PODCAST. Do patients just keep coming without a breather? No time to catch up on notes? In addition to patients, maybe you’re going through a hard time or some you love has been diagnosed with a tough medical issue. Add in the holidays and your stress level is maxed out. Do you find yourself emotionally eating and not even thinking about it? Did you know that stressed is desserts spelled backwards?
When Dr. Christie and I wrote our first book I’d Kill for a Cookie, we surveyed 1000 people and guess what we found? Two out of three reported that they stress eat for some of the reasons I just mentioned like work and illness…plus money, bills, divorce…you know what I’m talking about. The reality is that even as medical professionals life throws us curve balls that we never expect…right?
I remember when I found out my brother had melanoma and wasn’t going to survive. He was only forty. I didn’t cope so well. The food-mood connection is real and it’s strong. I, for one, can testify to this, as my stress reaction was to not eat and lose way too much weight. I felt too sick inside to eat. For you, it may be just the opposite. It’s easy for food to become a comforter, like a best friend. After all, it’s legal and it’s everywhere. But food only meets emotional needs as a quick fix and for a short time. It’s not a replacement for love or support and can’t fill us with joy. Ultimately we have to deal with the issues and the stress.
Before you start another jammed-packed stressful day, consider these 5 steps to de-stress and put at least one into action now.
1. Recognize emotional eating for what it is. Pay attention to your emotions. You may ask patients to do this but how often do you? Since a lot of tempting food will likely be brought into your office, every time you eat something, ask yourself…am I hungry or am I eating because of stress, anger, sadness or because it’s there? Even better, keep a journal for a day or two. You can add quick notes to your phone note app. Why? When you write down what you eat, how much you eat and why you eat, patterns become clear very quickly.
For example, if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll notice if you eat because you didn’t eat breakfast and haven’t had time to stop for lunch and the food is there. Maybe you had a less than pleasant conversation with a patient and just grabbed that cookie from the platter on the counter. You may notice that emotional eating is more of an issue at the holidays and certain dates may also bring back memories,
2. Find a substitute to replace food…even a 10-minute walk can clear your mind and lower stress. Can’t get outside…find the stairs. Just move and breathe for a couple of minutes. If this doesn’t work for you, come up with something that you can do repeatedly instead of eat.
3. Hit the delete key: take a look at your calendar for the week and decide to cancel a couple of events you really don’t want to attend. Use that time to spend with your family or close friends…not work.
4. Just say no. Why is it, we think we must say yes to everything? You don’t owe an explanation. Say no and feel good about it. Give yourself the gift of time to do what you want or do nothing at all. That’s ok and in fact is very healthy.
5. Outsource: if your schedule is so full that thinking about shopping or cooking adds a new layer of stress, it’s time to hire help. From personal shoppers to meals ready-to-go, there’s a service out there to assist you. Decide where it’s most important to spend you time and which items on your to-do list need to be outsourced.
Holiday de-stress now…tune it to what and when you eat, hit the delete key, just say no and outsource what you don’t have time to do. Be good to yourself. People need you.