A Mindful Method for Stress

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In Mindfulness and Eating, we took a brief look at calmly dissolving disruptive obstacles to healthy eating. Retraining your mind to respond to stress in a healthier way takes a lot of practice. Simply by being alive, you’ll regularly face plenty of stressors that will require you to practice calmness.
Stress is unavoidable. How you react is a choice.
Yes, unavoidable. Attending a workshop about reducing stress will not stop the driver that sideswiped your car. No book on how to live a stress-free life will prevent a job layoff. What you can do is train your mind and, over time, alter your mind and body response to triggers. Instead of automatically reaching for a bag of chips, you may choose to go for a walk. Rather than mindlessly pounding down half a gallon of ice cream, you may choose to wait until you are calm and then eat a decent meal.
By fitting the response to each situation, you can exist in a difficult physical or mental place and still be okay. Let’s practice making good choices while stressed.
Pause, Breathe, and Think
Imagine that a stressful moment disrupted your healthy eating plans.
Pause for one breath.
Sit or stand in a dignified posture.
Take in one deep, slow breath through your nostrils.
Exhale slowly through your slightly pursed mouth.
Consider your options with an open and calm mind.
Is there an activity that might take the place of stress eating? If so, choose it.
Can eating be pushed back by 15 minutes, giving you time to regroup? If so, do that.
Determine if stress eating is an option. Notice how, just by thinking for a moment, you might eat a handful of orange cheese crunchies instead of the entire bag.
When it is time to eat, choose the healthiest food available. You might not have access to your kitchen or a grocer, so be at peace with your choice.
Intellectually, set stress aside while eating.
Eat slowly. Pause between bites to give your brain time to register when you have eaten the amount that is right for you.
Find something to admire about the food’s preparation, flavors, and colors.
You don’t have to finish everything on your plate. Stop when you are full. It’s okay.
Return to face the reality of the stress – yes, it is still there, but you have changed how you reacted to it and broken free of stress eating.
Mindfully Considered
A reactive eat-a-thon is, at its root, an effort to feel less stress by overloading other senses. It sure works to create a distraction, but it will not work to make the stress disappear. Staying in the now and checking in with available options keeps you from diving mouth first into a raging river of stress eating.
Practice the pause, breathe, and think stress response at various times throughout the day when stressors are small in order to train yourself to handle larger stressors. Choose peace and health when faced with a difficult situation.
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