Category Archives: Health and Wellbeing

How micronutrients help under stress (4 min read)

Stress and neurotransmitters

When we are under high stress, we can often reach for foods that are “comforting” like biscuits, donuts, cake, pastries, and chocolate bars, but these foods may not be the best choice for feeding your brain under stressful and demanding circumstances. Comfort foods are calorie-rich but nutrient-poor.

Further, under high stress we release adrenaline. This is part of our natural alarm response system. Adrenaline is an essential neurotransmitter that is released as part of the fight-flight response. It enables our body to get us to safety, shut down non-essential functions, and make sure the muscles needed for flight or flight get activated. Cortisol, a hormone, is also essential for the alarm system to function optimally.

Unfortunately, over extended periods of time, the alarm system can go into over-drive, and this is one factor that can lead to re-experiencing memories, flashbacks, hypervigilance, being on edge all the time, feeling anxious and panicky when reminded of the traumatic event, struggling with sleeping and having nightmares.

Neurotransmitters and micronutrients

Making neurotransmitters and hormones requires micronutrients like zinc, calcium, magnesium, iron, and niacin. If your body is depleted of these nutrients, then either it won’t have sufficient nutrients to make these essential chemicals, or it will redirect all resources to the fight-flight response (as it is so vital for survival) and there won’t be much left for ensuring optimal brain function to do things like concentrate, regulate moods and deal with anxiety.

Consequently, as micronutrients get depleted at a high rate during times of stress, we need to replenish them in greater quantity from our food (and perhaps other sources).

Restocking your micronutrients

Compare a banana to a biscuit; one obtains far more of these micronutrients (like potassium, magnesium, folate) that are required for brain function from a banana. Reaching for a carrot stick and dipping it in hummus would be better for your brain than gorging down a commercial meat pie (although meat pies can be healthy if they contain lots of vegetables too). Choosing nuts and seeds over pretzels would also give you better brain food.

Question: where can we get micronutrients from?

Answer: nutrient-dense foods – that is, real food, not highly processed foods.

Overall, to cope well with stress, your goal should be to increase intake of plant food and food high in nutrient density while still getting adequate protein, fats and carbs. Fish is a great source of protein and of essential fatty acids, which are also vital for brain function. In eating these types of foods, you would be shifting your diet from a Western type of diet (highly processed, high in sugar) to a Mediterranean-style diet (high in fruits and veggies, fish, nuts, healthy fats and low in processed foods).

The simplest (and most cost effective) way to get your essential nutrients is to ensure you eat different types and colours of food. Have a look at your plate…what’s the predominant colour? Sadly, those delicious comfort foods like donuts, chips and bread tend to be yellow and brown, meaning a lot of refined sugar and fat, providing very little nutrition. Eat your greens, reds, purples and oranges first, then if you’re still craving that donut, you’ll be good to go.

 

Professor Julia Rucklidge

School of Psychology, Speech and Hearing

Director of the Mental Health and Nutrition Research Group

 

Drop-in sport sessions for fun

Are you looking for something fun to do over the holidays, or even during term time but have zero dollars, or perhaps none of your friends want to play? Why not try our drop-in sport sessions?  

Play badminton, futsal or volleyball in one of our weekday drop-in sessions, all year round.
Drop-in Sport sessions at the UC RecCentre 

 These sessions are:

  • at set times/days 
  • free to join in (if you’re a UC Student or RecCentre member) 
  • $2 for non-members (so you can bring your friend or flatmate with you for moral support if you need it)
  • open to anyone and everyone – all abilities welcome! 
When and where?
How does it work? 
  • Head to the sportshall at the designated time/day 
  • No-one there? Head to reception. You’re the first to arrive, so we’ll give you the equipment you need to set up 
  • Other people already there , just join in! 

That’s it! No commitment to turn up for a league, but 99% certain to have a few others to play the game with (which, let’s face it, is kinda needed for games like Futsal, Volleyball and Badminton!) 

Ngā mihi 
Te Ratonga Hākinakina | UC Rec & Sport 

It’s time to ‘Fall back’, check you’re emergency ready

Daylight saving’s as good of a time as any to take a moment to make sure you’re all set in case of an emergency. Check you’re prepared:

  • Have you saved UC Security’s number in your phone?

UC Security staff are on campus 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so no matter when you might need to get in touch, someone will always be there to help. Be prepared by having UC Security’s number saved: 0800 823 637.

  • Are your UCGO push notifications turned on?

The UCGO app brings essential UC tools to your phone. One of these tools is emergency push notifications, as you experienced on Thursday. If you didn’t receive a notification that means you need to head to your settings and get them switched on for the app. Push notifications are only used when there is a campus wide emergency we need you to know about, and could include campus evacuations and lock-down situations.

  • Have you updated your emergency contacts?

TŪ KI TE TAHI Keep your emergency contact details updated – go to People Soft to check your information is correct. Instructions are available here>

INSIDERS It’s easy to update your details through myUC. Please take a moment to jump in there to check that the person you’ve listed as your emergency contact is still appropriate, and that their details are correct. While you’re logged in to myUC you can also check that your own details are up-to-date. Make sure these details are correct (especially if you’ve moved recently) in case someone from UC needs to reach out to you.

  • Do you know where the Emergency Procedures are located around your lectures? 

All departments have an Emergency Procedures flip chart outlining what to do in various types of emergencies. The flip charts are on display throughout the University. If you have not seen the flip charts, ask where they are or view the PDF file versions of each page here.

  • Remember: No smoking or vaping on campus

UC is a smokefree campus, meaning you cannot smoke cigarettes or vape on campus grounds, in or near any UC buildings or at any field stations. By respecting the smokefree policy we can all enjoy a healthier place to study, work, socialise and live.

  • Help point towers

There are 13 help towers located across campus to provide information any time, and immediate assistance in an emergency. Read more>

The best place to go with all up to date information about UC’s Commitment to Health, Safety and Wellbeing is online here.