Is Cancer Linked to Your Diet?

By the time we reach our 85th birthday, one in two of us will be diagnosed with cancer. Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for an estimated 9.6 million deaths in 2018. The statistics may make grim reading, but the fact is that the choices we make in life – including what we eat – can prevent at least one in three cancers.

Thanks to the success of public health messages, we know that the dangers of smoking and excess sun exposure and how they increase our risk of lung and skin cancer. But what you put on your plate should be on that list too, as cancer experts become more aware of the important role diet plays in cancer.

Some foods have hit the headlines because of their anti-cancer properties – among the better-known ones are broccoli, cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables. Healthy as these foods are, it’s unlikely that there are ‘magic bullet’ specific foods or nutrients that in themselves cause or protect against cancer, says Dr Kate Allen, World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) International’s Executive Director of Science & Public Affairs.

“Rather, different patterns of diet and physical activity combine to create a metabolic state that makes you more or less susceptible to cancer,” she says.

In 2018 the WCRF published the landmark report Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: a Global Perspective, the result of an ongoing review of decades of evidence by independent experts from across the globe.

According to Dr Allen, these are the key messages we need to take from that report.

1. Avoid the gradual weight gain through healthy eating and exercise.

There are at least 12 cancers linked to excess weight, including liver, breast, prostate and kidney cancer.

2. Eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, wholegrains and beans. The dietary patterns consistently linked to lower rates of cancer are high in these foods, says Dr Allen.

3. Limit consumptions of ‘fast foods’, red and processed meat, sugar-sweetened drinks and alcohol. Fast food and sugar-sweetened drinks fuel overweight and obesity, red and processed meats are linked with colorectal cancer and alcohol is a cause of six different types of cancer.

4. Do not rely on supplements for cancer prevention. Aim instead to get everything you need from your diet, advises Dr Allen.

Eat More, Bin Less

You start the week with good intentions, stocking up on fruit and vegetables to get your daily recommended servings. Then life gets in the way. By Friday you find yourself binning not only fruit and vegetables, but excess bread, milk and eggs.

Globally, an estimated 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted each year. That’s a staggering one-third of all food produced for human consumption, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. And it doesn’t just damage our household budget, it affects the planet too.

Food in landfill

Fewer than three out of 10 of us recognise the impact food waste has on the environment. When food goes into landfill, it decomposes and produces methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide. If you can, compost your food waste (even small balconies can accommodate a worm farm) or investigate whether your local council collects food scraps for compost. According to the FAO, home composting has the potential to divert up to 150kg of food waste per household annually.

What are we doing wrong?

1. We cook too much food.

Solution: Unless you’ll be eating the leftovers within a few days, or plan to freeze them, cook for your needs.

2. We throw out perfectly good food.

Solution: You don’t necessarily have to throw out foods as soon as they reach the ‘best-before’ date. There’s a difference between use-by dates and best-before dates. Foods stamped with a use-by date should be eaten or frozen by this date as they are more perishable. But foods with a best-before date can be eaten after this date, as they are less perishable and usually perfectly acceptable.

3. We don’t know how to use food that’s past its best

Solution: Revive wilted vegetables by plunging them in a bowl of iced water. Use them to make pesto, curry or soup, fry them up with garlic, blend them into a smoothie, or make them into a vegetable soup. Lightly cook fruit that’s gone soft, then use them to top your morning muesli or weekend pancakes, layer with natural yoghurt, make into muffins or crumbles, or use to fill a fruit tart.

4. We buy takeaways at the last minute before cooking the food we have at home

Solution: Search online for recipes that take 20 minutes or less – and plan them in advance.

5. We buy too much food.


  • check the cupboard and fridge before shopping so you don’t double up
  • shop with a meal plan and a list and stick to it,
  • only buy in bulk if you can use it before it spoils
  • don’t shop when you’re hungry, as studies show you’ll buy more food than you need.


Do we need to walk 10,000 steps a day?

It’s become something of a magic number. Walk 10,000 steps a day we’re told, to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. But can we still get fit by doing less?

Thanks to activity trackers, step counters and smart phone apps, we’re seldom in the dark about how many steps we’ve clocked up. Many of us don’t have time to fit in 10,000 steps (the equivalent of eight kilometres), and for the one in five of us who don’t reach this number, there’s some good news.

First, there’s not much science behind 10,000 steps. It was part of a marketing campaign for a Japanese pedometer company in the 1060s, a way of encouraging people to increase the time they spent walking every day. Being a nice round number, the idea took off, both in Japan and across the world.

