Our relationship with food can be complicated. We don’t just ingest calories as needed fuel for our bodies. We also eat for comfort, celebration, reward, and as a mindless response to stress.
A recent survey by the American Psychological Association found that 43% of those surveyed munched on snacks as a way of coping with stress.
The office can be one of the worst places for stress eating. There are some good reasons for this:
- Work and money (which are often tied together) are the leading causes of stress, according to the survey mentioned above. Simply putting together a report from data someone else compiled can make your heart race if the bar charts show bad news. You know what happens to the messenger.
- There are fewer stress-coping options in an office. Try telling your boss you’re going to go enjoy a hot aromatherapeutic bath and come back to finish the charts when you feel less stressed. In many offices, it’s not practical even to take a walk or to listen to soothing music.
- You have less control over the kind of food available. If you don’t choose to eat doughnuts, you can choose not to bring doughnuts into your home. You can also choose not to eat the doughnuts in the break room, but your brain will remind you that they’re there when you come out of a stressful meeting feeling like nothing but sugar and fat will make you feel better.
If your job is so stressful that you’re diving into a box of cookies every day just to get through the afternoon, you might need to make some changes beyond stocking the break room with carrots and hummus. But if you’re thriving at your job except for a daily trip to the vending machine, these tips can help:
- Eat regular meals. Then you won’t be hungry as well as stressed, and it’ll be easier to make the choices you really want to make.
- Take regular breaks. Under the pressure of a busy day in the office, it can be easy to spend hours sitting at your desk with your fingers on the keyboard or in back to back meetings. Build breaks into your day so you stay calmer and more energetic — and thus better able to cope with stress.
- Keep healthy snacks on hand. Carrots and hummus in the break room — that’s a great idea. An apple and some almonds in your desk drawer is another great idea. Choose these items first when you feel the urge to snack.
These are common-sense tips that can really help. But sometimes they’re not enough. If you need a more comprehensive approach to stress eating or to work-related stress, request an appointment.