Fighting stress the hard way

Stress has always been a factor of life, but it seems that in today’s word, it looms even larger. Good advice on how to deal with stress is to be found around every corner.
Exercise, meditation, behavior modification, hobbies, spirituality and having a good talk with a friend are all productive ways of coping with stress.

Yet how do many people deal with stress? They fight it the hard way with activities to temporarily release the pressure, but inevitably contribute to it rebuilding. Fighting stress the hard way usually involves some form of self-destructive behavior. The obvious ways of fighting stress in the wrong, short-sighted way are to try to obliterate the stress by obliterating oneself with drugs or alcohol. The stressful situation remains, and the indulger is left with a hangover with which to combat it. Many addicts and most alcoholics cite their inability to deal with stress as a major factor in their addiction. The same is true of smokers who will attribute failures at smoking cessation programs to a stressful incident.

Many people, especially women, deal with stress by overeating. When women were pooled regarding how they felt stress affecting their eating patterns, only 9 % felt it had no effect. Five percent stated that stress affected them so much they forgot to eat and lost their appetites. However, the majority of women, a whooping 86%, said they used food in one way or another to combat stress. Many said they raced to the nearest fast food outlet, while others craved sweets and fatty foods. Some women described themselves as emotional eaters who ate anything at hand, long after their hunger had subsided. Most of these women confessed that they never really even tasted what they ate.

Psychologists have tried to figure out why overeating is such an appealing, though ineffectual, way to deal with stress. Some believe that, since childhood, we are rewarded with food for being good. Stress puts most people in a psychological state wherein they could use a reward, so they turn to eating. Others just reason that food is legal, available and not frowned upon in the some way that smoking, drinking too much and drug taking are. Others feel that there is a physiological component to stress eating and that it actually serves the purpose of dulling the nervous system by offering a distraction.

Many feel that an understanding of the factors behind stress eating does little good and that energy is better focused upon behavior modification an breaking the habit of eating to cope with all stress, large and small. They further contend that the crux of the problem is the feeling that stress is intolerable and must be chased away. With this attitude, stress eaters, and other individuals who fight stress the hard way, will never learn to cope with stress and resolve it, but will continually seek out ways to run from it and hide. Therefore the way to combated stress eating is to develop effective ways to meet stress head on and cope.


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