Being a busy professional can be very stressful. There are many expectations placed on us, both from our colleagues, from society, and from our peers, but more than anything from ourselves. We constantly need to be performing, achieving, and we are expected to be at the top of our game at all times. Despite it having been proven time and time again that feelings of stress negatively impacts our work and overall productivity, many of us are still stuck in the loop of telling ourselves that once we ‘get past this week’s deadline, things will slow down’. However, the reality is that it rarely does and then all the things you postponed just piled up and made your schedule even busier the following week.
The interesting thing about all this, is that whilst we are busy being stuck in the mental performance loop, our bodies are usually trying to tell us that it is feeling stressed and overwhelmed. However, some of the most common ways our bodies often use to tell us has now been so normalised that many of us are even unaware that these are signs of distress. When we feel stressed or anxious, this feeling is often coming from our ‘second brain’ residing in our gut. This ‘second brain’ located in our gut is also known as the enteric nervous system. It is currently receiving extensive attention from researchers and medical practitioners, as the scientific community is just now transforming the understanding of the mind-gut connection.
The gut is home to over 100 trillion strands of bacteria and microbes, known as the gut microbiome, which play’s an integral part in important functions, includingnutrient absorption to elimination, producing certain vitamins and maintaining a healthy immune system. Whilst the ‘second brain’ isn’t directly capable of ‘thinking’ for you, it does communicate quite extensively with the ‘head brain’. The fact that the gut can be responsible for large parts of our overall well being makes a lot of sense if we think about it. If the gut is unbalanced, it doesn’t function properly. That means it won't be able to absorb and distribute nutrients properly, which are key functions that are linked to all areas of health from digestion and stomach pains to hormone production and mood swings. What scientists are now beginning to understand is that the mind-gut connection might in fact also be the ‘gut-mind’ connection, as imbalance in either entity affects the other. Thus, it is no surprise that some of the most common signs of stress are also signs of poor gut health, however the question remains, did the poor gut health cause the stress, or did the stress cause the poor gut health? Either way, having good gut health will be key to your productivity and well being at work.
Therefore, this article has gathered 3 easy techniques to improve your gut health, even in stressful periods, in order to help you stay on the top of your game.
1. Eat Wholesome, Plant Based Foods
First and foremost, what you eat during the day will have a massive impact on how you feel. Try to avoid junk food and fuel yourself with wholefoods (non-processed) instead. A healthy diet should be centered around vegetables and fruits so the body can get all the nutrients it needs. Moreover, the benefit of eating wholefoods is the lack of additives and sugar that often interfere with our energy levels throughout the day.
2. Don’t Rush Your Meals
During a busy work day it might not always be easy to take time out to eat properly, however, rushing through a meal can be very damaging for your gut health. Eating slowly and mindfully have been proven to be associated with a more balanced gut, especially for your digestion. So make sure to take some deep breaths between bites and enjoy your lunch!
3. Drink More Water
Last but not least, make sure to drink plenty of water! It is very easy to get caught up in the busy agenda for the day and forget to have a consistent water intake throughout the day. Your body is mostly made of water and it needs to be hydrated to function optimally. An easy way to keep better track of your water intake is to begin the day by filling up a water bottle and placing it on your desk.
A healthy gut contributes to a strong immune system, brain health, healthy skin, improved mood, good sleep, effective digestion, and overall wellness. We all want to be more productive and keep performing our best at all times, however, it has become more and more apparent that in order to do so, we need to pay more attention to our ‘second brain’ - the gut. Looking after your gut health might just be the key to your continued productivity at work!
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