Am I going to hit my number this month?
Did I send that follow up?
Is the client happy?
Those are the questions that run through my head on a daily basis. I’m in sales, at a startup. Needless to say, it’s a stressful gig. When I first started doing sales at startups, there were days I’d be so stressed from just thinking about clients, meetings, and deals that needed to be closed. I’d get home so hungry, exhausted, and stressed, that I’d eat whatever was the most convenient. Most of the time it was unhealthy, like chips and pizza. On top of that, I’d overeat or binge because it would help me to cope with that stress.
You know the day that I’m talking about.
And you don’t have to be in sales to know the day I’m talking about either. It could be that report you need to get back to your boss, that project you need to finish on a tight deadline, all those back to back meetings with your colleagues. Maybe you got chewed out by a client or your boss. You’ve had that day before. I’m sure you’ve also come back from a day like that not wanting to do anything, except eat, have a drink, and go to sleep.
If you’ve gotten this far you also know that eating good food is important, but it’s tough. And if you can relate to everything I’ve said above, you know it’s also really tough to balance stress and eating healthy. Being busy and stressed takes away from eating healthy. If you’re not fueling yourself right, it’s even easier to get stressed. Kind of a vicious cycle.
So how do you manage to eat healthy while dealing with all the stress?
So first things first, the easiest way to avoid not eating healthy after a stressful day at work is just not buying unhealthy foods and have them sitting at your house!
That’s the easy part. The hard part is eating healthy when you’re stressed. And it has less to do with eating and more to do with managing stress.
How do you avoid eating unhealthy after a stressful day at work?
These three ideas will get the ball rolling and make sure you don’t eat unhealthy after you’ve had one of those stressful days.
- Planning Your Day
A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, showed that mindful meditation can result in small to moderate reductions in psychological stress. At first glance, that might not sound like that big of a deal. But I’ve tried it and it’s been extremely helpful in getting me through those tough days. Meditating made it a little bit easier (and still does) to endure the stress of sales at a startup, while still maintaining good eating habits.
Despite what most people might think, there isn’t a big time commitment to meditating. You won’t have to go for a weekend and sit in a room with other people chanting “Om”. All you need is 5 to 10 minutes to get the positive effects of reducing your stress. It can be at the start of your day, the end, or even the middle. Depending on how crazy your day is. Take a second to chill, and just relax.
If you need some help to get started, just check out apps like Headspace or just go to YouTube and find videos on guided meditation.
Planning Your Day
This is probably the most underrated tool in lowering stress levels. Planning your day helps you to be proactive instead of reactive. Think about every Monday you’ve come into the office and your inbox is flooded with emails and your calendar has a ton of calls. Kind of stressful right? I don’t know about you but I get stressed just thinking about it on Sunday night!
Peter Bregman, author of 18 minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get The Right Things Done, writes that the best way to start your day is by planning it. And though it’s advice on how to plan your day, it helps you to prioritize and navigate an otherwise noisy inbox/list of things to get done. The result is limiting stress by actually accomplishing what needs to be accomplished, even if you have to put out a couple of fires. Plus, by planning your day, you can plan what you eat. That’s two birds with one stone.
One of the best ways to relieve stress is by exercising. Starting your day, ending your day, or breaking up your day with exercise is not only going to help you look good, but it’ll also bring down some of those stress levels. You might be thinking, “duh”.
But honestly, when you’re in the middle of a super stressful day, are you really thinking about your next workout? Probably not.
Exercise, be it lifting or running, helps to produce endorphins, puts you in good mood, and gives you an energy boost. I’m not going to go into the many benefits of exercising here, but exercise certainly helps hedge your bets with maintaining stress and eating healthy. It does this in 2 ways.
The first is, look, if you’re going to cheat or eat something unhealthy, better to do it after exercise. This isn’t an ideal strategy or a plan A. But it's better than binge eating chips while you’re stressed out and not doing any exercise at all.
The second is, I find, that I don’t eat unhealthy after exercising. Probably from the feel good hormones and energy boost. It’s like, I’m being healthy by working out, might as well eat healthy too. Other people I’ve chatted with tend to do the same thing.
At the end of the day, eating healthy is hard enough. When you’re stressed or tired, it’s even harder. At the end of long day, all you want to do is eat whatever is most convenient and then do nothing.
So yea, maybe it’s been a long stressful day. You’ve put out some fires, hit your deadlines, and all your clients are happy. And maybe, they’re not. But now you’ve got some tools to make sure you fuel yourself the right way, despite the stress.