Submitted by Melissa Woodson
With the onset of autumn and the impending holidays that are often unfortunately associated with stress and unwanted weight gain, it is important to be proactive in recognizing not only stress triggers, but past patterns of behavior in response to these triggers. Many Americans turn to comfort food when it comes to de-stressing, and the variety treats that are available during the fall and winter holidays are comfort foods for many of us. With that in mind, here are five great tips for de-stressing without food this year:
It cannot be emphasized enough: Exercise is hands-down the most effective way to deal with stress. You don’t need to go overboard. Don’t plan on running a marathon or setting a Guinness World Record in swimming. Fitting in at least 30 minutes a day of brisk walking or jogging will keep your body physically active and able to more successfully cope with stress.
It may seem silly, but beginning and ending each day with 10 minutes of free-association writing about your day will help. It allows you to start fresh in the morning by getting anything that might have crept into your subconscious overnight off your chest, and it will let you sleep well at night by relieving your mind of the day’s events before bed.
3. Get Outside
Make sure you get at least 15 minutes of sunlight a day. During the fall and winter months, sunlight is much less plentiful. Forcing yourself to get outside when the sun is up — even if it’s simply to sit on a park bench — will do wonders for your mood and stress levels.
Acknowledge and plan for stressful holiday moments with a self-care approach and reward system. If you know that big holiday dinners with extended family or shopping and spending money is stressful, allow yourself enough time to prepare mentally. Make sure you are taking care of yourself in the days preceding these moments, and reward yourself with some self-care when you make it through without turning to food. Treat yourself to some alone time, a movie or a trip to a spa or salon.
Lastly, do not overlook the positive benefits of therapy. Talking to an unbiased third party can relieve stress as well as provide you with very specific tools and support. There is no shame in seeing a therapist. These days, therapy is commonly used in dealing with the stress of everyday occurrences, and finding one before you are overwhelmed is a great way to be proactive with your self-care.
As difficult as it can be to break the habit of de-stressing with comfort food, the benefits of doing so are clear. By taking advantage of these five ways to deal with stress now, before the holidays are in full-swing, you’ll not only be taking care of yourself, but allowing for a positive holiday experience for you and all of your loved ones.
Melissa Woodson is the community manager for @WashULaw, aMaster of Laws offered through Washington University in St. Louis that is considered a premierLLM in US Law. In her spare time, she enjoys running, cooking, and making half-baked attempts at training her dog.