Between work commitments, family drama, social obligations, and the pressure we place on ourselves to be the perfect member of society, life can get a little stressful. And every so often, we feel the need to escape.
Whether it’s finding comfort in a long run, a tough workout, a bottle of wine, or a tub of ice cream, we’ve all turned to something to help us escape at one point or another.
Now obviously taking the “fight” approach to stress as opposed to the “flight” approach is more productive in the long-run – hiding from our problems only makes them disappear temporarily.
But we’re all human, and eventually things can just become too much.
Saying I struggle with stress is an understatement. I spent many years hiding from my problems by drinking myself into an oblivion and never really learning how to deal with things.
When I stopped drinking and lost that coping mechanism, I often found myself wanting to dive head first into a tub of ice cream or a bag of chips at the thought of a stressful situation.
And while I consider myself to be at least a little bit better able to handle my stress these days, I still often find myself craving the ability to escape by going for a run, losing myself in my work, or going for a nap.
And occasionally, eating far too much.
My instances of stress eating are becoming fewer and farer between. But I’m human, and every so often it happens.
Sunday was one of those days. After a great afternoon at the BMO Marathon Relay, I came home shortly after 4 and returned to reality.
I had a messy apartment. A kitchen full of dishes. Meals that needed to be prepped for the week. Work that needed to be caught up on before the week started. And a couch that was just screaming my name for at least an hour of relaxation before beginning another 70 hour work week.
My running high disappeared pretty quickly 😉
As I was making my energy balls I found myself adding a spoonful of peanut butter to the mixing bowl, and then a spoonful to my mouth. A spoonful of chocolate chips for the mixing bowl, a spoonful for myself. I eventually gave up any attempt at fooling myself into thinking I wasn’t gonna go to town on the contents of the bowl and just started eating it by the handful.
This is unfortunate because A) these balls can get expensive when you’re making them on a weekly basis, B) I now have to buy more nut butter if I want to share my next batch of balls with anyone, and C) I had made a commitment to myself to tighten things up nutrition-wise in preparation for my upcoming trip to Maui next week.
I KNEW that mindlessly eating these balls after having just come home from a late lunch served me no purpose whatsoever. And I KNEW I was going to feel like crap afterwards.
But my willpower was at 0 and I just thought “screw it”. So I continued to eat far too many energy balls and chocolate chips and spoonfuls of nut butter.
Now in previous occasions, one of two things would usually happen.
1 – I would either let the “What the Hell Effect” take over and eat the rest of the food in my kitchen. “I already ate way too much today so my healthy eating is shot. I might as well just keep it up and start fresh tomorrow.”
Or 2 – I would try to “make up for it” during my workout the following day, either by pushing myself incredibly hard or training fasted, thinking that my body would know to use that extra food I ate as fuel.
Both of which are not healthy options and definitely not indicative of a healthy relationship with food.
But this time I managed to take control of the situation. Yeah, I ate way too much chocolate and nut butter. But it stopped there.
I allowed myself to be human, but I also reminded myself that continuing this food fest (or binge, whatever you want to call it – I just can’t stand that word 😉 ) would only make me feel worse in the long run.
It’s not an easy thing to do – when you’re feeding yourself these high-fat and high-sugar foods during stressful times, your brain takes it as a reward. It triggers a release of dopamine which tells the brain “this feels good!”
So telling it to stop when you’re in a fragile state can be tough.
But I’ve discovered the same tactic I used to turn down alcohol in my early sober days has helped in these situations as well.
“I don’t have to turn down all that extra food next time. But today, right here, right now – I’m going to stop. We can deal with next time when next time happens.”
Trying to break unhealthy habits is just as stressful as the situations that lead us to those habits. And when we’re in the middle of them, thinking about having to put a stop to these self-destructive behaviours for the rest of our lives beginning RIGHT NOW is enough to send us into a downward spiral of stress.
So the next time you find yourself doing something you know does not serve you well for the long-term but makes you feel better right now, try to put a stop to it, just for today. Don’t worry about next time, or the time after that. One day at a time.Don't stress about the future - just focus on your behaviours right here, right now. #StressManagement Click To Tweet