Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Managing Stress

I don't think I'm alone in admitting that if my life were stress free, my unhealthy habits might possibly go extinct. Sure I'd still indulge - wine, birthday cake, Thanksgiving mashed potatoes, pizza but to indulge doesn't mean a 1000 calorie portion and a stuffed belly.

But stress doesn't make me do things, like drink half a bottle of wine and scarf down a cheeseburger, or snag an afternoon piece of chocolate from the local market.

Rather, stress is my biggest excuse, my greatest crutch, my most reliable get-out-of-jail free card.

If I'm elbow deep in a bag of chips, it's usually not because I'm so stressed out that I didn't have time to grocery shop or cook.

And it's definitely not cause I think that all that salt and grease is going to make me feel better.

Even my brain on stress knows that is not going to help me at all.

And yet, every time I feel that the weight of my responsibilities are becoming bigger than me, I immediately shut down, seek comfort in one of my vices, and ignore the stress.

But now after I've put on a good fifteen pounds this spring and summer, I can no longer continue to look in the mirror, or feel the waistband of my skirt digging in, and pretend that I'm just bloated or being particularly critical.

Just to verify things, I got on the scale too. Ugh, not pretty.

But you know what, no body's perfect? Me included.

First things first. I know all about eating healthy and about exercising. You all know that.

It's now about the how. It's about the why not? And I'm not eating healthy because I feel stressed out all the time. I know I'm not alone in this. In fact, I bet that everyone feels a little stressed out all the time.

And unless I win the lottery, move to a deserted tropical island and simply sit on the beach for the rest of my days, I am going to have to deal with stress for the rest of my life. Heck, I bet that even on my deserted island, I'd find a way to create drama with the turtles, or get stressed out about the tides.

So, first things first: learn to manage stress.

I could work out when I feel stressed. In theory, this seems like a good one because I like running, and generally look forward to many of my workouts, and I do find that regular exercise keeps me feeling more balanced. However, I do my workouts in the a.m. and am typically drained of energy in the evening. Sometimes, there is enough energy for an evening workout but I worry that behavior borders on compulsive, obsessive, or disordered habits, and so I'm afraid to rely on exercise. Still a little walk or yoga class couldn't hurt, right?

I could meditate - if I knew how to. Ok, so this option isn't immediately available to me but I could certainly learn how to meditate. My gym offers some meditation classes and I do enjoy the shavasana pose which is meditation at the end of yoga class.

I could read. I love reading. Yesterday, I almost read an entire book on my 6 hour commute to and from Pennsylvania. I have read two other books in the past week. But since I already read all the time, I'm not sure that this would help. Perhaps, splurging on a favorite magazine or going to the bookstore for a cup of tea and some light reading might work?

I could get a manicure or pedicure, or some other spa treatment. This one is definitely relaxing, but not very budget conscious. The occasional treat is within my means, but I can't get a massage multiple times a week or even month. However, there are some ways I could reap the benefits at home - fancy bath products and a bath, setting up relaxing candles, tea, and essential oils like the spa lounges, or doing a little manual massage with a tennis ball or foam roller.

These are just few ways that I have decided that I can manage my stress instead of chowing on chips or guzzling a glass of wine.

What other suggestions do you have for me? Some other things that came up include cooking, calling a friend or family member, or watching television, however, I didn't think these would work because they can also be a source of stress and anxiety for me. (Ok, well sometimes, I just find television boring, especially if nothing I like is on.)

I see the key to dealing with stress as a two-part problem: the first part is learning to alleviate stress and the second part is learning to deal with it.

After all, stress can be a good thing. A deadline can light a fire under my butt, an argument can bring to life some rude things I didn't realize I had said, and a bill can remind me to start saving for the future.

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