Do you know someone who never seems to react to the craziness around them but rather stays calm and serene at all times? While I want to be more like that, my more common response is to let the energy of my surroundings – whether calm or chaotic – dictate my mood and feelings. In the past, this led to my using food to soothe or distract myself, but after losing nearly 100 pounds and getting my Type 2 diabetes under good control, emotional eating in response to stress no longer serves me well, so I spend a fair amount of time seeking out and practicing new stress management behaviors.
What works for me is:
- taking a deep, cleansing breath – it sounds simple, and it is, but this is one of the most effective tools I’ve found for managing stress without turning to food. Not only does it keep me anchored to the present moment (instead of obsessing over every possible bad outcome) but filling your belly, chest, and throat with air before emptying them out with an enormous sigh feels simply decadent.
- getting away from the situation – even slipping away for a brief moment provides a reminder that there is far more going on in the world than whatever is preoccupying me. I particularly like to walk laps around the inside of our building at work: I “get away” while still being close by in case someone needs me urgently.
- walking meditation – my morning walks are my favorite 20, 30, 45, or 60 minutes of the day. Some days I listen to podcasts but others I simply walk and breathe and enjoy the people, animals, and scenery I encounter. The key is to focus on being really present where you are and holding those feelings of freedom and joy inside to help with perspective when things get rough later on in the day.
- yoga – in the last six months, I have fallen in love with my yoga classes and have gained so much inner peace (not to mention flexibility and agility) from my practice. For the 60 minutes I’m in class, I focus on my breath and finding ways to bring more relaxation and joy into my body. (Note that I used to spend a lot of time in class worrying about how I looked in the various poses and what other students were thinking when I couldn’t do everything exactly as described. Now I know that no one cares even a little bit what you are doing or not doing because they are taking care of themselves, their bodies.)
- communicating how I’m feeling – it can be verbally or in writing, but sharing what I’m worrying about with another person nearly almost reduces the associated stress.
Do you have any favorite stress management techniques? Are you one of the unflappable folks who don’t seem bothered by anything, and, if so, what are your secrets???