Second, our public health guidelines promote at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a day. This translates to between 3,000 and 4,000 steps. The more you do, however, the more you’ll benefit, and you’ll notice improvements in your fitness as you increase your daily step count.

Pace may be just as important

As fixated as we get with reaching a target step count, our pace is just as important, says Associate Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis, from the University of Sydney's School of Public Health. "There's a big difference between doing a slow-paced 10,000 steps and a brisk walk of 7,000 steps," he told ABC online.

“To be considered moderate intensity, in general most adults need to take 100 steps per minute,” Professor Stamatakis explains.

Moderate intensity is a pace where you’re able to notice your breathing but can carry on a conversation without noticeable pauses between words. Many people think of this as a brisk walk. You’ll get even fitter if you up your pace to a vigorous intensity. This means you can talk to a friend but will be interrupted with noticeable pauses between words to take a breath. That’s about 130 steps per minute, according to Professor Stamatakis.

Tame Your Inner Critic

Is your inner bully quick to point out when you’re failing at what you’re doing? If you’re often secretly assaulted by self-doubt – that voice inside telling you you’re not good enough – know that you’re not alone, and that there are ways to turn down your internal critic.

No one gets through life without making mistakes. Or without failing, getting rejected, feeling guilty or not living up to expectations. It’s part of being human. Yet many of us will respond to these common experiences by criticising ourselves harshly.

For some of us the inner critic appears every now and again, while for others it’s a never-ending chatter of such ferocity that it undermines how we feel about ourselves and our effectiveness in life and work. This voice can be especially loud for anyone experiencing anxiety or depression.

Psychologist Sabina Read believes that we all have an internal critic. “But that doesn’t mean that the inner critic is always giving us valid messages. Often, if you’re living with symptoms of anxiety or depression that inner critic will seem louder.”

So what do you do to recognise and challenge the inner critic?

1.   Notice the negative self-talk. It’s easy to allow your mind to ruin your day, so give yourself the conscious goal of catching yourself saying negative things.

1.      2.   Don’t believe everything your inner critic is saying. Remember that your thoughts are not facts. “When the critic is on high-repeat we just take it as gospel that whatever’s being said must be the truth and we don’t stop to challenge it,” explains Ms Read. “Then there’s a reinforcing loopback because physically or emotionally our body responds, and we feel sick in the stomach and it makes us think that the fact is even more watertight.”

2.     3.   Take your thoughts to court. This means looking at the evidence for what your inner voice is saying, suggests Ms Read. “If you wandered into a courtroom and said, ‘Well, I’m just hopeless, there’s no way I’ll be able to thrive in this relationship or cope in this job’, it’s unlikely a judge and jury would accept such a sweeping statement. The legal team would say, ‘Where’s the evidence for that?’ And if there was no evidence your case would be thrown out of court.”

3.       4.   Speak to yourself with kindness. According to self-compassion researcher Kristin Neff, the antidote for self-criticism is self-compassion. This means treating and talking to yourself kindly, as you would your close friends, and accepting your imperfections along with your strengths.

4.       Self-compassion has been shown to reduce negative emotions and highly self-critical thinking across numerous studies.

5.       “Self-compassion involves valuing yourself in a deep way, making choices that lead to wellbeing in the long term,” says Neff.

Neff and Christopher Germer’s 2019 research shows that people who offer themselves self-compassion are more able to cope with tough situations like illness, divorce, and loss of job, and are more likely to engage in healthier lifestyle behaviours such as eating nutritious food and exercising.

6.       5.  Seek out your supports. When your inner critic is at its loudest, check in with a supportive friend, colleague or family member. Develop a shortlist of people you trust and can count on to offer encouragement and compassion when you need it.

7.       6.   Focus on the things you do well. If you’re constantly looking for information that confirms you’re not good enough, you’ll find it. Instead focus your attention elsewhere, on the skills you do have. It can be hard to see your own skills because they’ve been with you for so long you think everyone has them. But they don’t. Each night, write down in a journal three things you did well that day – look at these whenever your critic is particularly loud.

8.       7.   Be kind to yourself with self-care. Give yourself some time everyday for your mental and physical wellbeing. For example, schedule time to take a walk (even if it’s only for 10 minutes), read a book, go for a swim, break for a coffee, do some yoga, or practise meditation.

Stroke’s Early Warning Signs

It kills more women than breast cancer and more men than prostate cancer. Yet how much do they really know about stroke?

