Executive Stress - Nurture & Relax in 2013

Busy professionals need to pay more attention to their stress levels and overall wellness in order to enhance work performance and avoid burnout.

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Busy professionals need to pay more attention to their stress levels and overall wellness in order to enhance work performance and avoid burnout.

While this isn’t exactly ‘news’, many people still refuse to take seriously the importance of learning how to apply adequate self-care in relation to relaxation, the consumption of nutrient-dense food, and committing to an appropriate level exercise.

The negative effects of poor diet, stress and sedentary lifestyles are well known and are linked to everything from high blood pressure and heart disease to depression, anxiety and even cancer.

With 2013 now well and truly underway, now is the time to get your working year off to a healthy start. It’s not about New Year’s resolutions or self-sacrifice.

Property Industry News spoke with three experts – naturopath and author Lisa Guy, naturopath and herbalist Beth Herlihy, and facilitator in human communication and business related disciplines, Ruth Fingret. They share their expertise and simple tips below…

Lisa Guy – nutrition & healthy tips

Lisa Guy is a Sydney based naturopath and author who runs naturopathic clinic, Art of Healing. She is the nutrition expert for national health and beauty newspaper lift-out (and website) Body + Soul, and author of My Goodness, a nutrition resource and cookbook that caters for all ages.

Ms Guy is passionate about natural therapies and her practice specialises in nutrition, herbs and the body’s own healing powers. She told Property Industry News that people should be aware of several persistent nutrition myths.

“One of the most persistent myths involves carbs - avoiding carbs is not the best way to lose weight and it is bad for your health. Limiting sugary refined carbs like white breads and baked goods is always a good idea, but healthy carbohydrate foods like wholegrains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes are the body’s main source of energy. If you cut carbs completely you will feel fatigued (mentally and physically). Your brain needs glucose from carbohydrate foods to function properly. Your body can start to burn proteins for fuel if it is not getting enough carbohydrates, which can lead to muscle wastage. The initial weight loss experienced on carb-free diets is due to water loss,” Ms Guy said.

“Another common myth is that coconut oil is bad for you. That has been widely dispelled by current research, giving us good reason to re-include this healthy oil back into our diets. Coconut oil, made from the meat of mature coconuts, contains medium chain fatty acids (MCFA), which is a type of fat that behaves very differently from other fats. MCFA fats can be absorbed straight into the cell where it can be immediately burned up as energy, making it less likely to be stored as fat, making coconut oil beneficial for people on weight loss programs. Coconut oil is also one of the best and safest oils to use in cooking as the MCFA are heat resistant and don’t turn into harmful hydrogenated fat. Coconut oil also contains high levels of lauric acid, which help strengthen the immune system and helps attack viruses, bacteria and other pathogens. Lauric acid and caprylic acid in coconut oil also protect against candida and yeast infections. Choose an organic, cold pressed coconut oil.”

Another myth? That ‘fat-free’ is better. Ms Guy says some fats are essential to good health and would not cause weight gain in moderate amounts.

“We need them for a healthy heart, to keep your cholesterol levels in check, healthy skin, and for proper brain function. These good fats are found in olive and flaxseed oil, nuts and seeds and their oils, oily fish like salmon, and avocado. “
She also says too many people are fooled into believing that ‘diet’ products are healthier or that they will contribute to weight loss.

“In fact, they usually contain artificial sweeteners like aspartame, which has been associated with the development of certain types of cancer. Instead go for products that contain natural sweeteners like stevia or xylitol.

“Finally, another myth is that eating eggs regularly will raise your cholesterol. It is not the cholesterol in foods that have a big impact on our blood cholesterol levels. The culprits are saturated and trans-fats.”

