Monday, September 10, 2012
Retraining the stress response
Today, my family careened headlong into another family crisis.
I found myself trying to turn to old standbys to deal with stress, and made a conscious effort to redirect that instinctive response. You see, what I tend to do when I'm stress is one of two things depending on my level of stress in a crisis situation.
1) Ignore my own needs to the extreme, including skipping meals and ignoring my body's need for sleep and food.
OR (and more commonly)
2) Head to the nearest fast food restaurant for some high-calorie comfort.
After the girls got out of school, I thought about treating them to pizza, t hen decided that I wanted to make some old comfort food at home... and make it healthier. So we did, and it satisfied them so much they didn't even ask for snacks after. Later that evening, we went to the hospital to take my husband some important things, and headed home.
As I drove back home from the hospital, I starting thinking, "We should drop by McDonald's. A happy meal would take the girls' minds off of this."
Then I realized... holy cow, is that the message I want to send my daughters? That when you're feeling down, fries and a cheeseburger is the healthy response?
No. I don't. Even though I wanted, with all my being, to hit that drive through for some crappy, barely-qualifies-as-meat burgers, salty fries, and a tea, I made a very conscious decision to NOT stop there. For starters, we'd already had dinner, and it was past the girls' bedtime, so it was time to head home.
So I drove right by McDonald's. I suppressed my urge to treat them to some Waffle House, too, as we drove by that. Instead, I redirected their tears with a funny story about the dog (who was with us, and his ears flapped in the breeze) flying. They were laughing, and soon I had them tucked in. Instead of a meal, I let them stay up a little later and watch some cartoons (normally a weekend-only treat at bedtime.)
I ate one piece of cheese and a cup of milk to settle my stomach and bring my calorie count up to my minimum, but that's the extent of it. I'm planning on going to boot camp in the morning to release some of this built up tension.
So will I maintain my willpower all week? I don't know. I'm taking this one moment at a time, one urge at a time, but I'm proud of my efforts so far. The last time this happened, I spent the whole time indulging in crap I didn't need. This time, I'm treating my body better, and setting a better example to my kids of how to deal with sadness and stress. And even if I fail, that's okay. This isn't about perfection. I have a lifetime of momentum to overcome. I can only do it one step at a time.
Photo courtesy of BrownGuacamole