Stress can really take its toll. But when you’re trying to lose weight, you need to figure out ways to deal with stress that don’t include eating.
Stress can really take its toll. Every day, we’re trying to balance so many things — work, relationships, money, household, etc. The list goes on.
Add weight loss to an already overwhelming list of priorities and it can almost feel like too much to handle.
When you’ve been overweight your entire life, like I was, the first thing you turn to when you’re dealing with stress is, of course, food. Food feels comfortable and calming. Like one cupcake can solve all your problems.
But then, when you decide to lose weight, food can’t be your go-to stress reliever anymore. Food needs to take a backseat so you can accomplish your goals. The problem for me, though, is that weight loss is probably the biggest stressor in my life. And turning to food to relieve stress about weight loss is so counterproductive. It becomes an endless cycle.
To lose weight, we need to break that cycle. We need to figure out ways to deal with stress without turning to food. Here are a few tactics that have helped me manage my stress — and none of them involve cupcakes:
1. Take a break
When too much is going on, it’s easy for me to get so overwhelmed that I ultimately break down. Before that happens, it’s important to take a step back and unwind. No matter how close your deadline is or how many dishes you have in the sink, stop what you’re doing. Take a break and think about what you really need right now.
2. Read a book
Rather than mindlessly watching Netflix for hours, try cracking open a book. The story will keep your mind off whatever is stressing you out, but you’ll be doing an activity that nourishes your mind. Reading is also a great way to learn new things and gain a new perspective.
3. Take a walk
When you need to clear your mind, taking a walk is the perfect activity. The fresh air is soothing, and if you can find a quiet neighborhood or walking trail, the environment will have a calming effect. Let your mind wander as you walk and try not to focus on what’s bothering you. Plus, you’ll burn some calories while you’re at it.
While we’re on the topic, burning calories is actually one of the best ways to deal with stress. Exercise releases endorphins and, as Elle Woods taught us, endorphins make you happy. After a good workout, your mood will have lifted and you’ll feel lighter.
5. Get creative
Try an activity that uses the right side of your brain. For Christmas last year, I got one of those paint-by-number paintings, and I swear it’s changed my life. I love putting some soothing music on and sitting down to paint. I get so into it that hours go by, and by the time I’m done, I feel relaxed and at ease.
Any type of creative activity can help ease your stress. You could try painting, drawing, a coloring book, sewing, knitting, writing, etc. Whatever you like doing most!
As a writer, I may be biased, but I find writing to be an incredibly soothing activity. The best way is to allow yourself to free write for 15–30 minutes. Don’t edit as you go. Just let the words come to you and fill the page with whatever’s on your mind. As you take the negative thoughts eating away at you out of your brain and onto the page, that’s where they’ll stay.
7. Call a friend
Sometimes all we need is to vent. Luckily, I have a very supportive and understanding husband who always listens to me complain or cry. For you, that could be your mom, best friend, partner, whoever. The point is to find somebody to confide in. Don’t keep all your emotions bottled up inside.
8. Take a bath
Spa night is my favorite night, and it’s not only reserved for when I’m stressed. I love taking a night to focus on some pampering, and I do it on a regular basis. A hot bubble bath is the perfect place to rest and unwind after a long, tense day.
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t really like to clean. I procrastinate and delay it as long as possible. But a messy house can sometimes just add fuel to the fire when you’re stressed. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, start by just organizing your house. Taking a few minutes to just straighten up will instantly make you feel productive and more at ease in your environment.
And if you feel like it, by all means, whip out that mop and broom and give your house the thorough cleaning that it probably needs (I know mine does).
I know I said this list wasn’t going to include food, but hear me out. I’m talking about the act of cooking here, not eating what you cook. Over the last few years, I’ve grown to really enjoy cooking. For a half hour or hour in the evening, the time I spend in the kitchen has become my “me time.” So next time you need a break from it all, put on some music, find a new recipe and flex those cooking skills.
What’s your favorite way to unwind and relieve stress? Share your best strategies in the comments!
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