A client just emailed me. She’s working through my online emotional eating program and has discovered that she’s using food to cope with her feelings at work when a task seems overwhelming. She asks: “How can I handle the stress (at work)?” Great question.
Finding the right answer for you will depend on a number of things, including your individual preferences and schedule, the constraints of your job, and the nature of the task. However, here are some questions that might be helpful.
Can you identify when you start to feel overwhelmed and when you start thinking about food? Is it before you face the task? Is it procrastination? Is it in the middle of the task? When you do think about food, what are you feeling—confused, distracted, anxious, uncertain, overloaded? Do you eat when the task is done as a reward or as a way to deal with the stress you built up “getting through” the process? The answers to these questions give you valuable information to help you shape an alternative response to eating that will work for you. Knowing these answers will allow you to begin to pinpoint how you could respond to your feelings directly.
If the task seems overwhelming is there anything you could do to make it one degree less overwhelming? Could you break it down into smaller sub-goals? Get more clarity about what is expected? Delegate? Can you get additional support—either support to help you with the project or support for you in other areas so that you have more energy to devote to the project? Can you dive in for ten minutes and see how that feels?
Sometimes we just need to take a break. Can you walk around the block or around your office or even go to the bathroom and look yourself in the eye in the mirror and ask yourself what you need to do next? Can you stretch or get a cup of tea instead of heading to the vending machine?
Sometimes we just have to do the really hard thing. If you take a deep breath and dive in, how will you reward yourself for your courage? What can you do instead of snacking? How can you celebrate your progress as you work through the task? How can you give yourself credit?
These questions are just the tip of the iceberg. The key point is that once we start asking ourselves what we REALLY need and what we are REALLY feeling (and once we acknowledge that it’s not hunger), we start to be able to formulate solutions that are powerful and much more effective than a bag of chips from the vending machine.