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Busy versus Stressed

We all recognize the link between feeling stressed and eating, but are we actually “stressed” or merely busy and end up calling that state stress? Might the problem be not how much you do, but rather your perception that it’s “too much” or that you wish you were doing less? Consider that altering your perception of busyness might go a long way toward improving your relationship with food. 

As a dysregulated eater, you may have a love-hate relationship with being busy. On the one hand, you may be uneasy with unstructured time, catapulting you straight to the refrigerator for something to do. On the other hand, when there’s a lot on your metaphoric plate, you may tell yourself how stressed you are. For those of you who bounce from one extreme to the other and find it hard to settle at a place (or pace) in between, consider that you could lead an active, fulfilling life and not feel stressed.

Stress is a modern word. I don’t recall hearing it growing up, yet somewhere along the line it became embedded in our culture. Does this mean that people had less busy lives when I was younger or, more likely, that we’ve introduced a new concept into our vocabulary which has changed the concept of what appropriate activity consists of? Think about early humankind searching for food and shelter from dawn till dusk, all day, every day, and whether they were much concerned with feeling stressed. They were busy, for sure, but probably didn’t think much about it. They certainly didn’t focus on how awfully stressed they felt: this was life, this was survival, and they managed.

I’m not saying that we don’t need to sleep, rest, relax and enjoy downtime. We do. I am saying that feeling stressed may take on a life of its own and that this perception that we’re doing more than we can handle makes us feel bad. For example, say you’re going to night school while working a day job raising your kids alone. That is a tremendous amount to be doing, but does it really help to keep telling yourself how stressed you feel? Is the problem the amount you have to do or your view of it?

Certainly, be in touch with mind/body signals, with wanting to cut back and do less. But realize that focusing on how stressed you are only makes you feel worse and more stressed. Do what’s on your schedule, rest when you can, enjoy days off and downtime and leave it at that. It’s okay to be busy at times, but busy doesn’t have to mean stressed out. Calm yourself or take a break when you feel taxed rather than grumble about being overextended. Tell yourself you’re doing the best you can because you are.



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