One of the top reasons why we indulge and overeat is because we’re stressed. Stress can make us act against our best intentions.
When we fall into the habit of overeating and/or eating junk when we’re stressed, it gets easier to repeat that behavior.
One episode of afternoon stress eating can lead to a whole week of afternoon stress eating.
When our brain is under stress there is a vicious cycle that gets created. In a study of chronically stressed rats the brains atrophied in the areas of decision making, while becoming overly developed in the area of habit formation.
Scientists note that behaviors can stick more quickly in stressed animals than in the controls.
This might explain why when we’re under stress we abandon all that we know we ‘should do’, and all that we consciously want to do, and fall back into old habits. Or, maybe we can’t break the habits to begin with.
Scientists also note that we’re lousy at recognizing when our normal coping mechanisms aren’t working.
Our response is usually to do it five times more, instead of trying something new. <— aka the definition of insanity —> Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.
So, even though eating indulgently doesn’t really help us deal with the source of the stress, we can’t stop ourselves from continuing to do it because we’re used to doing it when we’re stressed. It’s simply how our brains are wired to act when we’re under stress…
Stress is a killer… but necessary
Although stress is a killer and can lead to many diseases it’s also necessary for us to survive.
Fortunately (I think), we no longer stress about what our ancestors did. We stress about very different things.
And even if we’re stressed out because our boss is yelling, or a client is being impossible, or our kids are being disrespectful, or we have a million things to do at home and work, or there’s traffic and we’re running late —-> if we feel stressed, we’re stressed.
Perception is reality!
So, what do we do??
Well, there is a big opportunity for us to change…
IF (caps for emphasis) we plan ahead what we’ll do before we’re stressed.
If we do that, it’ll increase the likelihood that we’ll do it next time we’re stressed. Lucky for us (because we’re stressed) our new behavior will become a habit more quickly as well.
Our biggest opportunities for growth are always when we’re most uncomfortable.
Here are 5 ideas for you to use next time you’re stressed:
- Listen to your favorite music.
- Gather a few favorite emails or YouTube videos and read and/or watch the videos when you’re stressed. Be sure to save them all in one place so they’re easy to get to.
- Get up. Take a big deep breath and go for a 5 minute walk.
- Read a juicy gossip blog that might make you feel otherwise guilty for doing so. (We’ll feel way less guilty reading than eating!)
- Look at pictures.
Pick one and try it next time you feel stressed.
Though it might be feel uncomfortable at first (doing anything different, especially when we’re stressed, will feel uncomfortable), if we do it the next time we’re stressed, it’ll be a tad easier to do it again.
If we look at each stressful situation as an opportunity to create new habits (and it truly is), it’ll feel less daunting and more empowering.
If you don’t like the ideas above (fine by me) it’s totally worth thinking of other ways we can calm ourselves down. The key, of course, is to think about what we’re going to do…beforewe get stressed.
And soon enough when we feel stressed, we’ll reach for something else.
Featured image courtesy of someecards.com.