Five Ways to Overcome Stress and Emotional Eating

It’s happening, you’re overwhelmed at work, at home, and at church. You’ve taken on too much and now, you’re feeling anxious, depressed, fatigued, irritable, and gaining or losing weight. The American Academy of Family Physicians says that the early warning signs of stress include tension in your shoulders and neck or clenching your hands into fists. And here, you thought your annoying co-worker was the problem.

But according to CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, chief medical correspondent, we are a nation under stress. “The culture of stress is so pervasive that we’re all affected in our everyday lives,” says Dr. Gupta. “In our world of long hours, side hustles, and constantly being connected through technology, it’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling chronically stressed.”

Chronic stress is so pervasive that life expectancy in America is at its lowest in a century.

But wait, it gets worse. Stress is a co-morbid condition, meaning that there is the simultaneous presence of two or more conditions or diseases such as anxiety, depression, and emotional over- or under -eating. Not only is April Stress Awareness Month, it’s also Emotional Overeating Awareness Month. Coincidence?

We don’t think so.

Emotional eating is a powerful and effective way to find temporary relief from many of life’s challenges. According to the Food Addiction Institute, “eating sugars and fats releases opioids in our brains. Opioids are the active ingredients in cocaine, heroin, and many other narcotics. So the calming, soothing effects you feel when you eat ice cream and BBQ potato chips are real. And breaking these habits can be like kicking a drug habit.” 

Okay, so now that we’ve got your attention, what are you going to do about your stress, anxiety, or emotional eating?  

Here are five ways to overcome these conditions.

Practice Daily Prayer and Meditation

Prayer is simply a conversation with God. Trust him with your troubles and take the time to read and meditate on His word, the Holy Bible. There are verses for every day of the year and they hold promises of a glorious future. Here are two verses to meditate on:

“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” - Philippians 4:7

“But blessed is the man who trusts me, God, the woman who sticks with God. They’re like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers— Never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a leaf, Serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season.” - Jeremiah 17:7-8

Develop a Rule of Life, including Sabbath Rest

I can’t say this enough - God rested on the seventh day and so should you! According to pastor and author, Pete Scazzero, “All work — paid and unpaid — is good, but it needs to be boundaried by the practice of Sabbath. The problem with too many leaders is that we allow our work to trespass on every other area of life, disrupting the balanced rhythm of work and rest God created for our good. Sabbath is a twenty-four-hour block of time in which we stop work, enjoy rest, practice delight, and contemplate God.” He outlines four steps to a meaningful sabbath here.

Go Outside and Reconnect With God’s Creation

Take a break, take a lunch break, a bathroom break and go where the real light is - outside. As it turns out, there are numerous health benefits to natural light or vitamin D exposure. Vitamin D exposure helps wards off heart disease, weight gain, seasonal depression, improves sleep and reduces stress.

Get Physical

Needless to say, there are even more health benefits linked to regular exercise. Whether it’s working out at a gym, running in the park or practicing yoga at home, please exercise your options for getting fit.

Seek Help

Whether it is pastoral counseling or mental health counseling with licensed professionals, there is no shame in seeking help. It helps you remember that you were not meant to live this life alone and you are, in fact, never alone.

Psychotherapy is a process focused on helping you heal and learn more constructive ways to deal with the problems or issues within your life. It can also be a supportive process when going through a difficult period or under increased stress, such as starting a new career or going through a divorce.” - PsychCentral

Learn more about the different types of therapy here.

And, I’ll throw in a bonus method for overcoming stress. Worship. It’s a form of gratitude that reminds you of God’s goodness and faithfulness.