Updated: Apr 2
Wouldn’t it be great if we could just say this to all of our stress and it would listen:
And just like that, all our stress would disappear. Poof! Ha!
"The source of all your suffering is in your mind", they say.
"If you can do something about it, why worry; if you can't do something about it, why worry", they say.
We hear these words and understand them but the damn stress keeps showing up. And technology(love it/hate it) has made it worse as it creates the expectation that we make ourselves available to others 24 hours a day.
And as moms, we hate to disappoint others, to say “no we can’t”, to say “that’s more than I can handle right now”. I have worked hard at being able to say those words, let me tell ya! But some days, it still makes me feel guilty. Argh! But we must keep trying to set limits.
Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D.; in Psychology Today’s article titled, “Why We Can't Just Get Rid of Anxiety & Distress, states, “Our brains are wired for survival, not happiness. That is why they keep bringing up negative emotions, past mistakes, and worries about the future. We can get stuck in repetitive cycles of self-criticism, worry, and fear that interfere with our ability to fully experience and react adaptively to what is happening in the present.
When our prehistoric ancestors heard the footsteps of a predator, they got a surge of adrenaline that fired up their muscles, used this to run away as fast as they could, and lived to tell the tale and pro-create, while those who didn’t were killed. Through the process of evolution, our brains became hard-wired to be on the lookout for threat and mobilize our bodies to deal with a potential predator by fighting or running away. Even today, fear and pain are powerful learning mechanisms that stop most of us from touching hot stoves, running into traffic, swimming in shark-infested waters, speculating wildly on the stock market, or venturing into crime-ridden neighbourhoods alone at night.”
And stress - regardless of what is causing it - gives us physical pain such as headaches and stomach aches or emotional distress in the form of irritability, anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, negative self-talk, racing thoughts, forgetfulness, mood swings, excessive worrying or depression.
Emotional eating is a common response to stress and can provide temporary comfort. However, as we all know and agree, it can also lead to weight gain and negative feelings about food and our body.
If you haven’t already, click here to download my free guide, 3 Tips to Stop Emotional Eating.
By reading this guide, you’re not all of a sudden going to completely stop emotional eating. I know that’s unrealistic, but if you follow the tips, you might just be able to control it more than you are right now, which is all we can ask of ourselves sometimes. The guide is there to help you figure out your triggers and how to replace food with something else completely.
But there are times that we’re going to be driven to emotionally eat no matter what, due to uncontrollable outside forces and the fact we’re hard-wired to stress.
And that’s ok, so why not try to do it right?
I want to help you prepare for it, the way I do, and give in to it in a way that won’t completely sabotage your weight loss.
Here are my “emotional eating helpers” that help me emotionally eat, guilt-free, and keep my mouth occupied enough that I completely avoid emotionally eating low nutrient, high calorie foods.
Grapes - eat as many as you want - I pick this fruit out of all the rest because they’re always sweet and so easy to wash and have readily available
Shelled nuts - like pistachios, sesame seeds or peanuts. Shelled because they keep you occupied but nuts are high in calories so stick to 1 or 2 handfuls
Have these helpers on your desk, along with a big water bottle, as soon as you start working, so you have them at arm’s reach for when you feel the urge to emotionally eat.
Remember your brain is just looking for the feel good chemical, dopamine, and these foods will release it.
But as we find healthier ways to temporarily cope with stress so we're not putting our health at risk, we must also do the harder work in order to not let those outside uncontrollable forces lead us down that path of excessive stress, because, too much stress will potentially shorten our life.
So what do we do with these essential, yet uncomfortable and troublesome parts of our minds?
"The answer is surprisingly simple", says Greenberg. "We need to make peace with them and, by doing so, take away their power. We can allow negative thoughts and feelings to be there, yet develop an “observing ego” or higher consciousness that directs our attention and behaviour towards the goals, values, and activities that are productive and personally meaningful to us. We can strive to live a purposeful and effective life, rather than to be free of negative affect."
If stress is interfering with your daily life and causing distress to the point where you can’t function, it may be time to seek support from a mental health professional. Talk to your doctor sooner than later and get the help you need.