Under stressful circumstances, I find it difficult to eat anything. I’ve admitted more than once that I’m an emotional eater (I heart you, french fries), but emotional eating isn’t limited to those times when you’re feeling depressed, anxious, and utterly unlovable. I eat when I’m bored, and when there’s a psychologically empty space in my soul that needs filling – and that’s conveniently the same size as a cupcake.
(Side note: Did you know there are cupcake ATMs? I swear, look it up.)
Look at any website that offers tips on how to reduce stress, and you’ll get a ton of ideas that include stuff like “meditate,” “don’t drink coffee,” “talk it out with a good friend,” and “get a good night’s rest.” They’re not bad ideas; they just don’t work for everyone. I don’t have the patience to meditate or the patience to be patient enough to meditate. I don’t drink coffee as it as, getting a good night’s rest doesn’t make all that much of a difference for me, and I certainly don’t like baring my soul and sharing my problems with other people. So what does that leave me with? Data. Cold, hard, data.
I am firm believer that in order to be the best, you have to learn from the best. When I wanted to know why my car was making that click click click sound, I went to my mechanic (although by the time I got there, the car didn’t make the sound anymore and my mechanic though I was a few liters short of a gallon, if you know what I mean). When I wanted insight as to why my cat was fur-mowing herself bald, I went to the vet (apparent food allergy, combined with stress). Similarly, when I wanted to know which of the myriad of coping strategies work the best, I went to the data we collected for Queendom’s Coping & Stress Management Skills Test. I looked at people who report having, well, pretty awesome lives. Specifically, people who:
- Are satisfied with their job.
- Are satisfied with their life.
- And who find themselves in conflict situations less often than others.
Who are these strange, non-human “super people,” and what is their superpower? The answer is good coping skills. Here are the top 3 methods they use to deal with stress:
The Problem-Solving Approach
There are some occasions when not taking action to solve a problem is the best step – like when you don’t have enough information at your disposal to resolve it. And sometimes, when you leave things well enough alone, they work themselves out. I love those types of problems: The ones where everything in the universe seems to align and everything works out the way you want it to. But the universe isn’t lazy, nor is it stupid. Most problems require some degree of action, and that’s what super people do – they don’t stick their head in the sand.
When faced with a problem, super people don’t sit idly by; they actively looking for ways to find a solution to resolve the situation, get the rid of the source of the stress, or at least improve the circumstances surrounding it. Essentially, they approach life’s problems like they would any other problem: Do some research, outline a few strategies, determine the pros and cons of each option, and then choose the best one. If that strategy doesn’t work, they try another. The bottom line: They act rather than react.
The Positive Cognitive Restructuring Approach
The title doesn’t exactly role of the tongue, but this is one power-packed strategy.
The basic premise of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is that our thoughts have a major impact on how we feel and behave. It is believed that many psychological issues, like depression are the result of how we interpret our experiences. A good CBT therapist will help clients modify unhealthy thoughts and behaviors and replace them with more positive ones.
Positive Cognitive Restructuring, another strategy that super people use, involves making changes to the way you think about a problem or a stressful situation. Don’t confuse this with denial. Cognitive restructuring or “reframing” is an active process in which you consciously change your thoughts and beliefs about an issue. When you look at a problem from a more positive angle (from the perspective that anything is possible, that you have the ability to improve your life, that you deserve better, etc.), you’re more likely to come up with better solutions.
Here are some examples of cognitive restructuring:
“I feel like a failure, therefore I am a failure.” => “I do make mistakes sometimes. I’ve also failed quit a few times. But it’s only though failure that I can learn the best lessons, like a toddler learning how to walk.”
“My partner/mother/boss makes me feel bad about myself.” => “I am in charge of my emotions, which means I control my emotions. I choose to respond to this person’s behavior with anger or sadness – I can choose not to feel that way.”
The Negotiation Approach
I totally understand why brides turn into “bridezillas.” They have a very specific idea of how they want their wedding to be, right down to the color of the frosting on their cake and the swan-shaped napkins. The problem isn’t that they’re short-tempered, spoiled, or too idealistic – it’s their unwillingness to be flexible. So when even the smallest thing goes wrong (“I said I wanted fuchsia for the bridesmaids, NOT HOT PINK!!!”) they explode.
Super people understand that when a problem arises, it’s essential to remain flexible – to compromise. They do their best to adapt to the constraints of the situation, and adjust their own goals if necessary. In your case, that could mean cutting down on your to-do list when you’re feeling particularly frazzled and need some time off. It could mean finding a compromise with the ongoing curfew battle you’re having with your teenager. It could also mean extending your weight loss deadline to account for that week you were sick and couldn’t exercise, rather than forcing yourself to eat less to compensate.
If there are any coping skills you might consider developing, try these 3. Naturally, they should be used in conjunction with cupcakes, and a side order of fries.