The horrible thing about anxiety is the very feeling makes you more anxious.
It creates a feedback loop that leaves you trapped and helpless – which leads to eating, cravings, and feeling even worse.
I’ve written about anxiety and overeating – and why it happens – and I explained the idea that anxiety is often best dealt with as a ‘symptom’ with deeper underlying causes. And the best way to deal with it is to unravel and deal with those underlying causes.
However, all that deeper work takes time and energy you don’t have if you’ve been struggling with anxiety, eating, and your relationship with food. So, today I wanted to show you 10 fun, fast ways you can get a little relief from both your anxiety and your overeating so you can recharge and store up some energy to look towards doing some longer lasting change.
10 quick ways to relieve your anxiety and stop overeating
There are lots of these lists floating around the internet. This one is a little different in that it’s specifically focused towards you and your anxiety + overeating.
And, I haven’t mentioned meditation. You read about meditation in every single anxiety thing you read, so I haven’t included it here. It is amazing, but it’s definitely not a ‘quick fix’.
So, here you go, 10 quick ways to relieve your anxiety and stop overeating.
1. Art journal
Art journaling is very similar to writing a regular journal. You can use prompts, be free to express yourself, and no one else ever has to see it. If you’re feeling like you can’t express yourself in words or want to explore yourself in a different way, try drawing, painting, scribbling, or stamping your feelings.
Deepak Chopra said “The best use of imagination is creativity. The worst use of imagination is anxiety.”
2. Release the thoughts (don’t grab)
When you’re feeling anxious it’s very easy to get caught up in your own head. Thoughts and feelings become huge and you start to feel like they are the ultimate and inescapable TRUTH.
The actual truth is, they are just thoughts and feelings. Your poor mind is grabbing onto all the terrible scenarios playing inside your head and the longer you hold onto them, the more real they become. And the more pain and anxiety they cause you.
This is also true of cravings – they’re just thoughts and feelings that you grab onto. Because of your focus, they become stronger and stronger until you have to eat.
The answer is: let them go.
Don’t try to stop the thoughts or to change them. See them, but don’t grab on. I like to imagine that they’re clouds and my mind is the sky. They just float on through and I do my best to shift my attention to something I’d rather be focused on, such as a walk outside, a piece of music, or even planning healthy meals for the week.
Yes, this is way harder than it sounds. It takes practice. But even just taking a nice, deep breath and saying to yourself, “I don’t have to pay attention to this” can give you a little relief very fast – from both anxiety and cravings.
3. Follow the fear
Anxiety is often caused by fear. Overeating can also be caused by fear.
One quick remedy for this is what I call ‘following the fear’.
For this technique, you do a kind of mind experiment. When you notice or suspect that fear is playing a big part in your anxiety or overeating you can follow those fears through by imagining the outcome of your feared ‘worse case’ scenario.
For example, you’re anxious because you have to got to work and meet a new colleague tomorrow. You feel certain you’ll make an idiot of yourself, say the wrong thing, not be able to answer their questions, and just make a terrible first impression.
Follow this fear. Ask yourself what would happen if that actually came true. Your fear is probably telling you something like:
The new colleague will think you’re awful, the whole office will eventually know you’re a failure, you’ll get fired, lose your home, and the world will fall apart.
Now, how likely is that?
By following the fear you can often assess what’s actually going on for you and make decisions based on more rational thoughts.
4. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) has been studied a lot in regards to stress, anxiety, and pain management. The results are really positive and suggest that it can be incredibly helpful. It’s not hard to learn and can be done pretty much anywhere.
It involves systematically tensing and releasing all the major areas of your body. This has both physical effects and psychological effects that help you out of anxiety and food cravings and into feeling mindful, present, relaxed, and ‘in your body’ instead of ‘in your head’.
5. Do something nice
I talk about this all the time. Use my handy ‘pleasure inventory’ sheet to brainstorm as many things as you can think of that make you feel good. Then, when you’re anxious or caught up in the overeating whirlwind, grab your brainstorm and do one of you ‘pleasure activities’ before you do anything else.
Note: It’s way easier to fill this sheet in when you’re already feeling good. So, do it when you feel positive and then use it when you’re not feeling so good. When you’re already down it’s so hard to think of things that feel good (hence all the comfort eating).
6. Foam rolling
Have you ever wished you could just get a (nearly) free daily massage at home? This is almost that good.
So, the benefits of massage are really similar to the progressive muscle relaxation I wrote about above, but it’s a little more active. And I little more… intense.
You do need to buy a ‘foam roller’, but they come relatively cheap and you can find them in most sports stores, sports sections, or sometimes even in larger supermarkets.
Basically, you roll around on the floor massaging yourself with a foam cylinder. It sounds weird, it looks weird, but it’s amazing. Here’s a great video to get you started.
7. Gratitude journaling
Gratitude improves your mood, helps you make better food choices, and is probably the opposite of anxiety. Feeling grateful helps you deal with in-the-moment anxiety and eating urges, and it can also start to chip away at underlying causes and aid in coping with them, too.
Here’s a gratitude experiment I did, and a 7-day gratitude challenge you can use as a quick fix for your anxiety and overeating.
8. Try giving your emotions motion
Sometimes it feels like emotions get ‘stuck’ or like you’re feeling things you don’t know how to express. Anger is a really common one, but fear or even joy can get stuck.
This can cause both anxiety and overeating as you deal with the confusion and blocked emotions.
By learning how to deal with what trigger these kinds of emotions, and by learning to give your emotions motion, you can move out of anxiety and using food to numb, and into healthy coping.
9. Go for a walk
It’s an oldie but a goodie. I explain my own technique for walking with anxiety here.
10. Take a shower.
There’s been a lot of research into how water affects your body and your mood. Overall, water seems to have a very positive effect on everything from stress, to anxiety, to depression.
Cold water is usually quite energizing, while warmer water is relaxing and soothing. Research has shown that water can actually affect your hormones, neurotransmitters, and circulation in very helpful ways.
So, an excellent quick fix to get you a little relief from your anxiety or cravings may be to simply take a shower. Hot or cold, you choose.
And some more…
In our private Facebook group, women also shared that they enjoyed using
- stating their emotions out loud
- and self-talk
as quick techniques to beat the cravings and eating that come with anxiety.
So, should you try to fit every one of these ideas into your day?
They all work, but they work for different people at different times. Choose just one or two that appeal to you and try them out for a week or so. See how it feels, if you get any relief, or if you need to try something else.
And if it feels too big, slow, or unmanageable, I’m here to help. I’ve helped a lot of women just like you end their overeating and stop stressing about food. Head here to find out about how working together can stop you trying to control each mouthful and feeling like a failure with food.