Lifestyle 09 September 2017
Being an entrepreneur comes with a load of stress. It is exciting to be starting something of your own and be free from having a boss or the demands of a corporation. But let’s face it; you are suddenly playing every role in the company: marketing, managing, public relations, book-keeping, etc., and that is a lot to juggle. Keeping your stress levels in check is critical, and to do that you need to focus on three main things: diet, exercise and relaxation.
Stress comes in many forms. The physical stress from sitting at the computer, mental stress from trying to get it all done and then emotional stress worrying if you are doing it right or if the clients will come in. In order for your body to properly function, it needs adequate nutrients, sunlight, rest, water, and joy. Without this formula, dis-ease is likely to form. When you are preoccupied with work, relationships, a packed schedule or financial strain, stress can take over all aspects of your life; leading to emotional eating, restless sleep, depression and dehydration. Fatigue is usually the first sign that imbalance is setting in, and if ignored, will move to aches and pains or gastrointestinal distress. These are signs from your body that something needs to change before a diagnosis is given and chronic illness develops.
Photo Courtesy of American Psychological Association
Often when stressed, we feel like we lack control. There is not enough time, resources or energy, and we feel we are walking around in a state of deficiency. Ironically, our bodies are dealing with deficiency, because in the face of stress our bodies become depleted of the vital micronutrients that keep our energy strong and the mind sharp. For instance, stress depletes your body of many vital vitamins and minerals like B Vitamins, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E. These nutrients are released from the body to fight inflammation and neutralize free radicals, which are created in response to stress, poor diet, pathogens, etc. Without these valuable vitamins, your immune system becomes weak and you are unable to fight off viruses and other pathogens.
Stress also exhausts minerals like magnesium. As the fourth most abundant mineral in your body, magnesium is necessary for enzyme creation, calcium uptake and anxiety control. Studies have shown that events like heart attacks and high blood pressure are often accompanied by magnesium deficiency. When the body is in a state of stress, magnesium is released to help cope.
So what can you do to alleviate stress? Focusing on how to protect and restore these vital nutrients is key. It is critical to support yourself with a healthy diet, get adequate rest, and to engage in meditation, exercise, or anything that relaxes your body and brings it back to a peaceful state, sparing further mineral depletion. Food, in its ability to heal, support and build can combat stress by transferring the power or control back to you. Each meal, you have a choice to eat foods that can quell the stress process or stir it up. The best way to ensure adequate nutrients is through a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and healthy fats like avocado, coconut oil, nuts and seeds. Fruits like oranges, kiwi and cantaloupe are high in Vitamin C, which is also found in vegetables such as cabbage, leafy greens, broccoli and peppers. These vegetables also contain Vitamins A, E, and K, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and more. Healthy fats and lean proteins help to balance your blood sugar, which can go haywire under stress. They also provide a steady flow of energy throughout the day, and can help create sharpness or clarity of mind.
When using food to calm stress, we not only have to make nutrient-dense choices, but may also need to limit certain foods as well. For instance, the Standard American Diet (rich in heavy meats, processed foods and sugar) is a nutrient-poor way of eating which, along with our fast-paced, high-demand culture, is a recipe for depletion, fatigue and illness.
Often when stressed, sugar and caffeine help see us through. However, despite the temporary energy lift, sugar and caffeine actually contribute to anxiety and add more stress to your body, putting you at risk for adrenal fatigue and blood sugar discrepancies. By making changes to your plate each day, and filling it with vibrant, energy-giving foods, you can choose to fight inflammation, curb anxiety and fuel your body to face life’s ongoing demands.
Nature has perfectly created food to fit your needs and keep your body in optimal health. Eating at least 5-7 servings of fresh produce per day will provide what you need and it is easier than you think to achieve that goal. At every meal, ask yourself, “Can I add a veggie or fruit to this?” The answer is likely to be a resounding YES! For instance, top off your oatmeal with berries and ground flax seed; snack on an apple or banana mid-morning. For lunch, choose vegetable soups, salad or vegetable stir-fry. Your midday snack can be vegetable sticks with guacamole or an apple with almond butter. Dinner will include protein, cooked vegetables and a salad. If you are craving something sweet at the end of the day, reach for fresh mango or a bowl of berries. By making these simple substitutions or additions, you will also be adding in fiber, helping to regulate your digestive system, which is often thrown off in stressful situations.
Eating to beat stress is easy and manageable. However, if you find it challenging at first, then a whole-food based supplement may be a good idea while you work on creating more balance in your life. A supplement can help immensely and give you some time to develop new habits. If you are taking any medications, consult with your doctor before adding in supplements. Vitamin C and magnesium are generally safe and do not interfere, but you should always discuss any changes you make with your doctor.