Every year, over 15 million people globally suffer stroke. That person could be your friend, workmate, family member, or even yourself.


Use the FAST test

Being able to quickly identify the signs of stroke is essential, because the faster you get to hospital for treatment, the better your chance of survival and of making a good recovery.

To help you recognise stroke symptoms and act quickly, there’s a simple acronym everyone should learn, says the Stroke Foundation – the word FAST:

Face: Check their face. Has their mouth drooped? Can they smile?

Arms: Can they lift both arms?

Speech: Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?

Time: Is critical. If you see any of these signs call emergency services straight away.

The most common signs of stroke are facial weakness, arm weakness and difficulty with speech. But they are not only signs. Other signs that may occur alone or in combination include:

  • weakness
  • numbness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg
  • dizziness
  • loss of balance, or an unexplained fall
  • loss of vision
  • sudden blurring or decreased vision
  • headache, often severe and abrupt
  • difficulty swallowing

A stroke is always a medical emergency. Don’t put off calling an ambulance, even if you think you’re making a fuss over nothing, or the signs disappear within a short space of time. If you suspect stroke, no matter how long the symptoms last, call emergency services immediately. The longer a stroke remains untreated, the greater the chance of stroke-related brain damage.


Over 80% of strokes can be prevented

High blood pressure is the most important known risk factor for stroke. Reduce your risk by making time for a health check with your GP for all stroke risk factors. Take charge of your health too, by a healthy lifestyle – being active, eating well, quitting smoking and drinking alcohol in moderation.

3 Myths About Anxiety

Despite it being the most common mental health condition in the world, anxiety is often misunderstood, with many of us still holding damaging attitudes towards it.

Your body works hard to keep you safe. One way it does this is through anxiety – by stopping you going too near the cliff edge, or getting you to see a doctor if you’re feeling unwell.

But as psychiatrist Mark Cross, author of the book Anxiety, explains: “When anxiety is intense, enduring and causing the kind of panic that interferes with a person’s life so they can’t function well, then it may be that they are suffering from an anxiety disorder and need professional help.”

Unfortunately, anxiety remains a misunderstood condition, which can lead to stigma and discrimination for people who experience it.

“A quarter of us will experience anxiety at some point, so it is concerning that roughly half of us still have either misconceptions or are unaware of the condition, its symptoms and available treatment,” says Beyond Blue CEO Georgie Harman.

Here are three common misconceptions about anxiety:

1.           It’s not a real medical condition

We all get anxious, but for most of us it’s fleeting, and the feelings pass once the stressor disappears.

Part of the problem, is that because most people have experienced anxiety at some level, we tend to minimise it. As described in the book Anxiety: “If I try to explain the debilitating anxiety that I experience, I feel sure that people will roll their eyes and think, ‘We all get anxious sometimes, get over it.’” But anxiety is a real medical condition. On top of the distressing psychological symptoms, anxiety can cause stomach problems, dizziness, chills, increased heartbeat, chest pain, trouble breathing, headaches, muscles tension, and insomnia.


2.           People with anxiety bring it on themselves, or can ‘snap out of it’

There isn’t an on and off button for anxiety, says Beyond Blue. Many people still believe that people dealing with anxiety should be able to just switch it off, or ‘calm down’.

Mark Cross, who suffers from anxiety himself, has experienced this attitude firsthand: “The person [with anxiety] may seem so calm that others doubt the veracity of their distress,” he says. “Because there are often no tangible symptoms, there’s a common perception that people somehow bring anxiety on themselves, that perhaps they have maladjusted temperaments, or lack willpower.

“These views ignore the evidence that people suffering anxiety don’t choose to be in that situation,” he explains, “and that it takes a massive personal effort to maintain clear thinking and acting.”


3.           Anxiety is a sign of personal weakness

Having anxiety does not mean you are weak or inferior. Anxiety, like other mental health conditions, affects people of all ages and all walks of life. Any perception that it is a weakness must change, says Beyond Blue, as this stigma means people dealing with anxiety are less likely to seek support.

How to Spot an Overuse Injury

You might notice soreness or discomfort at first in your neck, arms, wrist, fingers or shoulders. Then perhaps you develop tingling, or have difficulty doing everyday tasks like opening a jar. These symptoms could indicate Occupational Overuse Syndrome.


Occupational Overuse Syndrome (OOS) is also sometimes called Repetitive Strain Injury or RSI. It is a type of injury common to fingers, hands, wrists and elbows that is caused by repetitive movements or awkward postures.

