BY ROBIN OLA
When I am coaching clients around unwanted eating, we often discover stress as the reason. A lot of people are feeling stressed right now. Stress about the pandemic and their health, or the health of their loved ones.
Many feel stressed around the holidays: about not being with their family, or about being with their family. I’m sure you have your own list.
Stress Is Normal
First of all, stress is not the enemy. Too much on-going stress is not healthy, but it can be a useful emotion essential for our survival. Your basic stress response is trying to keep you alive and is a warning signal that something may be wrong or dangerous.
Our instinctive reaction is to try to get rid of the stress as quickly as possible. This reaction has caused many of us to create unwanted habits. A drink or a snack often eases the stress temporarily. It soothes and distracts us in the moment. Each time we get that temporary relief we strengthen the habit.
What Can We Do About Stress Instead?
You might expect me to start giving you other, more healthy distractions to temporarily reduce your feelings of stress. I do love deep breathing, walks, and warm baths myself. But that is not what we are doing today.
Those type of distractions can be helpful, but they don’t always work. Today we are discussing the skill of reducing your desire to get rid of the feelings of stress. Wait, what?
Making Friends with Stress
Maybe the concept of ‘being friends with stress’ is a stretch for you. How about co-existing with stress? Let’s look at co-existing with stress like co-existing with an annoying neighbor.
Imagine thinking, “Oh hey, here you are again, annoying neighbor, okay. I’m really not going to engage with you, I know I can’t get rid of you, so let’s co-exist as best we can.
Let’s continue to explore the irritating neighbor analogy. Picture yourself outside, working in your yard, and your very annoying neighbor comes over and starts talking about his stamp collection, and you just want to keep planting your flowers.
Of course, you could scream at him, “Stop talking!” You could run inside, faking an emergency and quit doing what you really want to do. Or you could just keep planting and let your neighbor babble on. It is, what it is. Nothing has gone wrong, this is part of the deal, living on this street.
Now, imagine yourself accepting stress as part of life, we don’t love it, we are glad when it is not around. But when it shows up, we could just say, “Hey there, I knew you would be back, I’m not going to do anything about you, I’m just going to keep planting my flowers.”
Why Do This?
I do work with my clients to reduce and eliminate stress by exploring the root causes, but we all seem to create new stress for ourselves on a regular basis. It is important to know how to have stressful feelings without running for a snack or drink to get rid of them.
Stress on Top of Stress
Sometimes we think that things have gone terribly wrong when stress appears. We add anxiety on top of our stress when we think, “I shouldn’t be stressed, why is this happening?” By simply acknowledging that stress is a perfectly normal feeling that happens to everyone, we can avoid intensifying it.
I want you to know that nothing is wrong with you if you have stressful feelings and can’t always get rid of them. You can feel stress and do nothing about it.
Learning to accept feelings of stress and anxiety, without fighting them, is a valuable skill that can keep us from turning to food or drinks to soothe ourselves.
If you would like more help to work through your stressful feelings post in the comments below