The Real Way to Handle Stress
I poked at the baked chicken and broccoli on my dinner plate and sighed. “I’m not really hungry.”
“Why not?” Josh forked in another mouthful, chewing industriously.
“Uh…I think I ate too much earlier,” I mumbled.
He arched a brow. “Moooom? Were you stress eating again?”
I arched a brow right back at him and getting up from the dinner table, walked over to his homework spot to point out the towering pile of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup wrappers.
“Yeah, well…” At least he had the grace to look sheepish.
My son and I were both under a lot of pressure last week. He had high school finals to contend with, and I had a writing project with a tight deadline. Unfortunately, even after years of careful parenting, I’ve managed to pass my terrible stress-eating habit onto my boy. We both chowed down on junk food with abandon.
The thing is, I know it’s not healthy. I think every stress eater knows it’s not healthy. So why do we do it? Why does our body crave stuff that’s not good for us whenever we’re under pressure?
I “Googled” the topic and discovered one reason may be because under stress, our body produces extra cortisol, a.k.a. “the stress hormone.” And cortisol causes cravings for sweet and salty food, a.k.a. “junk food.” In the olden days, cortisol served a purpose, helping people bulk up on food to sustain them through times of scarcity. However, here in the suburban Midwest, where food is rarely scarce, we simply bulk up. Period.
Another reason we may stress eat is simply nervous energy. Some people bite their nails or grind their teeth. And some people eschew the unopened bag of baked tortilla chips and instead munch on Cheetos, or endless strands of Twizzlers, or uh…stuff like that, maybe.
Then I Googled, “healthy ways to deal with stress,” and found a bunch of common sense advice from experts. After contemplating it all, I thought, Really? And came up with my own, more practical advice (at least I think it’s more practical):
EXPERT TIP #1: EXERCISE.
My advice: FUGGEDABOUT IT.
I actually enjoy exercising, but now isn’t the time! (Okay, maybe squeeze in a few daily stretches to stay loose.)
EXPERT TIP #2: AVOID CAFFEINE AND SUGAR; EAT HEALTHY, BALANCED MEALS.
My advice: NOT. HAPPENING!
My daughter’s away at college and my boy is 17 years old. They both know a healthy diet includes fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and high-grain breads. I’ve done my job. So if I choose to eat three Snickers Bars for dinner one night, what’s the big deal? The key is, don’t force yourself to eat the healthy food on top of it. And voilá! Weight gain successfully avoided! But DO load up on vitamins! This helps counteract the effect of all the unhealthy eating. And as far as caffeine, I say drink up! This counteracts the sugar crash you’re sure to experience from ingesting all the junk food and keeps you going well into the wee hours.
EXPERT TIP #3: RELAX: GET PLENTY OF SLEEP, TAKE LONG BATHS WITH SCENTED CANDLES, GET A MASSAGE, CALL A FRIEND, OR CURL UP WITH A GOOD BOOK.
My advice: SERIOUSLY. NOT HAPPENING!
C’mon! One of the big reasons we’re stressed is because we don’t have enough time to do what needs to be done. So how are we supposed to fit in all this great stress-relieving stuff?! You can do all those things when the crisis is over. Think of them as rewards for a stressful situation well handled.
Disclaimer: I am NOT a medical expert, I’m only playing one on this blog. This advice is purely for entertainment purposes and any similarity to real advice is a bizarre coincidence.
So how do you handle stress? Any healthy tips?