Repetitive manual tasks such as working on a keyboard, working on an assembly line, or even playing a musical instrument can overwork and inflame vulnerable tendons. Symptoms include pain, weakness, swelling, numbness and restricted mobility of the joint.

We usually associate OOS with repetitive hand movements such as typing, but any part of the body can be affected, including the tendons and muscles of the fingers, hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, back and neck.

Who is most at risk?

Any job that calls for fast and repetitive movements, or one where you have to work in fixed or awkward postures for long periods of time can trigger OOS. People who work with their hands are most at risk, with occupations most affected including:

  • Office workers – including anyone who uses a keyboard and those doing clerical duties
  • Process workers – working on an assembly line and packing
  • Piece workers – such as people working in the clothing industry
  • Manual workers – such as bricklayers and carpenters

Performing repetitive manual tasks will put stress on your body. But so too will poor workplace design and poor work practices, such as furniture, tool or equipment that aren’t comfortable for you; benches or workstations that are too high, too low, or too far from your body; machinery that is too fast for user comfort; tight deadlines that mean you don’t take sufficient breaks; and a workspace design that means you have to repeatedly bend, stretch or twist.

Don’t ignore OOS

Your OOS will not go away by itself. Over time the discomfort and pain are likely to get worse without treatment. See your doctor for treatment, advice and a referral to an appropriate specialist. Also tell your manager, as there may be adjustments you can make to your workplace, such as using ergonomically designed furniture and equipment, varying your work tasks, and scheduling work to include frequent breaks.

How to Stop Stress from Affecting Your Health

Worrying about your health. Concern over your job and finances. Anxiety for your children. Stress can impact your entire body, so learn some quick ways to reduce it.

Would you know if you were stressed? It sounds a simple enough question. You’d feel it wouldn’t you? Worry, anger, anxiety – these are some of the more familiar signs of stress. But stress can also affect your body in more surprising ways, thanks to your body’s stress hormones.

Whatever the cause of stress, everyone responds in a similar way, a way we’ve done for thousands of years, explains Kate Harkness, Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry and Director of the Mood Research Laboratory, Queen’s University, Ontario.

When animals or humans perceive a threat in their environment the adrenal glands release the hormone cortisol and adrenaline, she says. These work to pump oxygen to the major muscles to enable us to fight or escape the perceived danger (the ‘fight or flight’ response). This response produces physical symptoms such as heart palpitations and chest tightness, as the heart pumps oxygen to the muscles; and stomach butterflies, nausea and tingling, as blood leaves the stomach and extremities to reach the major muscles.

Your body doesn’t know the difference between immediate, life-threatening stress, and the slow-burn type of stress we more commonly experience. All it knows is that it needs to release stress hormones because your body is sensing a threat in your environment.


Your body on stress

Cortisol is a potent anti-inflammatory that helps repair wounds and fight infection – useful if you’ve been in a situation that caused injury. But in the long term the cells in your immune system becomes less sensitive to the anti-inflammatory effects of cortisol, and as a result, explains Professor Harkness, all that extra cortisol can start to increase inflammation and affect your immune system. That’s why you’re more likely to pick up infections and viruses after a long period of stress.

Stress can impact your body in other ways too. Without taking steps to reduce or relieve your stress you can experience:

  • Headaches
  • Muscles aches and pains
  • Fatigue and insomnia
  • Digestive problems
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar
  • Weight gain, mostly around the midsection and upper back
  • Memory and concentration difficulties

As important as the stress response is when we are in a threatening situation, it’s just as important that we learn ways to lower it when we’re faced with everyday problems.


3 ways to lower stress hormones

Even small, positive changes can have strong stress-reducing effects, says Professor Harkness.

  • Get active. Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, as well as stimulating the production of mood elevating endorphins. Choose a leisurely walk, yoga session, a run, swim, or play a sport.
  • Breathe. Simple breathing exercises can help reduce stress. Breathe in lowly and deeply, hold your breath briefly, and exhale slowly, thinking ‘relax’. Repeat the sequence five to 10 times.
  • Laugh. Researchers have shown that this natural medicine can improve your mood, lower cortisol, strengthen your immune system, relax your muscles, and combat stress. Listen to a funny podcast, watch amusing YouTube videos, have a laugh with friends, or tune into your favourite comedy show.

Sleep, interrupted

You know when you feel sleepy. You may even describe yourself as tired all the time. But regular sleepiness can tip over into something far more dangerous if you have a condition called obstructive sleep apnoea.

