Stress is a funny thing. It rears it’s ugly head in so many different ways in our daily lives. In fact, if I had a dime for every time I said I was stressed out during a given day I would be rich enough to buy one shirt at Anthropologie. Which doesn’t stand for much since my stress is equal whether I am in the biggest work meeting, I have a never ending to-do list, I can’t find the one black tank top I wear every day or Carrie Mathison is doing anything during a Homeland episode.
So in fairness to stress I wanted to research a little into what it really was. And by researching I mean I did a quick Google search. I asked my BFF Google this thought-provoking question, “What is stress?” To which google answered, “A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” Ok, so maybe all four of the above do fit under the stress umbrella.
The most frustrating thing about being stressed is that it turns us into little monsters. And not the fabulous Lady Gaga type. You may cry, you may yell, you may sweat, you may shut down, you may eat.
I recently returned home from a weeklong anniversary trip. The day after my trip I had off from work and with many big events coming up in my life I knew I had a big to-do list. After finishing breakfast and catching up on Teen Mom (don’t judge) I stood up to get my day started. In an attempt to decide where to start, I looked around my apartment for inspiration. In my small 650 square foot apartment there were two suitcases filled with dirty clothes covering majority of the floor space that needed to be washed… the floor and the clothes. The dishwasher needed to be unloaded and reloaded. I’m moving in two weeks and need to begin packing. My drawers can barely close because I refuse to get rid of old cheerleading t-shirts from freshman year of high school; a trip to Good Will would be helpful today. Furthermore, the walls need spackling so we get our security deposit back. I need to pay my credit card bill and organize finances. I need to go to the grocery store. I have unanswered emails to respond to. Oh, and not to mention, my license expired so I need to head to the DMV and get that renewed. Needless to say I had a lot to do, as I am sure many of you do every single day. That to me is one of the biggest causes of stress, when our to-do lists become debilitating.
So where did I start in this long list of chores? I started with a jar of peanut butter and a spoon and sat on my couch where I looked at the mess and stared at my list. I figured since I had so much to do, I’d do nothing. I also reasoned that since my to-do list was so long and now I was stressed, I deserved this peanut butter. And every single little orange goldfish I put in my mouth from that point on.
Fast-forward 32 minutes, after I had completely exceeded the 2 TBSP, 5 point serving size of peanut butter and 55 little gold fish, I still felt stressed. And I hadn’t checked a single thing off my list. In fact I added to my list : burn off the 1000 calories of crap I just ate.
Why does food go hand in hand with stress? What about stress makes us reach for food? For me, I am learning that most of the time stress is a response to an emotion I am trying not to feel. Stress leaves me feeling helpless and vulnerable and food is there for comfort. When I stress eat I don’t address the problem about what’s causing my stress in the first place.
Are you really stressed because you just got handed four more hours of work or are you stressed because you do not feel valued in your jobs? Are you stressed because you can never find any clothes that fit or are you angry at yourselves for gaining weight? Are you stressed about the house being a mess or are you stressed because your significant other doesn’t help with the chores?
After typing my above to-do list I realized all of the above chores circled back to the fact that I am scared to move. Scared I won’t be as happy in that house as I am now. Boom… Scared! The emotion causing stress! Lightbulb moment.
And believe me, it’s hard to get honest with ourselves about what is causing our stress, BUT it will save us a lot of calories.