Sunshine Behavioral Health’s healthcare editor Pam Zuber discusses the link between stress and overeating and how to reduce stress without overindulging.
Reduce Stress, Reduce Snacking
Stress is everywhere. It can be overwhelming and cause us to seek comfort in various ways. Many people have coping mechanisms that provide comfort for a short period of time. People might smoke cigarettes, go for a walk, or take up a hobby.
Others look to comfort foods. While there are many ways to relieve stress, some coping mechanisms are more harmful than helpful. Eating snack foods, for example, can lead to weight gain and various health issues.
Reduce Stress – Reduce the Urge to Snack
People who are under stress and use food as a coping mechanism can actually cause more problems for themselves if they don’t learn to control their eating. Relying on comfort foods can be devastating.
Obesity, eating disorders, and an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease are all possible repercussions of using food to soothe one’s mood.
Instead, consider doing other things to reduce stress:
Stress can break down the body and mind. It can weaken the body and contribute to depression and anxiety disorders. Exercise may reverse these processes and prevent the body and mind from deteriorating.
Regular exercise doesn’t simply strengthen the body. It also clears the mind. Physical fitness stimulates the brain to release endorphins, substances that elevate the mood and promote positive feelings.
Walk Outside for 30 Minutes
Walking outside for 30 minutes or longer is beneficial in many ways. Being outside exposes you to fresh air and sunshine, and both can contribute to good health. Fresh air clears the mind and gives you a chance to think through stressful situations.
As you walk, pay attention to the scenery. Enjoy the view and look for little things that give you joy. You can also invite a friend to walk with you. Good conversation is a great way to reduce stress and gain new perspectives.
Participate in Hobbies
Practicing a hobby can also help you take your mind off the things that may give you stress. Music, art, and various crafts are popular hobbies for relieving stress or frustration, for example.
Engaging in hobbies distracts us from our worries, while creating something beautiful can turn a negative mood into a positive one.
Deep breathing exercises bring much-needed oxygen to the body. This can clear the mind and allow you to focus your energy on the positive aspects of your life.
As a bonus, you don’t need any equipment or tools, and you can perform deep breathing exercises anywhere at any time. Deep breathing is beneficial far beyond just relieving your stress. It also strengthens your cardiovascular system as well as your overall lung function.
Start a Meditation or Guided Imagery Practice
Guided imagery and meditation are other practices that can minimize stress. They may also help you find ways to solve your problems.
These tools can be relaxing because they allow you to momentarily forget your troubles and go to a place of comfort and solace. By focusing on the present, you may be able to think more clearly while your stress and frustration fade away.
Receive Massages and Therapeutic Touch
Therapeutic touch and massage therapy can also be effective stress relievers. They break up tension in the muscles and other soft tissues and allow people to release physical stress.
Massages can improve blood flow, while regular massage and therapeutic touch can be calming and help reduce stress and discomfort.
Practice Yoga or Tai Chi
Yoga and tai chi reconnect the body and the mind. They can re-establish the mind/body balance and promote calming and overall well-being. Both include deep breathing exercises and structured movements that can relax the body and soothe the mind.
Performing either of these on a regular basis can help you maintain a state of balance to keep stress and frustration at bay.
Stress management can take many forms. While some people turn to snack food or drugs and alcohol, others look to healthier options. Understanding how stress affects you can help you determine the best ways to cope. Finding healthy ways to handle your stress is essential for good health and emotional well-being.
cdc.gov – Coping with Stress
hopkinsmedicine.org – Tips to Manage Stress Eating
health.harvard.edu – Exercising to Relax
huffpost.com – National Walking Day: 5 Ways Walking Helps to Relieve Stress
headtohealth.gov.au – Purposeful Activities – Hobbies
uofmhealth.org – Stress Management: Breathing Exercises for Relaxation
wa.kaiserpermanente.org – Stress Management: Doing Guided Imagery to Relax
amtamassage.org – Massage Therapy Can Relieve Stress
psu.pb.unizin.org – Yoga and Tai Chi
sunshinebehavioralhealth.com – Dual Diagnosis Treatment in Austin, Texas
Pam Zuber is a longtime newspaper, magazine, and website writer with many human interest articles and feature stories in publications such as Minority Nurse, Sivana East, and the UAB Institute for Human Rights. She is also working for Sunshine Behavioral Health as an editor.