Creating Calm

When stress hit, how do you  handle it? If you said, "Go for a run," or "Take a walk," you get extra credit. For many of the people I coach, the answer is, "Eat!"

If you define yourself as a stress eater, you've learned at some point in your life that eating made you feel better. Your mom may have given you a cookie to make a skinned knee feel better, not knowing she was doing anything except helping you at that moment. As time went by, eating cookies became your "go-to" behavior to handle stress, much like popping ibuprofen for a headache. Eating cookies (or your whatever food you may choose) may even work temporarily, by providing a quick feel-better fix. Blood sugar surges, it's pleasurable, and perhaps an escape for the moment. But, these benefits are short term. Some people end up continuing to eat more and more cookies to maintain the pleasant feelings. The problem arises when stress eating starts adding extra body fat.

Simply switching to carrots and celery doesn't usually work well because those foods don't tend to provide the same level of pleasure that the cookies do, nor do they provide as much quick energy. They may even seem like a negative experience, maybe even a punishment to some people when they are trying to make the switch.

What works better? Developing a new behavior that creates a sense of calm. Something quick, easy to do, but something that provides enjoyment. I've been working with a few people on this lately. Ideas that they've come up with include making a cup of really special tea, popping a pod of a favorite flavor of coffee into the Keurig, or a making a cup of light cocoa. You can create an entire calming process in making your beverage: grabbing a favorite cup, enjoying the aroma, and sitting down to savor every sip. A calming process. Finding joy in a cup. Other ideas include practicing a 5 minute deep breathing routine or putting on your headphones to zone out and listen to a favorite song. 

Whatever you decide to use as your "Creating Calm" behavior, it will require lots of practice. First, identify when it is you feel stressed. Then, intentionally choose to use your new calming action. The more you use it, the more natural it will become. Be sure to keep what you need readily available at home and the office: special mug, tea, coffee, cocoa mix,  I-Pod, or ear phones.

Keep practicing your new calm, even if you don't always remember to reach for it right away. Like all good things, it requires focus, practice, and time to develop a new positive behavior. Just rememberL you're worth what it takes to make Creating Calm work for you!