What Do You Do to Manage Stress...That Doesn't Involve Food?

How do we end up with WAY too many things going on? How come everything happens all at once? We have had a lot going on, so I haven't been able to make any blog posts, and I have been spending a lot of time thinking about stress management. I didn't post much in March, but I have a lot in mind for April! It's IBS Awareness Month, and Infertility Week is in a few weeks. Since these are two of my specialty practice areas, I'll have lots to say this month!Realizing stress in your life.Late last week, I realized how stressed out I had become. Dan asked how work was and I responded, "work is going great, but I am super-stressed and overwhelmed by...." And there was this long list of things on my mind. Nothing on that list is terrible. In fact, most of the issues I am dealing with are all wonderful things that I enjoy and welcome in my life. But, whew, these take up a lot of mental space and time.I have also been super careful regarding my gluten-free diet. I feel like I have had some exposure to gluten somewhere in my diet for some time now. The annoying thing is that I am really not sure where it has been coming from. So I have been re-reading all the labels of foods I eat, be overly cautious when eating out and taking a closer look at my kitchen for possible gluten-contamination. This is also stressful.My challenges with healthy copingCoping with stress has been harder since I was diagnosed with celiac. Going out to eat really was a source of stress relief for me. But now, it's pretty tricky to go out to eat and overindulge. When you have celiac there is a lot of thought that goes in to what to eat and how to order when dining out. And the options are inevitably limited. It sort of takes the fun out of it for me. (At least for now it does, I expect this will change as life goes on.) So for now, stress management has been something that I've really had to pay attention to.My go-to comfort food is chocolate. It hasn't always been this way, but since my celiac diagnosis, it's the easiest, tastiest indulgence I can do on a gluten-free diet. However, when I have chocolate it is still mindfully done. In part because I have to read the fine print on the chocolate label to ensure it's gluten free, but also because it took me a while to recognize the "hole" that not being able to indulge in eating out had left. Now I know that when I crave chocolate it is likely because I am sleep-deprived or stressed. Simply wanting chocolate tells me something. And now, I am better able to realize that I am stressed. So, I eat the chooclate mindfully while trying to find some other ways to cope with and prevent stress.My Nourish-Me ListA couple weekends ago, I was feeling totally out of control of our lives, and so I made a list of things that keep me healthy. This has become my "Nourish-Me" list. I filled it with all the things that I know help me stay sane and healthy, like exercise and seeing friends, and I posted it on our fridge. In the past few weeks when things have become really hectic, these are a few of the items from that list that have really helped me get through.

  • Listening to music when I get home from work and in the car instead of talk radio.
  • Setting my alarm to get 8 hours of sleep, even if that means no morning workout. And being okay with this.
  • Figuring out when to exercise if it doesn't work out in the morning, which means taking a break during the day to exercise or going after work.
  • Relaxing my to-do list. I had to limit certain things, like posting on the blog, finishing new handouts, doing some errands and certain household chores.
  • Getting help and support from Dan and my family. Just telling Dan that I was stressed out helped greatly. And I've lined up help for the coming week from my parents and sister. I don't know what I'd do without my family. We all need support.

Elicit support and ask for help, before you need it. Sometimes Dan will ask me what he can do to help, and in a fit of frustration, I'll say, "Nothing! It's fine". It's not fine and he called me on it last week by saying, "Why do you always say that I can't help? There hasn't to be something I can do." I realize that I need to slow down enough to find the words to ask for help. Sometimes I am trying to do so many things at once that I can't even verbalize what help I need with. I've already become overwhelmed. For example, when I am carrying three bags, a mug full of coffee, holding the door open with one foot and trying to get everyone into the car when I am running late in the morning, it's easier for me to refuse help than to accept help. Accepting help would mean letting go of one of the things that I am holding on to, and I would likely drop my coffee, which would make a huge mess and be really upsetting! Why didn't I ask for help before getting overwhelmed? Instead of trying to make it to the car in one trip, I should have asked for help loading the car.I realize now that I should ask for help before I need it, because once I am overwhelmed it's harder to figure out how someone else can help without creating more work. And once I am overwhelmed it can be really hard to see how someone else can help. Another set of eyes makes a difference. Dan could easily see how he could help, but I couldn't.This realization is crucial for me and one that I hope to share with my clients, who are often feeling totally overwhelmed. So what's on your list? Create your Nourish-Me List, keep it handy and remember to ask for help before you need it.Material on this blog is provided for informational purposes only. It is general information that may not apply to you as an individual, and is not a substitute for personalized nutrition or health advice or healthcare. Never disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical care because of something you have read or accessed through this website.