LISA’S TOP TIPS FOR BUSY PROFESSIONALS

  • Cook once and eat twice. Cook larger portions so you can have leftovers for lunch or freeze for other meals during the week.
  • Don’t skip breakfast. It will help keep your blood sugar levels stable, and prevent you from overeating unhealthy foods throughout the day. Healthy choices include natural muesli with nuts, seeds and fruit, or porridge with banana or mango, or eggs on grainy toast with avocado and a handful of baby spinach. Fruit smoothies with protein powder are great too.
  • Keep nutritious protein-rich snacks with you at work. Eating protein foods with meals is the best way to prevent sugar cravings and energy slumps, and to help keep you full for longer. Trail mixes with raw nuts, seeds and dried fruit are perfect to keep in your bag. A good combo is almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, with some dates, goji berries and apricots. Other healthy snacks include hummus with vegie sticks or crackers, natural protein bars, and a tub of yoghurt with some fruit. Protein powders are really handy to keep at work. Just mix with chilled water or milk.
  • Drink plenty of water. It’s essential for good health, clear skin, prevention of constipation, toxin elimination, and proper brain function. Keep a big water bottle on your desk. Put a splash of juice in it for flavour if you like.
  • Eat plenty of antioxidant-rich foods. Antioxidants are your best defence against cell damaging free radicals, which greatly increase your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, and cancer and can cause premature aging. Best sources include red, purple, and orange fruits and vegies like berries, beetroot, tomatoes, carrots, green leafy vegies and green tea.
  • Avoid harmful trans-fats. These are the worst kind of fats. They’re the number one cause of heart disease and can contribute to the development of cancer. Trans-fats are formed when vegetable oils are heated at high temperatures. They are found in fast foods, some margarines, and processed foods containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, especially commercially baked goods.
  • Protect yourself from colds and flu and other illnesses with immune boosting foods. Some of the best immune strengthening foods include garlic, ginger, shitake and reishi mushrooms, seaweed, and fresh fruits and vegies, which are rich in vitamins A and C, especially citrus fruits.
  • Enhance your digestion with fermented foods. Eating yoghurt is an easy way to incorporate fermented foods into your diet, either on muesli or Bircher, fruit salads or in a smoothie. Fermented foods are considered probiotic foods as they are rich in beneficial bacteria that help keep a healthy balance of good bacteria in the gut. These foods help improve digestion and immune function. Other good sources include kefir (similar to drinking yoghurt), miso, and fermented vegetables like sauerkraut.
  • Reduce your exposure to BPA’s (Bisphenol A). This toxic chemical - found in plastic water bottles and food containers, and plastic linings of tinned foods - can leach into food and water. BPA is an endocrine disruptor, which can affect hormone production and function. BPA exposure is linked to an increased risk of breast and prostate cancer, infertility, type-2 diabetes, and obesity. Always use either a stainless steel or glass water bottle, and never heat food in plastic containers.

TOP 5 SIMPLE CHANGES YOU SHOULD MAKE TO YOUR DIET

  1. Eat more fresh unprocessed foods in their natural state.
  2. Eat less refined and processed food. These types of processed, packaged foods generally contain high levels of added sugars, salt and bad fats. Limit foods like sugary breakfast cereals or bars, biscuits, commercially baked muffins and pastries, and soft drinks.
  3. If you’re in the habit of winding down after work with a couple of beers of glasses of wine, try to limit it to just one, and have a few alcohol free nights a week. Your liver will love you for it, and you’ll find you will sleep better and wake up more refreshed.
  4. Buy organic produce whenever you can. Organic produce is grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides, are free from genetically modified organisms.
  5. Switch from white breads and cereals to fibre-rich wholegrain versions including grainy breads, whole oats, wholegrain crackers, wholemeal pasta, and brown rice. Fibre rich foods are important to keep you regular, for healthy cholesterol levels, and to reduce the risk of heart disease and bowel cancer.

HEALTHY CHOICES WHEN EATING OUT

FISH & CHIPS: Instead of deep fried fish and chips have some grilled fish with a salad or rice.

BURGERS: Instead of a hamburger with the lot and chips, go for a gourmet burger with chicken breast or good quality pattie with lots of salad. Hold the mayo and chips.

JAPANESE: Japanese food is a good choice, have some sushi, sashimi, seaweed salad, soy beans and a miso. Just limit the deep fried foods, and sushi with mayo.

THAI & VIETNAMESE: Thai and Vietnamese can also be a really healthy meals, get a stir-fry with lots of vegies, fish or chicken with a little steamed rice. Avoid the dishes with peanut sauces, or anything deep-fried like spring rolls. Go for steamed rice paper rolls instead.

ROAST CHICKEN: Grab an organic or free-range roast chicken with some roast vegies or salad.

