When you feel stress what do you do? Go for a walk? Call a friend? Or are you like many others out there who reach for food? Maybe you're a sweet person, so you go for that cookie like me - no lie! When my kid sends me over the moon, pushing all of my buttons, I am like, "I need a cookie right now!" So why do we stress eat? When we get stressed, chemicals and hormones are released in our body. When we introduce sweet or savory, or alcohol, it temporarily calms those stress hormones and releases other hormones, dopamine, etc. We create a feedback loop which has us habitually reaching for food or drink. And as this loop is reinforced the one cookie becomes a box of cookies. The couple of chips become a bag of chips. And the one drink becomes several which directly impacts or our health. (I've been here too).
Did you know that 75 to 90% of all doctor's visits are for stress? Most people visit when they start seeing the weight come on, or for muscle aches that won't go away. And unfortunately, most docs miss that the underlying cause is stress, not the weight or muscles ache. If you are honest with your doctor and have a great practitioner, you will most likely see that maybe it's the four cookies that you are eating every day. That's why you have the weight gain. Or maybe it's the bag of chips that you eat everyday or the plentiful amounts of soda or alcohol. But it is not so easy to simply stop the stress eating because of that chemical release and the pleasure centers and everything involved in that "feel good" feedback loop. We get addicted to it. And addiction is hard to break. So what can we do?
I suggest my three step solution for minimizing stress. And I talk about it a lot.
When you feel stress, don't go for that bag of chips or that cookie, or that bottle. Take a breath, go for a walk. Start calming yourself down. Break that feedback loop. - Detach. Separate yourself from the stress and give it perspective.
Then, consider your next steps. Are you needing to have a conversation? Are you needing to go to the gym or write in your journal? - Prioritize. It's very important that you prioritize because the next thing you are going to do is execute the one thing in your list of priorities. Not three things, not two things. The one thing. For example, let's say you are at work and you already have a project that you're working on and you have a list of to-do's to get that project done and then bam! You're thrown another task and all of a sudden everything seems to have a time limit on it, like it must be done right now. You now have a stress response. And you've got a choice right there. Do you sit there and let it fester and build up and then go grab a soda or a bag of chips or a cookie? No! You're not going to do that anymore. You're going to detach. You are going to push back from your desk. You're going to breathe. You're going to gain perspective and look at the tasks for what they are - this is paperwork, this is an assignment, this is not going to kill me. It doesn't feel great, but it's not going to kill me. I can do this. Then you are going to re-prioritize based on the new tasks. So now you are breathing, and putting things into perspective. Then you are going to execute. You will do the first thing on that new priority list. That's it! When everything falls into perspective and you can look at it with a different view, with a wide camera lens if you will, you're not hyper-focused. In law enforcement we call that hyper-focus the fatal funnel. You can let the calmness, you can let resources, you can let your brain think and create. You are much less stressed and much less apt to grab that thing(s) that releases the dopamine and makes us feel better for nano second and then we're right back in it. So the next time stress comes up and you're ready to grab that cookie, remember detach, prioritize, and execute.
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