As a promoter of healthy work environment and assisting employees deal with their stress by adapting to a healthier life style, this question is asked frequently:
How (on earth) can food help lower stress among my workforce?
There are many processes to deal with stress that are interlinked, but to make a start somewhere, our first response to stress is physical. Our hormones cortisol, adrenalin, and noradrenalin from the adrenal cortex kick in, to gear up our body for the ‘flight or fight’ mode; Heart rate goes up to pump more oxygen around to our muscles, glucose for energy gets released due to the efforts of the liver and digestive processes are practically put on hold. Now whether you get chased by a lion to be his lunch or your boss wanting those promised reports, the effect on your body is the same. So in these situations, stress and our natural response to it, is a matter of survival. Otherwise we’d be lunch or never get a promotion.
Modern day stress is a bit different than running from a tiger (mostly). Running has an end to it, and once you have escaped, the body can go back to normal (or you’d be eaten). Modern lifestyle has added social pressure and a multitude of “have to’s”, “should’s” and “must’s” to our list of things that causes us to stress out.
And it is these prolonged stress reactions which cause such a burden to our body. As you can imagine gearing up a body for fight or flight takes lots of fuel or nutrients to make it happen, and prolonged stress just zaps all nutrients out of us, plus. Add to that the low priority of digestion and you have your body basically running on empty.
If your lifestyle, and with that I mean your diet, exercise and relaxation, are not up to scratch, stress will be more and more difficult to deal with. Add a simple cold and your body just can’t respond to it like a healthy body can, and it will knock you out for far longer than it should be.
So yes, what is in your workplace canteen and your vending machines, does have an effect on stress levels of the team. And yes, paying attention to what is available to your team, will pay off!