We all have the occasional poor night’s sleep, waking up feeling sluggish and tired. During the day we may lack energy, find it hard to concentrate or notice a low mood. But people who have obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) can experience these feelings every day.

Nearly one billion people globally have OSA, making it one of the most common sleep disorders. The health and financial costs are high. According to Australia’s Sleep Health Foundation, OSA not only disturbs your sleep, it’s a stress on your body.

There is strong evidence that people with untreated moderate to severe OSA have other health problems, says the Sleep Health Foundation. These include increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and depression. Thinking is less clear, mood is affected, and productivity at work and at home suffer. OSA also increases the risk of motor vehicle and workplace accidents by six to seven times.

With a recent study in the Lancet estimating almost one billion people are affected by sleep apnoea, it is not hard to imagine that the financial costs associated with this are high, including health care costs, lost productivity and other financial impacts.


What is OSA?

OSA is more than just bad snoring. If you have OSA the walls of your throat relax and narrow during sleep, interrupting normal breathing. Your airway can partially or completely close, which means your breathing often stops for a short time, even for up to a minute. You’ll wake for a few seconds to open your airway, perhaps snort and gasp, then drift back to sleep again, often without realising you’ve woken up. This can happen hundreds of times a night. OSA is classified as mild, moderate or severe depending on how many times your sleep is interrupted during an hour.


What are the signs of OSA?

Loud snoring is a very common symptom of OSA (so loud your bed partner might complain that it’s intolerable), as is waking during the night choking or gasping for air. You may wake in the morning feeling unrefreshed, experience morning headaches, a dry mouth or a sore throat. Daytime tiredness is common, as is difficulty concentrating, and you may notice your work quality suffering as you experience reduced alertness.

Your mood can be affected when you have OSA – it’s common to feel more irritable, depressed and anxious after unrefreshing sleep, and to lose your sex drive. Rapid weight gain or difficulty losing weight can also result from untreated OSA. But these symptoms can come and go, and many people remain unaware that they have the condition, or don’t realise that it is serious.


Who gets OSA?

While OSA mainly affects men, women can have it too, particularly after menopause. OSA was reportedly a contributing factor behind the death of actress Carrie Fisher in 2016. Sleep apnoea can even affect children. Aside from being male, there are other factors that increase your risk, including:

  • Being overweight, in particular having excess fatty tissue around the neck, which can cause a narrowing of the throat. However OSA can also occur in people who aren’t overweight.
  • Having a large neck circumference (>43cm for men; >40cm for women).
  • Being middle aged and older.
  • Smoking – smokers are three times more likely to have sleep apnoea than non-smokers.
  • Excess alcohol consumption, particularly at night. Alcohol can relax the muscles in your throat, closing the upper airway. Sleeping pills can have a similar effect.


First, get a diagnosis

Don’t attempt to self-diagnose sleep apnoea. First see your doctor, who can refer you to a sleep specialist if necessary, who may recommend a sleep study. That way you’ll find out if you have sleep apnoea, whether it’s mild, moderate or severe, and what treatment would be most appropriate for you.


What you can do to reduce your risk

According to the Sleep Health Foundation, for people with a mild level of OSA and few symptoms, losing weight, decreasing the amount of alcohol consumed in the evening and adjusting their sleeping position may be all that is needed. (Most people have more OSA episodes if they sleep on their backs).

Of course, losing weight is easier said than done. But losing just 10 per cent of your body weight can have a big effect on sleep apnoea symptoms. Ask your doctor for a referral to a dietitian who can help make achievable adjustments to your diet and physical activity to aid weight loss.

A simple solution to help you sleep on your side that you can do yourself is to place a tennis ball into a pocket sewn onto the back of your pyjamas, making it uncomfortable to sleep on your back. You can buy more sophisticated versions of this – chest belts with back pockets that hold inflatable bumpers, or electronic devices that buzz or vibrate when you lie on your back.

If you have moderate or severe sleep apnoea, other treatment may be needed in addition to weight loss. These include:

  1. CPAP. The first line treatment for OSA is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This is where the patient wears a mask and sufficient air is blown into the mask to prevent airway closure during sleep. CPAP is highly effective in reducing sleep-related breathing disturbances and millions of people worldwide have had their lives changed by CPAP therapy.
  2. Dental appliances. For some people an oral appliance (mandibular advancement device) fitted by a specialist dentist can hold the jaw forward during the night, helping to keep the airway open.
  3. Drug therapy. Researchers are trialling new drug therapies which aim to open up the airways and improve sufferers’ sleep.

