We have all been there — we come home from work with the dread of looming deadlines that seem to have no foreseeable end, or we keep mulling over the argument we just had with our loved one, or we worry about that big decision we just made that could affect the rest of our lives. The stress keeps mounting and to get it under control, we turn to that comforting and shiny bag of potato chips or plunge our faces into a greasy but oh-so-satisfyingly-good fast food meal.
Problems of a Stress Eater
Managing stress through food is a type of emotional eating that plagues many individuals. Turning to food to ease our worries and make us feel better, albeit temporarily, is a solution we use too often, and usually to the detriment of our overall health. For those who are highly dependent on food to manage their stress, it can lead to long-term health concerns such as excessive weight gain from overeating, which can then result in health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
Furthermore, it is not only our physical health that suffers from the effects of stress eating but also our emotional health. Using food as a stress management tool might work well in the short-term, but it is not uncommon for individuals to feel a sense of guilt after binging on an overload of junk food.
Your Healthy Path to De-Stressing
We are not going to lie — breaking the habit of stress eating is tough and you might stumble along the way, falling back into your old habits. However, with some self-control and determination, you will be well on your way towards a healthy journey of managing stress. Here are some tips to get you started:
Just Keep Breathing
When you are feeling stressed out or overwhelmed, take a pause and try to calm yourself down by taking in a few deep breaths. Breathe in slowly and imagine the air filling your entire body, then exhale. Be sure to just focus on your breathing; set aside any problems or issues you are facing at the moment that are stressing you out. Even if it is just for a short time, doing deep breathing exercises can go a long way towards helping you take a break from your stresses and relax. They will also allow you to clear your mind so you can deal with your problems more effectively.
Seek Social Support
Instead of reaching for that bar of chocolate in the fridge, grab your phone instead and call someone whom you can confide in. Sometimes, the problems we face become overwhelming because we get too wrapped up in our current situation and we forget to give ourselves a break. This is why being able to talk about your problems with someone you trust can help relieve you of all the stress that has been mounting over time. The ability to connect with someone can be all we need to help us feel better and distance ourselves from our current situation. Plus, your trusted confidant might even be able to provide you with useful advice for the problems you are facing and provide you with a different perspective.
A change of scenery can be what you need to relieve your stress and help you relax. If you find that your stress level is reaching a tipping point, get up and out of the current environment you are in, whether it is at home or the office. Take a short walk outside to get some fresh air or do stretching exercises if you are unable to leave your current location. If you feel like it, go for a run around your neighbourhood or get in a session of your preferred sporting activity. Physical activity is a great way to refresh both your mind and body so you can have a better handle on your stress.
Build a Journaling Habit
Ever felt like your mind is all over the place, with all your thoughts and feelings filling up every inch of space in your head? And you end up feeling helpless because all your problems seem to be piling up with no end in sight. This is where journaling can help. Writing down your thoughts and what you are feeling at the moment can significantly help you in dealing with your stresses as it enables you to organise your thoughts in a more coherent manner. This allows you to have a better picture of what you are going through so you can work towards an effective, clear-headed solution.
Have a Laugh
The saying “Laughter is the best medicine” exists for a reason. If deep breathing exercises, getting active or journaling does not help you in managing your stress, laughter definitely will. Watch your favourite sitcom or comedy on Netflix or funny baby videos on YouTube — whatever makes you laugh out loud until you are rolling on the floor.