As the world around us changes we’ve all had to adapt our lives in some way or another. Although this COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of us in different ways, for most of us one thing has become true – we are home a whole lot more than we’ve been before.
This may be frustrating on some levels, but this also allows us the opportunity to focus and grow in areas we never gave attention to before. And one of these areas is with our relationship to food.
Turning to food for comfort in times of stress is a biological response. If you are someone who attaches shame and other negative self-associations with your eating habits (let’s be real – we have ALL done this), allow this new understanding of your biological response to release you of that negative attachment.
In times of stress, your adrenals to release the hormone, cortisol. Stress can present itself in various ways. It can be a sudden emotional stress like a fight with your teenager or it can be chronic emotional stress like a divorce or caring for an aging parent. There is also physical stress like a recent surgery, chronic pain, inflammation, or running from a physical threat. Your body doesn’t know the difference between any of these stresses.
In response to a given stress, Cortisol is released to save you. It raises your blood sugar by removing glucose from your cells and putting it back into your blood, giving you that burst of energy you need to literally run for your life. The problem is, we aren’t actually running anywhere so that cortisol and sugar just floats around your body sending you on a blood sugar roller coaster. It also increases your appetite and cravings for sugar leaving you with a range of emotions, cravings and even more anxiety.
If the emotional experience of our community trauma and the struggle of being at home has helped you identify some unhealthy behaviors, then stay with me. This is the first in a series of articles with tips and suggestions to prevent yourself from overeating due to stress and boredom.
Now that we understand the important biological role Cortisol has on our bodies and our ability to adapt to stress, it’s not surprise we are kicking this off with stress management.
If you don’t have a good stress management strategy this is your first step. Without these tools you will always feel like you’re just surviving. These are the tools in my toolbox:
Embracing a meditation practice saved my life. A few years I underwent a life changing transition that lasted a couple of years. To say I was in a chronic state of emotional stress is the understatement of my life. Through a consistent meditation practice and other life-giving tools, I was able to re-center myself one mindful second at a time.
Starting a meditation practice is very simple and you can do it in 4 easy steps.
- Download a meditation app on your phone (my favorite is Insight Timer)
- Search for a meditation that is 1-2 minutes long.
- Sit down and listen with an open heart.
- Enjoy the bliss you’ve just created for yourself.
One minute of mindfulness is all it takes to change your brain chemistry. The more you do it, the more easily it will come.
There is more than one way to skin a cat, but the simplest way is to breathe through it. It can release tension and reduce anxiety instantaneously.
A simple 4-7-8 breath when you feel overwhelmed can help slow and calm the mind. Here’s how:
- Empty your lungs of air
- Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds
- Hold your breath for 7 seconds
- Exhale out of the mouth for 8 seconds
- Repeat 4 times
I do breathe exercises with my children, and they are magic. Teach them (and yourself) how to create a sense of calm inside of them when the world or their emotions is filled with chaos or stressful.
Do you feel less stressed just thinking about feeling less stressed? Don’t underestimate these daily practices. I implement them with every client I work with. Start small and remember doing a little every day is better than trying to do a lot. These are practices you will have for a lifetime.
In the next blog post, I’ll be talking about how being intentional with mealtimes and meal planning can help keep the boredom eating blues away.