Most of us live pretty stressful lives – much more stressful than we’d like to.
We also don’t do nearly enough to help ourselves manage that stress.
Amongst elite athletes, there’s a saying: “There’s no such thing as over-training, only under-recovery.”
The wisdom behind this applies to us too: If you want to perform well while under a high amount of stress, you need to ramp up your recovery to match it.
As much as we’d love to take on less stress, sometimes it’s not practical. So it’s important to “dilute the stress” or “distribute the load”.
Units of Stress Analogy:
Imagine that you’ve racked up 10 “units” of stress.
If it helps, imagine them as 10 super angry little blocks stacked up on top of each other, that you’re constantly working hard to balance on top of your head. It’s exhausting!
What’s the main way that most people use to manage their stress?
If you ONLY rely on food to help you relieve stress, you’re going to have to at a LOT of junk to get rid of those 10 units of stress.
In fact, it might not even be possible to relieve all 10 units with food, so you then start snapping at people around you and being in a foul mood as a way to tolerate the left-over stress.
But what if you did some exercise?
That might relieve 3 units of stress.
Now you’re down to 7/10 units of stress.
Then maybe you listened to some of your favourite music.
That might relieve another 1 unit of stress.
Now you’re down to 6/10 units of stress.
Maybe you try 10 minutes of meditation.
Boom, 2 more units gone!
Now you’re on a much more manageable 4/10 units of stress.
And then you spend some time catching up with a good friend or playing with your dog.
Another 2 units gone. Woohoo!
Now you’re on 2/10 units of stress, whew!
Perhaps you try a new recipe and make a delicious dinner with your family or significant other.
That helps you to relieve your last 2 units of stress.
Now you’re on 0/0. Time to sleep peacefully at last!
Something that should be fairly obvious now is that we can either try and relieve ALL of our stress using 1 thing (like food) or we can use a variety of different “tools” in our toolbox to help us do that.
The amount of food (and kind of food) that you need to eat to relieve 2 units of stress is very different to what you need to eat to relieve 10 units of stress.
When you’re 10/10, you’re looking for a massive hit of pleasure to give you some relief. When you’re 2/10, you’re looking for a deeper and more relaxed level of enjoyment.
Expand Your Toolbox:
If you are someone who struggles with emotional eating, you don’t need to suppress those emotions or “stop being emotional”.
You need to expand the number of tools in your toolbox that you use to handle the stress.
Using food, alcohol, and emotional outbursts might be the only way that you know how to deal with too much stress right now, but you can learn other ways too.
In fact, you probably already know a few other things that help you feel more relaxed already, but they don’t always come to mind in the heat of the moment.
Exercise, dancing, playing golf, being creative, meditating, walking your dog, eating healthily, getting enough sleep, and yes, even a little bit of chocolate or a glass of wine could help too in conjunction with everything else.