Tag Archives: 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


Livestream a RecCentre fitness class right to your living room for FREE!

Too cold? Too rainy? Too meh to make the trip to the gym, but deep down you know you’ll feel better for it? We might just have a solution for you!

Livestreaming UC RecCentre classes to your living room!
  • For a limited time, you’ll be able to livestream a selected range of group fitness classes, and get moving in the comfort of your home.
  • Once the livestream is finished -that’s it! It’s not recorded or saved, so you have to lock it in your diary and commit to your health, none of this ‘I’ll do it later’ (and then not doing it!)
  • All you need is to download the Rec&Sport app, then you can cast to your TV or just use the phone itself and get your exercise fix quick and easy – no battling for a free park on Kirkwood, and no rain or wind in your hair on your skateboard!
  • Head to our website for full instructions on how to use. 
FREE for limited time – how to join in
  • From Sunday 1 August, when you open your app and head to the Book a Class section, you’ll find a range of ‘Livestream’ classes available to book.
  • You’ll need to book into the Livestream class (be sure it’s not the gym based one IRL). That way, you’ll get access when the class starts.
  • This service will be free for a limited time for all of our members – until the end of the mid-term break (Sunday 12 September).
  • All students enjoy free RecCentre membership and app access courtesy of your student levy. You just need to sign up online, then download the app. 
Charges kick in from 13 September
  • To continue to enjoy the service at the end of the free trial period we’ve kept the costs super low. That means even if you head out of Christchurch for the holidays (but within NZ), you can stay connected with us and stay active with your favourite teachers.
  • We’ll email you information about that near the end of the trial, or you can check our website. 
  • You’ll also have access to a huge range of On-demand classes, to play at any time.
  • Currently, these are Technogym Master Trainers, and cover a range of styles.
  • In the future, we plan to record some classes (a bit like our YouTube ones over lockdown, but a bit more jazzy) and upload those as well.

If you’ve got any questions, (and you can’t find the answer on our webpage), just hit up one of our staff at the gym, flick us an email, Facebook message or give us a call.

Looking forward to having you livestream with us!

Ngā mihi
Te Ratonga Hākinakina | UC Rec&Sport

Can you spot an unhealthy relationship? (3 min read)

There is a line in the Netflix show, BoJack Horseman, that I find useful when thinking about relationships, “When you look at someone through rose-coloured glasses, all the red flags just look like flags”. I like this quote because it sums up why it’s so important to be able to identify and name behaviours in relationships that may be unhealthy – or healthy.

Unhealthy Behaviours

In unhealthy relationships, one person has power and control. Sometimes, it’s difficult to know if your relationship is healthy. Here are a few signs that will hopefully help you take off your rose-coloured glasses and spot those red flags.

  • Possessiveness and jealousy.
  • Reading your messages and wanting the passwords to your social media.
  • Isolating you from your friends and family.
  • Threatening harm to you or themselves.
  • Threatening your whānau, friends, pets, or property.
  • Yelling or breaking things when they’re angry.
  • Telling you how to behave.
  • Putting you down and belittling you.
  • Making you feel responsible for their actions or that it’s your job to keep them happy.
  • You think that being with them is better than being on your own. Or you think you can change them.
  • You feel embarrassed when you hang out in public.
  • Your gut is telling you that the relationship is unhealthy.

Healthy Behaviours

A healthy relationship doesn’t mean it’s perfect, and no one is healthy all the time. And they don’t look the same for everyone because people have different needs. Those needs may change over time or depend on the people in the relationship.

However, there are behaviours you should work towards to help your relationship flourish.

  • Open communication. You can be honest without fearing how the other person will respond.
  • The relationship feels balanced, and everyone puts in effort to make it successful.
  • Fun!
  • You have space to be independent outside of the relationship.
  • You take responsibility for your actions.
  • Healthy ways to resolve conflict. Occasional disagreements and arguments are OK. What matters is how you approach that conflict. Honesty and respect are key.
  • The relationship moves at a comfortable pace.
  • You respect each other’s boundaries.
  • You are a team. You work together and support each other.

Storm Gardner
Student Advisor
Atawhai Akonga | Student Care Team

If you need to talk to someone about your relationship: