Stress Management and eating habits, an intersection.

Managing stress by looking at your eating habits may seem odd. However, when you consider how much time you spend obtaining, preparing, and eating food it starts to come into focus. And that’s before considering how the foods you choose impact your brain and body.

Let’s face it the standard American diet needs some re-evaluation. Plates of food like the one above are tasty and easy to find, but they rack up the calories, fast! And truth be told the foods above are not even among the worst many are consuming.

Most of use really like these kinds of foods, but to achieve optimal health these meals need to be limited. You can dive into exercise and rack up hours of sweat, but even for avid exercisers these kind of meals can be problematic. The hard to swallow truth is that most people can eat beyond any exercise program.

“Garbage in garbage out”  ~George Fuechsel

Stress and Food?

I started thinking about the intersection of eating habits and stress more after watching Morgan Spurlock’s 2004 film Supersize Me. The goal of the film was to show the deleterious effects of eating fast food every day on the body. Morgan set a plan to eat fast food three times a day (specifically McDonald’s) for thirty days. If he was asked if he wanted to “super size it” he had to say yes. He also set as part of the challenge to eat around the menu (he couldn’t just eat the same thing every day).

Where the stress shows up.

What got my attention wasn’t just the significant amount of weight gained during the filming, but that he talked about how his mood was awful and he felt physically ill much of the time. He talked about feeling lethargic, irritable, and depressed. After a meal he would perk up for a bit only to crash a few hours later. More concerning was the change in lab work he had done prior to starting experiment which showed significant increase in cholesterol and indications of fatty liver when repeated at the end. All in just 30 days of eating a fast food diet.

What can you do?

That food can influence your emotions is really gaining traction. Check out an article from Harvard health here.

So it’s kind of a no brainer (pun intended) that eating a lot of processed foods won’t help you manage your stress better. Of course when we are stressed we often reach for easy and fast options.

Eating is just one aspect of stress management. Don’t forget to review other aspects to stress management here..

Stress and eating.

No matter how effective our stress management, we will all have those days when we can’t catch our breath and that’s where spending a little time looking at how eating and stress may intersect for you can be helpful.

  • Consider how eating and stress intersect for you.
  • Eat regularly.
  • Weed out the junk from the cupboards.
  • Pre-pack snack bags or even whole meals.
  • Say no to the easy option and go with the slightly more difficult one.

Consider how eating (or not eating) may be adding to your stress.

  • Do you arrive home at the end of a stressful day and have less energy to make more healthful meals and then grab the easiest option?
  • Do you feel stressed because you go all day without eating and subsequently arrive home stressed and hungry?
  • Do you take the time to shop for healthful foods or are you loading up on quick convenience options?

Eat regularly.

Look at your eating habits. As a counselor I am often struck by how poorly people can treat their bodies. I often hear about the habit of not eating until very late in the day. It’s hard to feel at your best if your body is struggling to find the fuel to keep you going. Fad diets aside, the demands of your brain may require more frequent eating.

Weed out the Junk!

Imagine heading to your pantry and finding only healthy options rather than bags of chips and sweets! Weeding out the junk in your cupboards leaves you with less temptation when you have that stressful day. This translates into fewer food binges that can leave you feeling Blah!

Pre-packing meals and snacks.

Pre-packing meals and snacks to grab when you are on the go will help you stay on track even when you are experiencing increased stressors. While this requires a bit more effort once you are in the habit it can reduce the stress that can come when feeling hungry and not having access to healthful food options.

Just say NO!

Saying no to the easy options will help build the mental muscle to stick with your convictions and may also help keep stress levels lower. Of course planning ahead and having healthful options on hand will help this occur a bit less often.

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

Benjamin Franklin

What about my burger fix?

I am not saying that all fast, fun, quick, foods are off the table. But there is value in knowing what you are taking in and making that a clear choice rather than feeling backed into the vending machine only to make the fast and convenient impulse that leaves you feeling worse.

Notice I have not talked much about weight. Nutrition is important no matter what you weigh. That said decreasing your stress by choosing to eat more whole foods and stepping away from processed foods as much as possible could lead to weight loss.

You might also find that what you start to think of as “fast food” starts to look a little different.

Try looking at your habits and making a change or two and let me know what you think!

Have a great day–Lynda

Thank you for dropping by The Stress Nest. Please leave suggestions in the comment section.

Effective Stress Management Makes You A Better You

O God, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small

Old Breton Prayer

There are times when stress overwhelms us and we find ourselves floundering. We may struggle to effectively manage stress. But if we can consider that a journey of many miles can be undertaken with even the smallest of vessels we can set our sights on finding a way to better manage our stresses.

In the last section we discussed 5 steps to identifying what you may be finding stressful and preparing for change.
  • Consider the sources of your stress.
  • Write down all those life situations you find stressful.
  • Determine how much control you have over each.
  • Prepare for change.
  • Apply stress management strategies to help better manage those stressful aspects of your life.
Stress tricks your brain.

Remember that good old saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”? Well, it turns out that’s not quite true. While words are not likely to break your bones, words–whether from others or from ourselves– can be quite damaging.

Stress management is possible, but oftentimes we get too caught up in the story of our stress and start doling out blame. One of the chief recipients of that blame is usually ourselves. The “I should have” and “when will I learn?” comments only serve to stress us more.

What to do?

The first bit of advice I generally give when helping individuals one on one is: “Limit the amount of time you spend engaging in self judgement.” While we all need to be able to accurately identify where we can do better, spending a lot of time chastising ourselves for the situation we find ourself in does not drive the boat forward. It simply keeps us floundering in a sea of stress.

