I’m stressed. Are you? I think it would be hard to live through a pandemic without feeling anxious. Our daily lives and routines have changed and seem to continue to change. Many people I talk to are asking for support. One member asked for help with stress eating. First, I let her know that she’s not alone. Many of us get stressed and that anxiety often tries to get resolved in the kitchen. Stress often causes us to crave something salty, sweet or crunchy. My advice was to pack the pantry and refrigerator with healthy crunchy foods like carrots and celery or grain-free, sugar-free butternut squash pretzels. Regarding the sweet craving, leave the cookies, muffins and cakes at the store and stock up on fresh fruit or no sugar added, dried fruits. As for salty, reach for protein-packed nuts versus potato chips or corn chips. We agreed that being anxious causes a response that tells our brains what type of food we want to consume to de-stress. But the new reality is that preparing for such an eventuality, by stocking up with the healthy options, can turn an unhealthy emotional eating session that makes you feel worse afterward, into a very healthy and satisfying snack-time that helps reduce your worry and your weight.
Let’s look at that same approach with our bodies. We have all felt tension. Our bodies tighten up, our blood pressure rises, which may lead to a headache or brain fog. We may either reach for a pain reliever or an unhealthy beverage to help us release that tension and mitigate its effects. So, if we look at the same approach as the stress eating, we’d need to prepare for the next attack on our bodies before it happens. Knowing the triggers that cause tension, have your favorite relaxing music ready to turn on. Practice some gentle stretches to calm the body. Go for a brisk walk to release anxiety. Call a friend to talk through what’s causing your unease. Take a hot shower or bath at the end of the day to loosen up your muscles. Dim the lights and light a fragrant candle or diffuse some essential oils, and turn off the electronics when you can.
These suggestions are proactive ways to address the inevitable, during a time in our lives that is filled with stressors, the unknown, fear and change. Let’s all think of more proactive healthy ways to get out in front of the things that typically prompt us to an unhealthy response, but instead, proactively prepare for healthy actions. Share your successes with those around you so they can try out a similar approach. Supporting each other is the best way to reinforce the positive things we are accomplishing and spreading hope, health and happiness to those around you. We are stronger together. Let’s acknowledge that we are experiencing stress and get in front of it with dedicated practices.