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Retraining the stress response

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

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.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • GINNJEN1974
    Way to go, that pull can be too much. You did great and are showing your girls such an important lesson too. Hang in there.
    1986 days ago
    Really proud of you, and inspired by your strength.
    1986 days ago
    You just totally knocked this out of the park! This is something most people have to face, and you realized the reality: this is an emotional decision not a rational one, and the rational choice is the better choice. Every time this choice comes up you will have to make the choice again, but after a few times of choosing the better choice will help.

    Here in MN there's a new ad campaign that just came out that reminds me of this. Two overweight (or obese) boys are comparing how much their dads can eat. "My dad can eat 1,000 chicken nuggets" and "My dad can eat a quadruple burger" are two of the comparisons. The father walks towards the boys carrying a tray overflowing with fast food. As he hears what they're saying, he stops and thinks about what he's teaching these kids. I think it is an INCREDIBLE wakeup call for anyone who is willing to listen.

    I think you just heard a wakeup call within yourself. What you do now is going to shape your children's choices for the rest of their lives. Hopefully that thought will help shape your choices during these stressful times. Just remember that you're human and you make mistakes, so speaking with your kids about this is important too. If you had chosen differently and took them for food, after the fact you can still talk to them about how that wasn't the smartest thing to do, why you did it, apologize, and ask them to help you make the better choice next time. They can handle knowing that their mom is still learning.

    I hope you can find some relaxation in the next few days.
    1987 days ago
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    1987 days ago
    (((DragonChild))) you are an inspiration! I am glad your husband was able to get help. You rock!
    1987 days ago
    I'm sorry to hear that things got a little stressful today. but, good for you for choosing a healthier option than fast food to relieve that stress. Enjoy your boot camp class in the morning.

    1987 days ago
    Great job, I'm proud of you. Repeating this action only makes it easier and yes, a great example to your kids. Keep the faith.
    1987 days ago
    Sending the right message to the children is good for everyone!!
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    1987 days ago
    Each step is important. You're off to a good start on your journey.
    1987 days ago
    One day at a time... one hour at a time... or minute by minute. This, too, shall pass.
    1987 days ago
    1987 days ago
  • MPLANE37
    You won't need the willpower to do anything right ONLY when it becomes a habit. When you find yourself doing it automatically, then it has nothing to do with your willpower. Like driving by the Mc Donalds with an empty stomach, but feeling a slight disgust in your stomach at noticing the sign. That has nothing to do with your willpower. You would like to repeat that action until it becomes a habit. You don't have to do it forever, only a sufficient number of times.
    1987 days ago
    I think sparking is all about individual victories. Win the battles, you'll win the war
    1987 days ago
    One day at a time. You need your energy during high stress times, and fast food just zaps it. Remember how much better you feel with real food!
    1987 days ago
    Well done! Congratulations. One day at a time. Now take a rest and tomorrow will take of itself. Best wishes to you emoticon
    1987 days ago
    I hope your husband is doing better soon.
    1987 days ago
    You overcame this threat to your progress. Give yourself a emoticon .
    1987 days ago
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