Director Professor Danny Eckert says that a range of issues means OSA is often untreated. “New treatments are urgently needed,” he says, “and we’re aiming to use and develop novel approaches to identify the causes of OSA on a per patient basis, improve current therapies and management approaches and test if new targeted therapies can be used to treat OSA.”

Better Choices When You’re Feeling Stressed

Our world is filled with things that cause stress. Whether it’s money worries, a bad day at work, health anxiety, family conflict, or even boredom, stress causes us to respond in ways that aren’t necessarily good for us. What do you do to feel better, and are there more helpful solutions?

Your stress habit: the daily drink

An occasional alcoholic drink to calm your nerves isn’t going to do you any harm. But drowning your stress in a bottle of wine isn’t doing your body any favours in the long term.

We know that alcohol is linked to a wide range of disease including cancer, liver disease and heart disease. Alcohol can also be damaging to your emotional health, especially if you already experience depression or anxiety.

And if you drink before bed, your sleep quality may not improve, says the Sleep Health Foundation. While you may fall asleep quickly after drinking, alcohol is associated with waking in the night, night sweats, nightmares, and headaches. And without sufficient rest, you’re less able to handle stress.

The solution: Tempted to reach for the beer or wine? Get out of the habit and explore non-alcoholic options. If you want the taste of an alcoholic drink, try non-alcoholic wines, distilled spirits and beer. You’d be in good company. According to a DrinkWise study, more and more of us are saying no to alcoholic drinks with 20 per cent of us abstaining from drinking in 2017.

Make a note of when you’re reaching for a drink. If it’s early evening after a stressful day, taking time out for yourself, even as little as 10 to 15 minutes (for a walk, meditation, quiet read, quick workout or listening to music) can work to calm your mind and reduce your stress.

Your stress habit: comfort eating

There’s nothing like a period of stress to throw your good eating intentions out of the window. Since we were children, we’ve known how effective food can be to comfort us during difficult times. The problem of course, is the kind of foods we turn to. Anxious, worried, lonely or bored? It’s easy to reach for sweet or salty snacks or a bowl of ice cream.

But don’t be too hard on yourself. Making bad food choices from time to time is something we all do, and it doesn’t mean you’ve abandoned your healthy eating habits. Emotional eating is only really a problem when it’s your only coping mechanism. Once you’ve acknowledged that your choices aren’t doing you any favours health-wise, you can start making some switches.

The solution: If it is comfort you’re after, sometimes a hot drink can be what you need. A cup of tea, a low-calorie hot chocolate or a miso soup may work as a pick-me-up. Take a brief time-out too if you can – maybe listen to music or a podcast, go for a short walk, or read a few chapters of a novel.

Are you after the satisfying crunch of salty chips? Opt for a small handful of unsalted nuts instead, and throw in a few tamari almonds or wasabi peas to give you an added flavour hit. Otherwise you could make your own popcorn. Popcorn is a high-fibre healthy snack provided it isn’t covered in sugar or salt. You’ll find recipes for healthy homemade popcorn online or choose the healthiest option in the supermarket.

Fruit doesn’t always hit the spot when you’re feeling stressed, but a small bowl of chopped banana mixed with natural yoghurt, a drizzle of honey and a light sprinkling of granola will fill you up and may satisfy your cravings.

Your stress habit: retail therapy

Many of us go shopping to fill a void or to feel happier – in fact the ‘shopper’s high’ has been likened to the endorphin surge of the runner’s high. While a little retail therapy is fairly harmless and can lift your spirits, if it becomes a regular habit it can seriously make a mess your budget and cause you to buy things you don’t even need. And with online shopping so accessible, it’s easy to get your fix, even if you have to wait for the product to arrive. You don’t even have the experience of handing over your money – it’s all done with the click of a button.

Buying things on a whim makes us feel good, with studies showing it lights up the pleasure centre in the brain. A 2011 study in the Journal of Psychology and Marketing supports this, finding that a shopping spree does have a positive effect on mood.

The downside, of course, is that too much spending on non-essentials can lead to debt we can ill afford.

The solution: Wait 24 hours before making an impulse purchase. If you still want the item the next day, and you can afford it, then buy it. But by then you may have forgotten about it or decided to wait until you’ve saved up. If you recognise you often reach for your credit card or favourite online store to feel better, stop and consider what else can give you the same feeling. Perhaps you can get the same happy endorphins with exercise – whether that’s a brisk walk, yoga, or kickboxing. Or you may find satisfaction from cleaning out your wardrobe and giving away unwanted clothes to charity.