6 Tips for Stress Management Without Stress EatingJuly 30, 2020
Stress Management Without Stress Eating
We’re living through very trying times. From a global pandemic to societal unrest, an economic downturn, and everyday life, each day can feel very overwhelming. Remember it’s important to take care of yourself, not only so that you can feel and be your healthiest, but also so that you can be present for others in your life. Let's learn how you can manage stress without stress eating!
It can be difficult to know how to manage stress without the aid of food. Comfort food is named that for a reason. Lots of people turn to food to deal with stress. With effort and being focused, you can change turning to food to cope and develop healthy ways to manage stress.
Here are some ways you can manage stress without turning to food, ultimately turning these strategies into long-term coping mechanisms.
Strategies for Stress Management Without Stress Eating
It’s important to get your body moving. Ideally, move your body daily for about 30 minutes. But really any amount counts. It doesn’t have to be exhausting, even some walking counts towards physical activity. Exercise is very important for stress relief. It helps our bodies release endorphins, feel-good chemicals in our bodies.
First, ask yourself what would be realistic to achieve in the area of exercise? You don’t want to set yourself up for frustration by planning a workout that you cannot realistically achieve.
Start out small. Maybe just 10 minutes one afternoon, taking a nice walk around the block a few times. If that seems manageable, then take that to twice per week for 10 minutes each. You want to build upon previous successes. Going to the gym might not be something you want to do, however, it doesn’t mean that exercise or moving our bodies is off-limits.
Think outside of the box when it comes to moving your body to destress.
RELAXATION EXERCISE: PMR
There are several relaxation exercises that really can help you manage stress and make your body feel at ease. One is called Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). PMR is a step-by-step exercise whereby you help muscle groups relax by focusing on each section of your body sequentially.
- The easiest way to practice this is by laying down on the floor or in a bed.
- Start with focusing on the muscles in your feet; clench them for a few seconds and then relax them. The goal is to focus on the difference between muscle tension and muscle relaxation.
- As you slowly move up the body to different muscle groups, pay attention to these different muscle groups, moving from the calves to the thighs and all the way up to the muscles in your face.
After the exercise is over, you will likely feel a physiological calm throughout your body. You’ve just trained your body to relax. This exercise is searchable on YouTube if you need assistance. Make sure to practice it often so it becomes more routine.
There has been lots of buzz about mindfulness, but also lots of research that supports its use in stress management. Essentially, mindfulness is the process of noticing what is going on in the present moment. That could be physical sensations you’re experiencing, thoughts, memories, emotions or your environment.
When you notice you’re focusing on the past or future or anything taking you out of the present moment, you pause and gently, without judgment, bring yourself back to the present moment. The breath is useful as a way to anchor this practice. Noticing the breath as it rises and falls can be a great mindfulness stress-reduction application.
FOCUS ON WHAT'S IN YOUR CONTROL
When we look at everything going on around us, we are confronted with a lot of events and situations where we may feel like we don’t have any input or agency in what’s going on. To reduce stress it can be helpful to focus on what’s within your control. That is where you can make a difference and limit your overwhelm.
Make a list of what you can control and what is out of your control. Write down strategies you can implement for controllable items and for those out of your control, implement a relaxation strategy like PMR, mindfulness, or do some physical exercise. Lean on other stress management techniques to get you through.
Nothing is more important than having a community to lean on when you’re stressed. Be that friends, family, coworkers, it’s important to make time to connect with these people. Given you may not be seeing them in person due to quarantine, making an effort to reach out via Zoom or FaceTime is important.
Don’t underestimate the power of sleep. Sleep is there to help us restore and refresh and it is a great stress buster. Each person has a different amount of sleep that leaves them refreshed, but typically it seems to be 7-9 hours per night.
Make the conditions appropriate for restful sleep. Darken your room, make sure it’s cool enough, limit noise outside by closing the window or using a white-noise machine, don’t ingest caffeine, alcohol or tobacco close to bedtime, and remove electronic distractions. You want to make your sleeping space the ideal place to rest and rejuvenate.
These are just some ideas to implement to begin to reduce your stress level and manage your stress eating. Focus on caring for yourself. You are the most important!
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ABOUT THE AUTHORDr. Randi Dublin is the founder of Westchester Health Psychology, P.C. a private psychology practice specializing in the intersection of mental and physical health. She provides psychotherapy for adults who are looking to make health behavior changes and manage stress. Read more articles from Dr. Dublin!