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Handling Stress without Food or Alcohol

Ever have those moments when you think you’re doing great on your health and wellness journey, and then one panicked moment brings on so much anxiety that you use food to cope with your emotions?

I hear you. I can’t tell you how many of those moments I experienced when I was working in a profession that didn’t fuel my soul or embrace my talent, or when I was in a relationship that I knew was off. Turning to highly palatable food or alcohol after work is an easy way to numb those unsettling emotions. It’s also become a socially acceptable way to manage emotions instead of working through them. However just because it's socially acceptable doesn't mean that it's the best way for you to move through life.

If this is the only way you know how to deal with emotions, then your health may be at stake. If you’re constantly using food or alcohol to cope, then you’re not coping, you’re numbing- and when you’re done numbing, how do you feel? Do you have remorse, guilt or shame? Do you feel hungover from the sugar or alcohol? Isn't food and alcohol supposed to make you feel better and that's why you're eating or drinking? If you're experiencing negative side effects or additional unpleasant emotions, you're fueling the fire instead of putting it out. Wouldn't you rather explore alternative ways of coping with stress so that you feel better and resolve the underlying concerns?

Here are a few tips for regulating your nervous system without food or alcohol:

  1. Exercise. Take a 15 minute break and move your body. It doesn’t have to be intense, just move. Dance, lift weights, go for a run. Get the blood flowing and change your body's state.

  2. Take a cold shower or hot bath. Cold showers can help lower your blood pressure and encourage endorphin production, while a hot bath may help with relaxation.

  3. Mediate or do breath work. Most of us don’t take full breaths when we’re panicked. Look up a few quick techniques for diaphragmatic breathing to keep in your back pocket when you need to come back to a calm state.

  4. Journal. Write down what is triggering you and then respond to yourself as if you would to your child or dear friend.

  5. Figure out who you want to be and show up as that person now. Is the best version of you binging on food and alcohol on a regular basis? Probably not. They're probably problem solving and showing up in a way that makes them proud the next day.

  6. Call a friend (not the one that says let's go eat or drink to drown emotions). Sometimes all we need is human connection and to bounce ideas off of someone else.

The more often you practice these techniques, the easier it’ll become to respond to stressful situations without food or alcohol. The goal should always be to move through emotions so you can become the best version of yourself. Are you moving through them or avoiding them?


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