Have you caught yourself stress eating or emotional eating during this time?
Don’t you worry, so have the rest of us.
Stress and emotional eating get demonized quite often, when in fact they are quite common and really normal ways in which most of us manage stress at some point or another.
Stress eating can look several different ways.
Some of us turn to food to help manage our emotions—eating more, eating less, eating more comforting foods, or even eating foods we don’t usually eat.
Some of us use food as a way to regain a sense of control. If we eat perfectly made, beautiful, and nutritious foods, then it somehow helps us find some ease.
“Oh, the world and our economy are falling apart? It’s okay though, I got my green juice, I’ll be okay.” Trust me, I get it. We look for ease wherever we can find it and sometimes that means food.
Our eating patterns can tell us a lot during this time. If you’ve previously struggled with disordered eating or an eating disorder, maybe now you find yourself falling back into old “controlling” and “rigid” food rules solely as a way to feel in control. If you’ve always worked hard to follow a certain diet, maybe this time is a free-for-all, vacation-mind-set kind of eating. Or who knows, maybe you are on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Now that you’re at home, you are absolutely loving having more time to cook and having access to all your favorite foods without having to worry about going out or having to do much planning.
Whatever the case may be and whatever you’re experiencing, know that you are not alone.
Food scarcity is a real fear, even if it’s not a legitimate one for many of us right now. You know what’s another common fear? Being home with nothing to do yet having a full pantry and fridge. Food binges are a real thing. However, they usually have little to do with the food itself.
Like I said, each of us is completely different, and I believe that most of us fall somewhere in-between all of these scenarios, depending on the day, our emotions, and whatever else is going on.
Whatever you are experiencing, noticing, and getting out of this, consider that it’s a learning experience you probably needed. There’s so much to learn during this time. About ourselves. About our relationship to food. About our relationship to stress and emotions. About our relationships in general. What triggers you. What pisses you off. Why you avoid slowing down. All the things.
We’re learning. A lot.
So my invitation for you is to use it as just that. A learning experience. Notice what your tendencies are and what your thoughts are.
When we come from noticing, instead of judging, the information we gather is way more helpful instead of harmful.
As a way to create more love, self-kindness, and compassion, I’ll leave you with a few tips and thoughts:
1. Stress eating and emotional eating are normal. There is nothing wrong with you if this is happening. Cut yourself some slack, there’s enough going on in the world right now for you to add on even more stress because you ate a few more [insert food here] than you wanted.
2. Expand your self-care toolbox. What are all the ways and the things you can do for yourself and others that help you feel at ease and calm. Not sure? You have plenty of time now to play with it and figure it out. Coloring, reading, painting, organizing, cooking, watching TV, dancing, crying, cleaning, cuddling, talking to friends or family.
3. Contribute to our community by creating more ease, not more stress. How can you help? Even if it’s just checking on one person to see how they are doing, know that it creates a simple, yet positive ripple effect. We’re all connected, more than we even know.
4. Get enough sleep. Even if that means you take a nap during the day because you didn’t sleep well last night. Getting enough sleep greatly impacts how we respond to stress, anxiety, and frustration. If you have a busy mind before bed, make a list of everything on your mind as a way to help clear it. Take a bath. Use some lavender oil. Change your sheets. Clean your room. Do what you need to do.
5. If not having a schedule is really killing you right now, create one for yourself. Not a rigid one, but maybe a to-do list—even if it just includes “cook this meal, make bed, clean junk drawer.” Sometimes just having a list helps us feel more put together.
6. Allow yourself to feel everything you feel. Allow yourself to have days where you’re upset or moody or feel off. Trying to fight or fix whatever you feel will only make it worse, more intense, and frustrate you even more. Practice more allowing and less resistance.
7. Move your body. No, not out of rigidity, but as a form of self-care. There doesn’t have to be a certain amount of time tied to it nor does it have to make you sweat. It doesn’t even have to be daily. Just move. Stretch. Clean your house. Dance. Take a virtual yoga class. Go for a walk. The more stagnant we stay, the more stuck we may feel. Find forms of movement that free you and your mind.
8. Pray. A few days ago, I joined in with thousands of Catholics around the world to pray the rosary together. It was beautiful and grounding. It made me feel even more connected to everyone else in the world. This pandemic isn’t just impacting us, it’s impacting everyone. Why not pray together? The reality is that we’re never in control, so why not hand over all our fears and anxieties over to the One who is. Doing it together is even more powerful.
9. Try to eat a variety of foods, if it’s available to you. If it’s not, don’t stress. You stressing about the foods you’re eating is probably more harmful to your health than eating those foods. If you do have a variety of foods available, try switching things up. Look up new recipes. Get creative. Use this as a time to explore.
10. Stay connected to people, especially if you are someone who is really good at isolating. It’s good for your mental and emotional health. Text them. Call them. FaceTime them. Zoom call them. Have a virtual dinner date night. Virtual double date. Who knows? Just connect.
11. Find comfort in knowing that everything happens for a reason. Even this. After every breakdown and challenge, there is growth and new creations. Consider that we needed something this vast to create big change in our lives, our society, and our culture.
12. Support your local businesses. Your friends. Your Family. Your coworkers. Financially. Emotionally. Prayerfully. Do your part. We were put here to serve others so use the gifts God gave you. This is the time to do it and do it authentically. Be you.
To whoever reads this, I hope you find comfort during this time. Also, cut yourself some slack, you’re doing the best you can.
Sending you love and prayers.