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6 ways to avoid stress eating or drinking

Woman listening to music

Do you often reach for a glass of wine after a difficult day? How about heading to the cookie jar when you are feeling stressed or in need of a break from your computer screen? You are not alone. Eating to manage emotions is incredibly common.

In stressful times having some chocolate, chips, a beer, or whatever your go-to is, can temporarily act as a ‘pick-me-up’ by giving your brain a kick of the feel-good hormone dopamine. But, unfortunately, the effects don’t last long. You often end up feeling worse than you did before indulging, especially if one of your goals is to eat well and try to take better care of yourself.

The good news is, if you can catch yourself in the moment you are heading to open the fridge to grab a cold one, or reaching up to grab the treat box from the pantry, you have an opportunity to do something else, instead, that will help you feel better for longer.

Here are six stress-busting ideas to try:

1. Turn on your favourite tune Music can change your mood, and fast! Create a playlist that makes you feel good and when you need a pick-me-up, crank up the music
2. Phone, text or message a friend Connecting with someone who you can offload on to can pull you out of a bad space without needing to eat or drink to dull down your challenging feelings
3. Write it down Simply jotting down what you are thinking and feeling can be an effective way to destress and process what you are going through
4. Move your body If you can walk round the block, or get outside for a few minutes, do it! If that’s not an option in the moment when stress arises, simply go up and down a few flights of stairs or walk round you house. A change of scenery can help change your mindset
5. Write down three things you are grateful for or three things that have gone right today, even if it’s as simple as that you managed to brush your teeth and get to the bus stop on time. Focusing your attention on what’s working rather than what’s not, can help shift your perspective and reduce feelings of stress.
6. STOP This is an amazing mindfulness trick developed by mindfulness researcher Jon Kabat-Zinn that can instantly make you feel more grounded and help to reduce feelings of stress. You can use this wherever are, whatever you are doing.
S = Stop what you are doing
T = Take a few slow deep breathes
O = Observe what is going on: What is happening inside you? How are you feeling? What are you thinking? What is happening outside of you? Just notice what is going on without judging it.
P = Proceed: Continue with what you were doing or, if needed, do something helpful that will support you to feel better, it could be any of the ideas above or maybe just a cup of herbal tea.

What else would work for you? Write a list of things that you can do instead of eating and drinking when you are feeling stress and put it on the front of your fridge, inside your pantry door and on your diary/planner to help remind you of your goal of reprogramming your stress management!

First published: Oct 2020

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