Don’t Make This Mistake When Coping With Stress

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Before we begin, I’d like to share with you a conversation I had the other day with a young woman in my office. She quit smoking two months ago – Yay for taking such a big step towards better health! And she gained 20 pounds.

We brainstormed on what might be contributing to her weight gain. Yes, she has an insanely busy schedule. No, she doesn’t have much time to eat healthy nor does she have much time to exercise. No, not much has changed in her life except that she quit smoking.

So our conversation turned to what smoking did for her, in addition to it being stinky, costly, and harmful to her lungs. She used cigarettes to cope with stress. They comforted her, and that comfort is now gone!

As it turns out, once the comfort from smoking was taken away, she had to replace it with something else, even though this was not a conscious decision. Like so many of us, that something for her is eating. So, she’s been snacking a lot lately. While in the past she would have reached for a cigarette, now she reaches for some comfort food.

And the comfort food that most of us crave is not healthy, even though it doesn’t have to be that way. But that’s a discussion for another day.

Reaching for Comfort

For better or for worse, to cope with stress we find ways to comfort ourselves. We don’t say that I’m comforting myself with this piece of pizza because I’m working longer hours – we just do it. Or we eat a box of chocolate cookies in one sitting after a bad breakup.

While most of us don’t have much control over our stress, we do have a choice on how to comfort ourselves. And how we comfort ourselves can make or break our health.

So, here are some questions for you to ponder:

  1. What are the ways that you comfort yourself?
  2. How much do those ways contribute to your stress?
  3. How much do they contribute to your health (or the lack of it)?
  4. Are you comforting yourself enough or do you feel deprived?

If the way you cope with stress is not contributing to your better health, find alternatives!

Here is a simple, healthy 2-minute exercise for comfort.

You can do it while sitting or standing. Either way, it is really soothing.

Dr. Dan ZhouDon’t Make This Mistake When Coping With Stress

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