Right now, there is chaos in the world.
If you’re anything like me, one coping mechanism you may find yourself turning to in recent weeks is stress eating or drinking.
The stress eating and drinking may be subtle.
It could be a drink on a Tuesday when you usually don’t drink during the week.
Or extra snacks while you’re working from home.
These small decisions to eat or drink more in the moment don’t seem like a big deal, but over time, they can add up.
So how can we reduce stress eating and drinking, especially during this time?
Stress is caused by your thoughts, not the circumstance
Stressed is not caused by the circumstances in the world.
It’s actually caused by the thoughts in your head.
(My mind was blown where I first learned this from Brooke Castillo at The Life Coach School.)
For example, you are not stressed right now because there is a virus in the world.
Rather, you are stressed because of the thoughts you have about the virus.
Perhaps your thoughts are “I could lose my job” or “what if my friends or family get sick?”
Take a few minutes to write down what’s been on your mind in recent days. (This is called a “thought download.”)
After you write down what you’re thinking in this “thought download”, you’ll be able to re-read what you’ve written down and identify the thoughts that have been causing you stress.
I like to re-read my thought download and underline any statement that isn’t a 100% true fact.
All those sentences I underline (which is basically everything I wrote down) are thoughts about the circumstance.
Stress eating is a result of your thoughts, not the circumstance
Brooke Castillo, at The Life Coach School, teaches an amazing tool called The Model.
Here it is:
- Circumstances are neutral, but you have thoughts about the circumstance
- Thoughts cause your feelings
- Feelings lead to actions
- Actions create results
We already identified your thoughts that are leading you to feel stressed.
As you can see (and you may already know), it’s the feeling of stress that is causing you to eat foods you normally wouldn’t eat (eating is the action here).
Therefore, your stress eating is a result of your thoughts that are creating stress, not a result of the circumstances.
Hard to believe, I know.
Let’s break it down another way.
Everyone in the world is experiencing the chaos caused by the virus.
However, everyone has different thoughts about what is happening.
You (and me) have thoughts that lead to the feeling of stress, which leads to the action of snacking and stress eating.
However, there are other people in the world who have the same circumstance (virus) but they are not thinking thoughts that make them feel stressed.
Instead, they may be thinking a thought like “this too shall pass” or other thoughts that make them feel calm and at ease.
Since they have thoughts that make them feel calm, these people are not stress eating despite the circumstances.
To stop stress eating, change your thoughts
Okay, here’s where the work comes in.
Now that we see that it’s your thoughts about the circumstance that create the feeling of stress (which leads to the action of eating), we have to change our thoughts.
We have to pick new thoughts that create feelings that won’t lead to stress eating.
Here are some thoughts for you to try on:
- This too shall pass
- The virus will run its course
- I have enough [money / food / toilet paper] for today, so I am okay
- I am safe in my house / apartment
- Everything always works out exactly how it’s supposed to
Do any of those thoughts appeal to you?
How do they make you feel?
For me, those thoughts give me the feelings of calm and steadiness.
When I think those thoughts I feel less stressed and more at ease with what’s happening in the world.
And when I’m in a place of feeling calm and steady, I’m not tempted to have that extra glass of wine or eat those extra snacks while I’m working from home.
I’m not tempted to cover my emotions of stress with food.
I’m willing to be here in the present moment and remain calm no matter what is happening in the world around me.
So for now, work on practicing these new thoughts every morning and evening and in moments when you’re feeling stressed.
And eventually, after you practice these thoughts enough, they will become second-nature (a belief).
Without effort, you’ll believe these thoughts to be true.