The bottom line is you have control over your health. Choose to support your body with colorful fruits and vegetables because these foods offer the nutrients needed to combat stress and keep you healthy. As entrepreneurs, we are in this game to help people or change the world. Our mission can only be accomplished when we feel good. When you give your body what it needs, it will work endlessly to support you. When all else seems out of control, remember that the power to eat well is in your hands - and with that power, you can accomplish amazing things.
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It seemed like everything happened overnight because, well… it did.
One moment, my team and I were business as usual, running a multi-million-dollar edible cookie dough company I built from scratch in my at-home kitchen five years ago and the next we were sitting in an emergency management team meeting asking ourselves, "What do we do now?" Things had escalated in New York, and we were all called to do our part in "flattening the curve" and "slowing the spread."
The governor had declared that all restaurants immediately close to the public. All non-essential businesses were also closed, and 8.7 million New Yorkers were quarantined to their tiny apartments for the foreseeable future. Things like "social distancing" and "quarantine" were our new 2020 vernacular — and reality.
What did that mean for us? Our main revenue source was the retail part of the business. Sure, we offered delivery and take-out, but that was such a small portion of our sales. I had built a retail experience where people from near and far came to eat edible cookie dough exactly how they craved it. We had two stores, one in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn, which employed over 55 people. We have two production facilities; an online business shipping cookie dough nationwide; a wholesale arm that supplies stores, restaurants, and other retail establishments with treats; and a catering vertical for customizable treats for celebrations of all sizes. And while business and sales were nearly at a complete halt, we still had bills. We had payroll to pay, vendors we owed, services we were contractually obligated to continue, rent, utilities, insurance, and none of that was stopping.
How were we going to do this? And for how long will this go on? No one knew.
As an entrepreneur, this certainly wasn't my first-time facing challenges. But this was unprecedented. Unimaginable. Unbelievable. Certainly unplanned. This control-freak type-A gal was unraveling. I had to make decisions quickly. What was best for my team? For my business? For the safety of my staff? For the city? For my family and unborn baby (oh, yeah, throw being 28 weeks pregnant and all those fun hormones in there, it's real interesting!). Everything was spiraling out of control.
I decided to take the advice I had given to many people over the years — focus on the things you can control. There's no point worrying about all the things you have no control over. If you focus there, you'll just continue spiraling into a deeper, darker hole. Let it go. Once you shift your perspective, you can move forward. It's not going to be easy; the challenges still exist. But you can control certain things, so focus your energy and attention on those.
So that's what I did. I chose, for the safety of staff and customers, to close the retail portion completely — it wasn't worth the take-out and delivery volume to staff the store, open ourselves up to more germs and human contact than absolutely necessary.
I went back to our mission and the reason I started the business in the first place — to spread joy. How could we continue to bring happiness to people during this uncertain time? That's our purpose. With millions of people across the globe stuck inside, working from home, quarantined with their families, how can we reach them since they can't come to us? So I thought back to how and why we got started.
Baking, for me, has always been a type of therapy. I could get lost in the mixing bowl and forget about everything else for a moment in time. Sure, I have a huge sweet tooth, but it's about the process. It's about taking all of these different ingredients and mixing them together to create something magically sweet and special. It's about creating and being creative with the simple things. It's about allowing people to indulge in something that brings them joy — a lick from the spatula or a big batch of cookies.
It's about joy in the moment and sharing that joy with others. So my focus is back on that, and it feels good.
We could still ship nationwide, straight to people's doorstep. So we are making it easier and less expensive to send the ultimate comfort food (edible cookie dough) by introducing a reduced shipping rate, and deals on some of our best-selling packages.
In a way for us, it feels like we are going back in time… back to our roots. When I first started the business, we were only shipping nationwide. There were no stores, no big team, no wholesale. It was just me, a small crew juggling it all, and we made it work then. And we'll make it work again. We have to leverage our online business and hope it floats us through this time.
We are focusing our digital content strategy on sharing recipes, activities, and at-home treats with our engaged, amazing social following so they bake with their families and stay busy at-home. We started live baking tutorials where our fans can bake-along with me and I can share all the tips and tricks I've learned over the years with them.
I've leveraged the cookbook I published last year, Hello, Cookie Dough: 110 Doughlicious Confections to Eat, Bake & Share, to come up with fun content and additional things to do at home. We started shipping it and our at-home baking mixes for free to encourage people to get busy in their kitchens!
And as a business, we will continue to connect with our community to bring them joy and focus on what we can control, including our attitude and outlook first.
During times of uncertainty, which this certainly is, you should do the same. Identify the things you can control and focus your time and energy on those things. Distract yourself with the positive. Force yourself to stop asking and worrying about all the what-ifs. Do what you can for the moment and then the next moment. Make a list, and take it day-by-day.
It's going to be okay. You will be okay. We will all be okay.