Stress and poor health behaviors don’t always go hand in hand…

We often assume that stress triggers poor health decisions and behavior… Snacking on more junk food than usual. Overeating. Not going to the gym as much. But according to Wendy Wood from USC, we are just as likely to fall back on healthy, good habits under stress as we are to “self-sabotage.” In other words, stress and fatigue can trigger good health decisions too!

In a study by Wood and her colleagues, they followed students for a semester and observed their habits and daily routines. The researchers found that during exam periods (times of stress and sleep-deprivation) students were likely to fall back on old habits. Students who ate unhealthy breakfasts (like doughnuts) throughout the semester ate more junk food during exams, whereas those who ate healthy breakfasts (like oatmeal) were more likely to continue eating oatmeal during testing periods. Even frequent gym-goers were more likely to exercise, even under stress and time limits!

So the next time you are under stress, pay closer attention to your behaviors…it may be saying something about your day-to-day habits rather than just a temporary case of indulgence!