Work-life imbalance and unhealthy coping is common. For those without a healthy work-life balance, emotional eating often becomes a negative coping strategy. “Today sucked! What’s in the fridge?” “I can’t believe I’ve got to work all weekend yet again. I need a 7-11 run!” What starts out as eating to dial down the tension may become a precursor to binge eating and body image loathing. From there, chronic dieting, purging behaviors, and other disordered eating behaviors may be next.
What situations or feelings make you reach for the comfort of food? Common causes of emotional eating include stuffing emotions, boredom, loneliness, habits from childhood, and stress. That last one’s a biggie, because when stress is chronic—as it so often is in our chaotic, fast-paced world—your body produces high levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol triggers cravings for salty, sweet, and fried foods—calorie-laden stuff that give you a burst of energy and pleasure. The more uncontrolled stress there is in your life, the more likely you are to turn to food for emotional relief.
That’s where achieving a healthy work-life balance can make an amazing difference. Try these suggestions to dial down the stress in your life and bring back the harmony:
- Meditate. Countless studies show that meditation reduces stress. It also enhances mindfulness, enabling you to make better food choices.
- Amp up your social support. Friends, family, and other sources of social support seem to have a buffering effect on the stress that people experience.
- Set manageable goals each day. Be realistic about workloads and deadlines. Make a “to do” list, take care of important tasks first, and eliminate the non-essential ones. Remember to ask for help when you need it.
- Take a break. Small breaks at work—or on any project—will help clear your mind, improve your ability to deal with stress, and boost your productivity.
- Turn on your favorite tunes. Listening to pleasurable music fosters concentration, reduces stress and anxiety, and stimulates creativity.
- Practice self-acceptance. Remember that no one is perfect. Allow yourself to be human, to make mistakes, and to simply do the best you can.
Don’t let stress stand in the way of your health and happiness. If you’re persistently feeling frazzled and overwhelmed, it’s wise to seek help from a mental health professional. Our compassionate team is here for you. Please contact us anytime.
By Andrew Walen, LCSW-C, LICSW, CEDS, Founder, Executive Director at The Body Image Therapy Center. For help call 877-674-2843 or email email@example.com.