We all have stress and different ways of managing it. Some people handle stress in a healthy way – exercising, talking, reading. Other times we may not handle stress so well. We revert to unhealthy habits instead. Stress eating is one behavior people engage in that can be a harmful attempt to cope with stress. Consuming food may cause a temporary relief from distress, but doing this in excess can create additional problems.
There are many factors which influence stress responses. These can be internal factors like the way someone interprets events based on their own life experiences, as well as external factors like money, work, family responsibilities, relationships, and health. Unhealthy or avoidant coping mechanisms like eating, create a temporary relief from the tense state. Thus making it so difficult to stop stress eating.
What does research say about stress eating?
Once the stress response is activated the person may look for ways to recover. You may take a direct approach such as facing the issue by talking to family and friends for advice, or avoid it by smoking, drinking alcohol or eating. Researchers studying stress and self regulation found that high or acute stress levels were related with higher use of unhealthy coping skills like eating excessively. They also found that people were well aware that they were using those behaviors as a way to reduce their stress. As if this weren’t enough of a problem for those trying to reduce their food intake, lose some weight, and make healthy choices, the preferred food during this long periods of stress, seems to be the one rich in sugar and fats, according to a research in the relationship between stress, eating behavior and obesity.
Learning to manage stress through healthy coping mechanisms should be a priority. You probably have some ideas about healthy ways you can manage stress through hobbies, socialization and physical activity. There are behavioral and mental changes you can make as well to help you manage stress more effectively especially when it is difficult to stop stress eating.
Identify your feelings and know which ones are your stress triggers. Spend some time thinking about areas of your life that cause you stress. Ask yourself where these stressors come from, are they necessary and what you typically do in these situations. How has that worked or not worked for you in the past?
Eat at regular consistent times, don’t skip meals. Get a good nights sleep. Be kind to yourself. Focus only on work when working and on family when at home. Disconnect from the office when you take days off.
Learn effective ways to communicate and set boundaries, so you can be the priority in you own life. This doesn’t mean that you can’t help anyone, it means that your physical and mental health are indispensable. You have to be well to be able to give and to be there for others
Focus on the end game.
Focus on the result as a way to stay motivated. Imagine how satisfied, accomplished, and happy you will feel when stress isn’t able to overtake you, cause you to engage in stress eating or other unhealthy behaviors.
Don’t make excuses.
Try to stop making excuses saying that you will do it when you get more money or time or when this or that happens. Change requires commitment and effort but the result is rewarding for you and for your love ones.
What causes you stress and how do you manage it?