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Cut out junk in your life – and beat the stress

Keen to keep healthy but tempted to reach for the junk food when feeling a little stressed?  You are not alone.

According to the results of the 2017 Profmed Stress Index, 45.45% of South African professionals listed work as one of their main causes of stress.

The other major cause, affecting 23.7%, is finances.

Graham Anderson, chief executive of healthcare scheme Profmed, said unfortunately for South Africans, the current economic conditions are set to endure this year as local and global uncertainty continue to foil the country’s economic development, a situation which will not help stress levels.

Because of this, many well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions – such as to try and beat the festive bulge or to hit the gym – may end up falling by the wayside with a host of unhealthy habits creeping in.

“Stress, sometimes called the ‘silent killer’, can exacerbate current chronic conditions and make professionals more susceptible to chronic diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes,” he said.

“Managing stress is important. But how do professionals include healthy habits in high performance environments?

“It’s about incremental changes and a measured approach to overindulgence.

“The overindulgence from the festive season may make it slightly more difficult to get into a routine, but by making one new healthy choice a day, the transition to becoming healthier and happier will be more manageable and sustainable.”

To get healthier, Anderson said doing at least one form of exercise twice a week, drinking water instead of fizzy drinks, indulging in healthy snacks, taking regular breaks from one’s desk and regular visits to a doctor are all steps in the right direction.

Lila Bruk, registered dietitian and Association for Dietetics South Africa spokeswoman, suggested foods high in B-vitamins and zinc will help with stress management.

She said these can be found in wholegrains, lean proteins, nuts and shellfish respectively.

To try and combat reaching for unhealthy snacks when feeling snowed under by stress, Bruk said planning one’s meals in advance could assist.

“This will help you to not eat the greasy canteen food or the pie from the petrol station store,” she said, adding that a food diary could also come in handy.

“It keeps in perspective what you actually eat and keeps you accountable. Try to also keep healthy snacks in your car and desk draw, so if you don’t have time to prepare you always have healthy options such as wholewheat crackers, biltong and tuna sachets available.”

To keep active, Anderson suggested high knees, jumping jacks, lunges, planking and squats – all of which can be done either at the gym or at home.

“Cut down on caffeine, try to sleep at least eight hours a night, try breathing exercises, don’t take your work with you and put your stress into context – is it really worth the stress?