ITALIAN: If you’re going to go Italian, get a pasta to share with a tomato-based sauce and have a big green salad with it. Hold the garlic bread.

Beth Herlihy - herbs & holistic health

Beth Herlihy is head naturopath and herbalist at Gaia Retreat and Spa, in Byron Bay. She spoke with Property Industry News about the importance of scheduling time for health and wellbeing. Gaia’s detox and weight loss programs were particularly popular with busy professionals who were keen to give their minds and bodies a rest, she said.

“These programs allow guests to reset their lifestyle habits, letting go of poor habits when they return home. Many people find after completing both programs that they have higher energy levels, sleep better and have better digestion,” Ms Herlihy said.

“Herbs feature significantly in Gaia’s programs. The herbs we use are based on research. It is a well-researched fact the St Mary's Thistle (silybum marianum) is hepatoprotective (as the ability to prevent liver damage), and assists the liver to regenerate. Other herbs like dandelion (Taraxicum offinicinalis) are well known stimulants for the liver,” she said.

Ms Herligy’s top 10 health tips for busy professionals include:

  1. Take a good multivitamin and magnesium, as we tend to deplete our levels when we are under stress.
  2. Ensure you still get some exercise throughout the day. Make the time.
  3. Take the time to stop for lunch and preferably go outside. This is a great time to get Vitamin D from the sun, which is essential for a healthy nervous system.
  4. Try not to overload on refined carbohydrates and sugar when you are under stress.
  5. Try not to have too much caffeine as this will place excess strain on your adrenals.
  6. Do not take work home with you if possible. Have clear boundaries between work and home life.
  7. Ensure that you spend some time every day relaxing. Relaxation will differ from person to person, but even something as simple as a hot bath at the end of the day or some quiet reading can help with relaxation.
  8. A juice a day can keep the doctor away. When we are under stress we release the hormone cortisol that long term will cause depletion to your immune system. By boosting up on Vitamin C and antioxidants you can keep your immune cells healthy.
  9. Take three deep belly breaths a few times a day to bring calmness to the body and switch off the ‘flight or fight’ response.
  10. Perspective is very powerful. Focus on three things in your life for which you are grateful.

Ruth Fingret – meditation & your career

Ruth Fingret is a facilitator in the area of human communication and business related disciplines. She has extensive experience with large and small organisations in both the public and private sectors.

She is also in demand as a guest speaker at some of Australia’s most popular health retreats, where a holistic approach to health and wellbeing is the focus.

Ms Fingret recently gave a presentation at The Golden Door Health Retreat, Elysia, in the Hunter Valley, to a group of somewhat burned out professionals about the benefits of meditation.

Ms Fingret spoke with Property Industry News about the professional and personal benefits that flow from self-care, answering some common questions about meditation.

MEDITATION FAQs

Biggest misconception about meditation?
“That it requires a lot of time or that it is only for hippies and yogis. Just a few minutes each day will assist with focus and attention, as well as relieve stress.”

What happens neurologically during meditation?
“Brain scans have shown an actual increase in grey matter after 10 weeks of meditation. Short term, meditators experience improved focus, concentration and relaxation.”

How can meditation help busy professionals?
“The brain is a muscle like any other, that gets better at things the more you work it. Meditation is not sleep, but a concentrated effort to focus your thoughts and breath. The more you do it the better you get at it. This has flow on benefits to all other aspects of your life where focus and concentration are important.”

What are some of the best techniques?
“For the beginner, lie comfortably and slow your breath down to four breaths a minute. Concentrate on the breath as if it is a circle connecting you to the outside world and everything in it but focussing on it as something you can control. Yoga is also a wonderful way to meditate.”

The whole package

Instead of scheduling a holiday or weekend involving lazing around and scoffing food and drinks at happy hour(s), consider a weekend or longer at a health retreat. There are dozens around Australia, catering for a variety of specific health concerns including stress reduction and management, detoxification and weight loss. Some even have programs tailored for executives, or for yoga enthusiasts.

Some of the health retreats who spoke with Property Industry News have guests who are sent by their employers in lieu of a Christmas party, particularly in organisations with a small number of staff.

Check out the list below:

NSW

VIC

QLD

SA

WA

TAS

IMPORTANT NOTE: Always discuss your health status, concerns and possible solutions with your GP before embarking on any new program or regime.