol

In other words, having a healthy body can help one to have healthy sperm. And, ladies, you want your man to have healthy sperm if you’re trying to get pregnant, which is a lot less precarious a feat than many think.

“Human reproduction is surprisingly inefficient and quite complex,” said Dr. Alicia Stanton, an OB-GYN based in Glastonbury, Conn.
Even fertile couples having unprotected sex only have a 25 percent chance of getting pregnant, according to Stanton.

Why you ask? Well, because sperm have a long journey to accomplish and the majority of the little guys simply are not up to it.

The average sperm travels about 1-4 millimeters per minute, which would make the 175mm trip to the egg in the fallopian tube take between 45 minutes to almost 3 hours.

“It can take up to three days before a sperm reaches the egg,” Shin added.

“Of all the sperm ejaculated, only 25-50 percent is actually moving forward well,” Stanton explained.

Add to that the fact that at the young age of 25 the quality of a man’s sperm begins to decline, it truly is a miracle that any of them ever reach the finish line.

Sperm are amazing. But they are only as good as the body who produces and takes care of them. So, you can use these tidbits to help you with your next game of Trivial Pursuit or maybe if you get the phone call from “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”

But, you’d be better served to use it to inspire you to find out more about all things sex. As the old saying goes, knowledge is power.

Jenny Block is a freelance writer based in Dallas. She is the author of “Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage.” Her work appears in “One Big Happy Family,” edited by Rebecca Walker and “It’s a Girl: Women Writers on Raising Daughters,” edited by Andrea Buchanan. Visit her website at or check out her blog at

Improving Thyroid Function

The key function of the thyroid is to help metabolism. T4 is the major hormone produced by the thyroid, which also converts to T3. T3 is five times more active than T4, so it helps regulate metabolism better. However, this conversion can get tricky because selenium is required and if there isn’t enough selenium it won’t covert and you’re left with the less active T4.

The presence of too much cortisol from stress can also stop the conversion. It’s important to remember that you can have adequate amounts of T4 but still experience some thyroid imbalance symptoms due to the lack of more active T3. Those symptoms include fatigue, weight gain, puffiness around the eyes and face, foggy thinking, dry hair and skin, etc.  Low thyroid can also cause increased cholesterol and LDLs because you’re not metabolizing fats as well. Heart issues, particularly a higher risk of heart disease, can also occur.

So how can you improve thyroid function? There are several ways. First, there are several nutrients that can help: selenium, zinc, the B vitamins, vitamin A and vitamin C. Reduce stress levels so there is no conversion issue. Avoid toxin exposure to mercury, lead, BPA and phthalates by eating more organic and not drinking out of plastic water bottles and aluminum cans. Fish oil and vitamin D are good because they are anti-inflammatory and the herb ashwagandha stabilizes the adrenals, helps metabolism and lowers cortisol.

Our sex hormones at play

Our sex hormones – estrogen, progesterone and testosterone – work together to build us up, giving us our strength and resilience, however, as we age, these key hormones start to decline. Other factors besides our natural aging cycle can also cause a decrease in levels. Those factors pertain to our lifestyles, such as, eating the wrong foods, living in a state of chronic stress, being overweight, getting too little exercise and being exposed to too many environmental toxins.

Sex hormones play many important roles in our bodies. Estrogen performs more than 400 functions in the female body, such as maintaining memory, mood and muscles, maintaining bone and protecting against osteoporosis and protecting against heart disease. Progesterone has a calming effect and enhances mood, balances blood sugar and thyroid function and rebuilds bone. Testosterone builds muscle, increases energy and libido, enhances sense of well-being and strengthens bone.

This situation of declining sex hormones can be addressed with bioidentical hormones, but in order to sustain long-term health and well-being, certain lifestyle requirements must be followed. Changes in the way we live can be difficult at first, but once it becomes routine, it becomes the new way of living and can be done naturally, without much thought.

Proper nutrition and getting essential nutrients is key. Then comes stress management. We can’t live in a constant state of stress. It is important to stop and evaluate what the major stressors are in life and address ways to control and respond to this stress, not react to it. Taking part in physical activity also helps build up our hormones by eliminating excess weight, which is one of the biggest robbers of testosterone.

Adopting a way of life that fosters optimum functioning of our hormones will lead to a healthier, happier and longer life.

July 2010 – Connecticut Style


Dr. Stanton discusses her book, Hormone Harmony, on the lifestyle show Connecticut Style.