Are you stress eating? During stressful times, many of us turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with our emotions, such as drinking, smoking, avoiding exercise, overworking or overeating unhealthy comfort foods or sugary treats. Here are a few simple steps to help manage your mindset and stay healthy, both physically and mentally, during times of uncertainty, overwhelming stress and anxiety.
We all experience stress and anxiety on occasion (some of us more than others as our personality predisposition), but there are situations in our life that can raise our stress levels, such as a divorce, death of a loved one, challenges at work or a job loss, unexpected health diagnoses or simply doing too much and trying to be superhuman day in day out. As a Certified Health Coach, I can help you improve your eating habits, increase your self-esteem and find fulfillment with your life that has gotten derailed due to too much stress and anxiety. The reality is that while we cannot always control the situation that is causing our stress, we can take steps to manage our mindset and take our health into our own hands. Here are 5 ways you can reduce stress and stop stress eating.
- Eat Mindfully
Stress, anxiety and worry not only raise our cortisol levels, lead to weight gain and obesity1 along with a myriad of other chronic health issues. If your stress is tempting you to overeat and turn to unhealthy junk food, or foods with lots of carbs and added sugars, you’re only making matters worse. The perceived temporary dopamine hit you get from carbs and sugar is unfulfilling and short-lived and usually makes us feel terrible about ourselves afterwards.
Providing our bodies with nourishment from real, whole unprocessed foods is a form of self-care, which is needed most during times of stress and anxiety. Buffering your emotions through food is never the satisfying solution and tuning into your actions and the reasons behind them is the first step to ending the cycle of self-sabotage. In addition, if you’re overeating (or undereating) due to stress and anxiety, you may want to consider keeping a food journal for a short period of time to be more mindful of your intake and nutritional choices.
My MyHealthyTransitions Health Coaching mantra is that “Being Healthy Doesn’t Have to Be Hard” and that small changes can add up to BIG results. In my opinion, emotional eating is a strategy that is nuanced and not always “bad” – truthfully, I feel it’s more about your awareness and intentions when eating certain foods that matters most.
Additionally, if you find yourself craving sugary foods when you’re stressed out, or in the midst of a sugar binge, you can take a very simple step and practice a 4-step PAUSE. Put the food down, tune into your Awareness, Understand the real cause (i.e. your boss just sent you an urgent email with an impossible deadline), State your feelings and Engage in 4 deep breaths to put a stop to the mindless eating you started.
Or, you might want to follow a more personalized or formalized meal plan like our Wellness Warriors Anytime Reset or the Further Food 10 Day Sugar Detox to take the impulse option off your mind. If you need accountability to keep you on track, working with me as your personal Health Coach can help you stick with your healthy habits!
- Focus on Gratitude
When we feel a sense of irritation with a disruption of our schedules or a sense of scarcity due to fear of the unknown or a loss, it can be more difficult to feel grateful for what we DO have in our lives. Focusing on what we can be grateful for, even if it’s the simplest of things, can be an easy, immediate tool to take us out of our “woe is me” spiral.
Here are some simple ways to add gratitude into your daily life:
Write it down: keep a journal where you write a few things you are thankful for each day. Even if it’s the smallest things such as being grateful for a sunny day or cuddling with your dog, taking the time to appreciate these small things can be a mood lifter.
Share your gratitude with others. Whether it’s telling people in your life why you’re grateful for them or posting positive messages on your social media pages, sharing positivity can be contagious.
- Turn off the News and Social Media
First of all, it’s important to make sure you are getting accurate information from a reliable source. And then keep in mind that while it’s wise to remain aware of what’s happening in the world, we all need to take a break from the constant feed of doom and gloom and negativity. Try to take a breather from the outside world and focus on the present and your immediate life. Remember you need to take care of yourself, both physically and mentally to help you stay strong and healthy.
- Schedule Time to Distract Yourself AND Time To Worry
Most of us have experienced repetitive thoughts that take us in a spiral of worry. As a result, we usually have a difficult time focusing during the day and can struggle with sleeping at night. Distractions can be useful strategies to take our mind off our anxiety and worries. Meditation, yoga, exercise, participating in a hobby or craft, getting out in nature or engaging with others in a phone call or FaceTime chat are all helpful healthy strategies to divert our attention during times of anxiousness.
In addition, it can also help to intentionally schedule time to process your anxious thoughts and get to the root cause of our emotions. Giving yourself the time to worry can be liberating and helpful to your mental wellbeing. Ideally, this “worry time” will not be right before bed, but if you do find yourself waking up in the middle of the night with anxious thoughts, you can keep a small notebook at your bedside to write them down to get what’s on your mind out during the night. (Usually when you wake up in the morning these fears are much less monumental.)
If you find it impossible to sort through your worrisome thoughts or anxious feelings, working with a licensed counselor or a trained Health Coach like me can be beneficial, as we can help you identify the underlying issues and a positive plan to help you cope with your stress and anxiety.
- Focus on what you CAN control
It’s human nature to want to have control over our lives for a sense of security, but it’s not possible to control everything that touches us as human beings. If you DO have control over something that’s making you anxious or unhappy, then you need to own up to it and take action to change it. The power IS within you to create the life you want, and hiding behind your excuses will only continue to hold you back from the health and happiness you deserve.
On the other hand, if you are overly anxious about aspects outside of your realm of control, which is often the case, it’s better to realize that you simply cannot control everything.
So in closing, I want you to know you’re not alone on your journey, and if there’s any way that I can support you with your health and happiness in all areas of wellness, I invite you to reach out to me to work together on a 1:1 custom MyHealthyTransitions Health Coaching Program that will be designed just for YOU. We all need support systems from time to time and working with a Health Coach like me can be the difference between staying stuck or living the life that you’re meant to live.
Beth Romanski is a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and founder of MyHealthyTransitions Health Coaching, where “Being Healthy Doesn’t Have to be Hard.” As a sugar detox expert, Beth has helped countless people overcome the sugar and carb stronghold to balance their blood sugar naturally using real, whole foods through her popular Wellness Warriors Sugar Detox Program. Beth is the creator and co-host of the Wellness Warriors Radio Podcast, a recognized sugar detox expert, published blogger, and professional health educator as Director of Professional and Continuing Education at Maryland University of Integrative Health. In addition to 1:1 and group health coaching, Beth has developed several wellness courses and frequently presents workshops and lectures on nutrition and living a healthy, balanced life.
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