Let’s begin.

Grab the list you made in the last section.

  • Draw a line down the middle of a sheet of paper creating two columns.
  • Label the columns
    • “within my control”
    • “not in my control.”
  • Enter each of the things on the list into one of the two columns.

Next

  • Look at what you placed in the “within my control” column and rank them from most important to least important.
  • Look at each item and consider what part of your life they fall into.
    • Work
    • Home life
    • Health
    • Social
  • For each item ask the following questions:
    • Why is this important to me?
    • What do I find stressful about this?
    • What will be different if I effectively eliminate this stressor?
    • Do I think about this differently at different times?
    • What needs to change?
  • Determine which item you want to work on first.
    • While we often want to work on things in order of priority sometimes working on something less important first helps to build skills and momentum that we can apply with greater efficacy to the more important items.

Now that you’ve determined a good starting place, look more closely at each item and ask a few questions about it.

  • Where does it come from?
  • Are there different ways to think about this?
  • If my best friend had this issue what would I tell them?
  • What about this situation makes it stressful?
  • What steps do I need to take to alleviate this stressor?

Often just answering these questions about your stressor will start to move it a bit. Taking action on those identified steps will carry you the rest of the way most of the time.

In the next segments we will dive a bit deeper into the various areas of life that many people find stressful and look at more strategies for managing stress.

Thank you for dropping by The Stress Nest. Please leave suggestions in the comment section.

Note: This site is not intended as a replacement for formal mental health treatment. If you believe you have issues more than what this site can address please contact a local mental health professional.

Welcome to The Stress Nest

This is a blog dedicated to stress management.

Thanks for dropping by.

While stress management is a term that can mean many things, it is my hope that I can boil it all down and present easy to follow methods that you can try out in your own life.

Within these pages we will look at what stress is and how we can better manage stress to reach goals or just plain relax. You might wonder how stress can be “managed”, don’t we just want to rid ourselves of stress and be done with it? Well the simple answer is…Yes…..and…NO. While stress is often seen as something bad we just want to get rid of, we also need stress in our lives to help motivate us to reach our goals. That’s right stress–in the right amounts– can actually help us! But overdo it and you can be stressed out and your productivity will suffer.

You may have dropped by because you are overwhelmed with stress and wanting to find a way to decrease the stress in your life so you can be more productive and happier. Or you may just have been intreaged by the name. Whatever the reason, WELCOME!

Prepare for a journey that just may change your life for the better.

Why should you listen to me? Good question.

For the past 15 years I have been helping people to look at their lives and make changes that actually improve their lives. As a nurse practitioner in the mental health field I have years of experience in helping people to identify what is stressing them and set goals to address those areas and alleviate the negative impacts of stress while holding on to the beneficial aspects.

Take some time to look around. I’m glad you decided to come by.

I plan to provide new content weekly since I am still working a regular job. I am hoping to tailor material based on feedback so please feel free to leave comments.

Have a great day –Lynda

Note: This site is not intended as a replacement for formal mental health treatment. If you believe you have issues more than what this site can address please contact a local mental health professional.

Thank you for dropping by The Stress Nest. Please leave suggestions in the comment section.

5 Minute Stress Management

 

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop”  Confucius 

According to the Oxford English dictionary stress is “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.”

But what each of us finds stressful can be quite different. While some seem impervious to difficult situations others are brought down by seemingly small stresses. Part of managing stress is figuring out what kinds of situations are particularly stress inducing for you and then applying some skills to address those.

We can further break stress into the various types.

  • Distress: “Extreme anxiety, sorrow, or pain.”
  • Eustress: “moderation or normal psychological stress interpreted and being beneficial for the experiencer.”

The purpose of stress management is to find out what is “distressing” for you and what types of activities create “eustress.” We want to find the perfect balance of the two. Yes it is possible to have levels of distress that are not particularly harmful and we are all going to experience it, but by finding a way to move the needle to a more positive form of stress you will help to neutralize the negative impacts of stress on your life.

Where does stress come from?

  • Work
  • Relationships
  • Health
  • Social
  • Economic

Stress can come from any area of our life. Of course we can experience both the positive and the negative types of stress in each domain. Working to decrease the negative stresses and increase the positive ones is our goal.

How do we do that?

I like to do something I call the 5 minute dive. In it we will take 5 minutes (you can take longer) and go through the following 5 steps.

  • Consider what kinds of life situations add to your “distress”? If you sit down and suddenly draw a blank think of the last time (or last few times) when you noticed a shift in your mood. Are there situations in your life that create feelings of anger or defeat or just make you want to cry? These are areas that are likely causing you some type of “distress.”
  • Write them all down. Don’t get caught up in how many things you are writing down or judge yourself for them. Later you will take them one by one and apply some skills to help alleviate some of the distress you feel around these areas. Keep in mind that there are some things that we can’t feel good about. That’s true for all of us, but many times we get stuck in cycles of distress and if we take the time to figure out, what we can change and what we can’t we will go a long way to alleviating at least a portion of our distress.
  • Determine how much control you have over each situation you identified. Keeping in mind we can only control our own actions and not that of others.
  • Prepare for change. Managing stress requires effort, but don’t despair often small changes can yield big dividends.
  • Apply some of the stress management strategies discussed in the next section.

Thank you for dropping by The Stress Nest. Please leave suggestions in the comment section.

Note: This site is not intended as a replacement for formal mental health treatment. If you believe you have issues more than what this site can address please contact a local mental health professional.