I sometimes use food to soothe myself and we all know that is not a sensible strategy! Many years ago, I found this book by Susan Albers "50 Ways to Soothe Yourself without Food". It transformed me on how I look at food and at my own stress levels.
Common reasons for uncontrolled eating include bio-chemical changes in the body, boredom and habit. Yep! The ancient part of our brain craves for fat, sugar and salt – important part of our survival.
Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream - do I need to say more? Ice cream is loaded with sugar and fat; it gives you a boost of energy and it feels great too. Chocolate increases some mood enhancing chemicals in our brain. Yes! Mint Chocolate Chip Ice cream is my kryptonite! Of course, we all pay a price for this binging within a few hours and few days!
Here are some of the methods I use based on her book. I find that if I can distract myself for 3-5 minutes, the urge to eat ice-cream is gone
(1) Meditation and mindfulness - using breathing and other self-focus techniques to relax without the need for food. Check out this fun meditation - https://www.meditation-magic.com/blog/let-go-your-stress-in-5-minutes-or-less-the-balloon-meditation
(2) Focus on your thoughts and change them - Writing in your journal can help you examine your thoughts and focus on positive and self-affirming thoughts. Daydreaming and observing your worries without judgement may also guide your mind and thoughts from food.
(3) Relax your body with exercise, yoga or a massage - While a massage from a professional can be expensive, consider bribing your spouse or significant other to give you a neck or shoulder rub. I also use self-massagers!
(4) Use distractions - Watching a funny movie, work on your favorite crafts or listening to relaxing music - all help you distract from eating.
(5) Connect with your family and friends - A great way to relax is to go for a walk with your spouse or best friend. A phone call or chat with someone by Facebook or zoom also can help you de-stress rapidly.
(6) Drink a glass of water and go for a walk around the block - physical activity!
(7) Listen to music - Indian classical is my favorite and so are Big Band Jazz and 80s songs!
(8) Read a book
(9) Take a nap - Rest does wonders to your moods and your appetite
(10) Positive affirmations - Repeat them as you see yourself in the mirror -
- Eating won't resolve this problem.
- I can do this. It just takes time.
- I can wait. My hunger will pass with a little patience.
Yes - if I am still craving the Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream, I will take one scoop of ice-cream, put in a dash of whey protein powder and some frozen berries and enjoy it mindfully and acknowledge it is a healthy snack!
Try one of these techniques out the next time you are stressed and let me know how it worked for you.
What are some of your favorite methods to destress?
Albers, Susan (2009) - 50 ways to soothe yourself without food
Schaumburg Public Library – Central, 2nd Floor 616.8526 ALBERS, S + Hoopla eBook
Managing Test Anxiety - a 2 minute Breathing Exercise for Peak Performance
“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”
– Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Top athletes, actors, salespeople, teachers and exam takers use and repeat short performance routines or rituals to get into and stay in a peak performance state! Learn a short two-minute breathing exercise that gets you in peak mental and physical states for an important meeting, presentation or exam.
It is very difficult to be completely calm and relaxed during important meetings. Actually, the opposite is important – we need to be alert and active. Some amount of anxiety is good because it improves our focus and energy levels (See the Yerkes-Dodson Law Bell Curve below). Of course, it helps to remember this curve was generated from experiments on rats and how people respond to stress varies from task to task and from other complex factors! The other lines show possible responses to stress!
We can be aware of negative thoughts and feelings; we can accept them and move forward. Research shows that participants who are taught to remember that stress and anxiety can be beneficial tend to do better than those who look at stress negatively.
Remind yourself that anxiety is not inherently bad. It can be a source of energy and focus that you can harness. Moreover, embracing the positive qualities of stress can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Repeat to yourself : “Stress is My Friend”
Two breathing techniques – your choice - https://xhalr.com/
Key performance state:
Remind yourself that stress is not inherently bad. Remind yourself "Stress is My Friend"
Simulate stressful conditions when taking practice tests so you train to be aware of anxiety and understand the gifts of focus, energy, and memory it brings!
Step 1 = Body reset – Focus on your breath and key negative emotion – anger, frustration, or fear. Inhale awareness . . . how does your body feel, your heart rate, any tension? Exhale the negative emotion . . .
(Practice this for five breaths – typically 20-30 seconds)
Step 2 = Mind reset - Inhale fresh air, exhale as a letting go exercise – narrow focus – just the breath. (Practice this for 5 breaths – typically 20-30 seconds)
Step 3 = Focus – Think how you want to feel during presentation, test or performance – Calm, Confident, Competent . . . Inhale those states and exhale any residual negative emotions like anxiety, anger or tension
(Practice this for 5 breaths – typically 20-30 seconds) Practice is Key!
Start this practice at least 2 weeks before the exam/event – just 2-3 minutes every day – several times a day and during breaks in your quiz taking.
Leah Lagos: Heart Breath Mind: Train Your Heart to Conquer Stress and Achieve Success
Jill Bolte Taylor Whole Brain Living: The Anatomy of Choice and the Four Characters That Drive Our Life
Mrazek, M. D., Franklin, M. S., Phillips, D. T., Baird, B., & Schooler, J. W. (2013). Mindfulness training improves working memory capacity and GRE performance while reducing mind wandering. Psychological science, 24(5), 776-781.
Xhalr.com – great free website with both 4-6 (default) and square breathing
a guided finger meditation
Engage your senses with soothing music, guided imagery and a labyrinth tracing activity which leverages the power of touch. Click the album cover to learn more.