by Loren G. Edelstein | April 20, 2018

It's a fact of modern life: We're all too busy, struggling to meet a long list of personal and professional demands. That pressure leads to stress and all of the health-defeating effects it can cause. 

"Thirty percent of us experience depression or are in treatment for depression," notes Linda Illingworth, a registered dietician and founder of Nutrition Muse. In fact, research finds that 75 to 90 percent of doctor visits are stress-related, Illingworth told attendees of Northstar's Destination California, the hosted-buyer event held earlier this week at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort.

Meeting planners, by nature of the profession, spend the bulk of their time caring for others. However, "You need to be at the top of the list," Illlingworth emphasized in her keynote address, sponsored by Goodman Speakers Bureau. "Self-care must come first so that you have the energy and well-being to do your job effectively."

Diet plays a large part in self care. "We tend to underestimate the connection between what we eat and how we feel," says Illingworth. "Food affects your brain chemistry, which in turn affects your behavior."

Better eating habits and other simple actions can reduce stress and improve overall health. To that end, following are 10 tips that M&C collected from Illingworth and other sources. 

1. Limit alcohol. Sorry! One drink per day is now the recommended max, as recent research links heavier alcohol consumption to shorter life spans. For women, just two drinks per day or 14 per week exponentially increases your breast cancer risk. 

2. Take deep breaths. You can reduce anxiety with simple breathing exercises. Try this: Inhale for a count of four, hold for two counts, then exhale for a count of six. Repeat!

3. Save your sanity. Free or cheap apps can be helpful in protecting or improving mental health, using methods including meditation, hypnosis, cognitive behavioral therapy or other means of support.

4. Balance your food groups. As a general rule, fill half your plate with vegetables, one quarter complex carbs (such as whole grains, sweet potatoes) and one quarter lean protein (fish, chicken, legumes).

5. Skip the white stuff. Limit empty calories -- foods made from white flour and sugar (bagels, sweets, sodas).

6. Research airport options. Eateries are listed on airport websites; get familiar with what's available in your frequented concourses and choose the healthier options.

7. BYO snacks. In your car or carry-on bag, keep a quart-size bag with protein bars, single-serve packets of trail mix, nut butter, tuna, chia/flax seed blend (try Flax Paks) and tea bags.

8. Laugh a lot. Convincing evidence proves that laughter -- or even smiling -- is the best medicine, after all. Studies show it reduces stress hormones, boosts immune systems, improves memory, prevents cancer and even makes you look younger and thinner. 

9. Keep moving. If you're exercise-averse, make small changes, like picking up the pace when walking from your car to your office or a store. Learn simple stretches or yoga poses that you can do practically anywhere, even in a desk chair.

10. Take it outside. Nature intended people to be outdoors. Why not step outside on a pleasant day to take a phone call or even hold a casual staff meeting? Fresh air and sunshine feed your body, mind and soul.