5 Little Known Tips to Help Manage Your Stress and Stress Eating While Staying at Home
How many of you have felt the uneasiness of life during these past several weeks? As a society we continue to practice social distancing and following “Safer at Home” guidelines, however many people are possibly feeling additional stress while steering thru our “brand-new normal.” This pandemic has clearly added stress to all “peoples’ lives” but learning how you cope with it can build you up, your loved ones, and your community. May is mental health month, so I thought it would be the perfect time to be talking about stress management.
Getting stressed out occasionally is commonplace, however when stress becomes chronic–when you face, for example, unrelenting work, nervous feelings over your health or constant concerns about your finances–it can really take a toll on not only on your physical body but on your mind as well.
Boredom and stress can trigger emotional eating, especially when you’re stuck at home and surrounded by food all day long. Many people I have talked to binge-snack and can definitely tell that they’re not eating as healthy as they should. You may be ordering take-out comfort foods that are higher in calories than your usual dinners or cooking at home with limited ingredients you have on-hand, or you may be eating differently than you used to. Stress eating, or emotional eating, however you want to call it, easily creeps up on you without you knowing it, and possibly can impact your health in a negative way.
When you begin to eat in order to escape negative feelings you’re experiencing, in the hope that food will stimulate you to feel better is what is also commonly known as stress eating. Just like it sounds it’s sometimes a self-conscious decision, but most frequently it’s just a mindless reaction to a vague, emotion that you are not really quite sure of. Stress can bring on fatigue or depression, so healthy eating might take a back seat to meals that are comforting, so called comfort-foods. Those comfort-foods are very high in calories and can trigger the release of brain chemicals that stimulate us to feel better with the added consequence to make you want to keep on eating as well. This can lead to a vicious cycle, where overeating can lead to weight gain, increase of stress, which in turn, may lead to more overeating.
The most important thing to do now is to take the best possible care of yourself. I want to share five ways to help reduce your stress and employ good nutritional habits to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy:
Be more self-aware of your feelings. It is a well-known fact that your feelings are the trigger for your stress eating, so why not acknowledge them? It’s definitely okay to feel angry, lonely or plain bored sometimes. These feelings may be unpleasant but on their own are not dangerous, and you don’t necessarily always need to fix them. Let your feelings come and go without making judgments about them.
Find other alternatives to stress eating. A brisk stroll or a drinking a cup of herbal tea might work instead. If “you’re feeling” the need to eat, try crunchy snacks- they can help reduce stress by making your tight jaw muscles to work. Try snacking on almonds, soy nuts or carrots.
Eat regularly and don’t miss meals. Give yourself the proper nutrition you need and eat. When you’re under stressful conditions it’s easy to skip breakfast, lunch or dinner or even skip them completely, however your energy levels will suffer drastically as a result, and you might even end up overeating when you do eventually finally eat. If in your situation stress makes you feel like not eating, try eating smaller portions of healthy food more often throughout the day.
Decrease your caffeine consumption. You may experience low energy when you are under stress and consume caffeine as a way to boost your energy, however this can negatively disrupt your sleep at night. If caffeine has the effect of keeping you up at night, try decaffeinated teas.
Be mindful when eating. When you eat in such a way that you are mindful about it, you try to become more aware of your internal signals of when you are hungry and full, and likewise become more in tune with what triggers you to eat in the first place. Mindful eating can help you avoid overeating and allow you to enjoy your meals, even if you eat less. You can also learn to be more mindful about what you are choosing to eat.
Remember, this is not the time to be limiting your food intake, but a time to focus on eating the most nutrient-dense foods available to you in order to optimize nutrition to maintain a healthy immune system. Do maintain a regular exercise routine, practice meditation to help your body relax, and drink lots of water and get plenty of rest.