During stressful times, it is hard not to look for comfort by over-indulging. Taking comfort by reaching the bottom of a potato chip bag may seem to have an instant upside. But, thinking about making that choice repeatedly over time ends up with many downsides for your health.
The problem is that when you engage in a pattern of behavior over time, it ends up becoming a habit. It appears that social distancing requirements may last much longer than some of us initially expected. Letting it all go during the duration of stay-at-home orders could end up working against your health because you may end up forming unhealthy habits.
Luckily, the rule of forming a habit works in the opposite direction as well. If you engage in positive patterns of behavior over a period of time, those also turn into habits. Since most of our lifestyle patterns are currently upended, now is the time to consider what kind of habits you want to form while staying at home.
If you are looking for ways not to let it all go during social distancing, here are some tools to help you avoid overindulging:
Engage in a healthier alternative activity. For example, drink tea, eat a carrot, take a walk, do a quick You Tube workout, meditate for a few minutes, call a friend, engage in some other activity that distracts you from your desire to overindulge.
Pay attention to triggers. Think about whether there are specific events or feelings that trigger overindulging. Try to notice when those occur and predetermine how you will respond. It will be impossible to avoid stress during this time. Making a game plan for how to deal with it will help you in the moment.
Reward yourself with food, drink, etc. in a more measured way (i.e, one glass of wine vs. one bottle, one cookie vs. one dozen cookies). If you can’t be measured, you might want to consider giving up your vice cold turkey. Ouch.
Be careful about becoming too isolated. In order to avoid getting bored or lonely, it is important to reach out to family, friends, coworkers and neighbors as a way to stay connected (while also complying with social distancing). It is mutually beneficial.
Keep an active mind. Read something, learn something, do a puzzle. Keep your mind busy, and off of all the goodies in your well stocked pantry.
Remember mindfulness and perspective. Take time for mindfulness, meditation, or yoga. This will be a tremendous tool to refocus you, keep you calm and keep things in perspective. If quiet time is not possible in your home, certain activities like drawing, painting, coloring, doing a puzzle, etc. can be meditative and can be done with others.
Stay Informed, But Not News Obsessed. During this pandemic, it is important to stay informed (particularly of closings and requirements that impact your locality). However, binge watching news all day will probably lead you to higher blood pressure and increased anxiety. So, take in the information you need, and then move on to something more positive. Fill your mind with more positive than negative influences.
Remember to Be Kind To Yourself. If you are having trouble avoiding over-indulging due to current stressors, don’t beat yourself up. Try again tomorrow. As I stated in a prior post, we are all making huge lifestyle changes in order to social distance for the health of ourselves and our communities. While we need to give ourselves some space for wellness in order to bolster our immune systems, we should not be doing so in a way that adds absurd amounts of stress to the mix.
Hoping that you and your family stay safe and well.