Beat Stress and Boredom Without Resorting to Food

It's another crazy day at home with the kids. The phone is ringing off the hook, the kids are fighting, and each one of them is asking for different entrees for breakfast. So how do you cope? You do what so many other moms would do in this situation―you grab some chocolate or a bag of chips to help alleviate the stress.

If we only ate when we were hungry, most of us would never have weight problems. Unfortunately, emotions often drive us to eat when we have no physical appetite. Whether it's stress, boredom, anger or sadness we feel, we often turn to food to temporarily feel better.

But instead of feeling better afterwards, we just feel guilty. While food may temporarily be soothing, those high-calorie, high-fat goodies usually make us feel worse in the end, both emotionally and physically. What's important to recognize, however, is that we are our children's role models. If they see us using food for comfort, they will likely mirror our behavior. So instead of reaching for food the next time your emotions are running high, try some of these coping techniques when you're:

All Stressed Out
Teach your children to exercise to reduce their stress levels (and yours!) Instead of reaching for a rich sugary snack when you're about to explode, take a quick walk outside with your kids. Put on some of their favorite dance music and get them dancing with you. Have a jump rope contest with them, or do an exercise video together. And to prevent stress from building up, exercise regularly.

Bored Out of Your Mind
Many times we eat out of habit without even thinking about what we're doing. Mindless munching can happen while we're watching TV, playing video games, sitting in front of the computer, or talking on the phone. The bottom line is that unconscious eating is what happens when we don't pay attention to what or how much we are eating, or how hungry we actually are. In these cases we often find ourselves overeating without ever feeling satisfied. If you or your child fits this profile, here are some things you can do to prevent this:

  • Tune out distractions while eating. Make it a rule that all food is eaten in a designated area like the kitchen, while sitting down, and that the TV must be turned off while eating.
  • Set limits on electronics. Limit screen time to no more than two hours a day.
  • Keep plenty of nutritious snacks on hand like whole grain crackers, string cheese, individual bags of apples (found in produce section), low-fat yogurt, and unsweetened applesauce cups.
  • Prevent boredom by trying something new. Bat a balloon back and forth with your kids while trying not to hit the floor. If you have a big box handy, have the kids get in, hold onto a rope and drag them around the floor or carpet. Mix up your routine as much as possible. You can't eat if your hands are busy, so get some clay or Play-Doh and make fun figures or models.

The next time you feel like eating your way through your emotions, think about the example you're setting for your children. Instead try some of the coping techniques above, and show your children by example that there are healthier ways to work through stress, anger, sadness and boredom.  

Healthy, No-Stress Dinner Solutions

Slaving over a stove after I get home from work is not my idea of relaxing. I want to spend time with my family or with my feet up rather than have face time with a bunch of veggies that need chopping. Which is why I love this tip from SELF's February cover girl, actress Jenna Fischer, star of The Office.

The actress recently told us that she uses a Crock-Pot to whip up healthy dinners, everything from turkey chili to ribs to her favorite, Mom's Stuffed Peppers. "It's the best invention since the microwave for busy women who want a home-cooked meal," says Fischer, who puts all of a recipe's ingredients into the Crock-Pot before leaving for the set in the morning and comes home to a delicious dinner.

Though I haven't dusted off my Crock-Pot in years (I'm pretty sure I still have it somewhere), I'm all for fast, healthy dishes you can prepare without a lot of time and energy. Here are a few dinners we at SELF rely on when we want to fix something to eat without a lot of fuss―or even a Crock-Pot (each serves 1 and has about 550 calories):

Quick fish: Mix 4 tsp olive oil with 2 1/2 tsp lemon juice. Brush 4 oz salmon with 1 tbsp lemon oil; dust with dill. Broil 8 minutes. Toss 3 cups sliced veggies in remaining lemon oil. Serve with 2 slices of whole-grain bread sprinkled with 2 tsp each olive oil and Parmesan, and garlic to taste.
Also try: Easy Fish Tacos or Cod Satay.

Speedy chicken: Slice 1/4 rotisserie chicken (white or dark meat, skin removed). Serve with a large microwaved sweet potato, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds and dressed with 1 tsp trans-fat-free margarine and 2 tbsp lowfat plain yogurt. Serve with a salad made with 3 cups mixed greens and 1 cup cherry tomatoes, tossed with 1 tbsp plus 1 1/2 tsp regular salad dressing.
Also try: Cameron Diaz's Garlicky Lemon Chicken or Quick Chicken Saltimbocca.

Perfect pasta: Cook 3/4 cup dry whole-wheat penne; heat 1/2 cup marinara and 1/2 cup precooked skinless chicken breast; combine. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp Parmesan. Serve with 3 cups mixed greens and 75 calories' worth of salad dressing.
Also try: Spinach Fettuccine With Yogurt Cream Sauce or Mushroom Pasta with Arugula and Goat Cheese.

Even more time-pressed?
When ordering takeout, opt for these smart choices:

Chinese: Mandarin chicken (364 calories, 15 g fat per cup); Hunan tofu and brown rice (206 calories, 7 g fat per cup); hot and sour soup (110 calories, 4 g fat per cup)

Italian: linguine with marinara sauce (450 calories, 9 g fat per average entrée); tomato, mozzarella and basil salad (196 calories, 14 g fat per average-sized order); thin-crust cheese-and-vegetable pizza (170 calories, 6 g fat per slice).

Mexican: fish tacos (235 calories, 4 g fat each); chicken flautas (65 calories, 4 g fat each); beef taquitos (63 calories, 3 g fat each)

Diner (comfort food): vegetarian chili (205 calories, 1 g fat per cup); barbecue chicken breast (300 calories, 10 g fat per 6-ounce serving); roast beef on whole-wheat bread (459 calories, 12 g fat)

He wants sex…you have another "headache"

You may be familiar with the days of complete exhaustion with work and kids, and by end of the day you simply want to relax and unwind. And next thing you know, your partner makes the move. His hands begin to wander around your body while he kisses your neck. You are exhausted and have no desire for sex. You simply are not in the mood. Cringing inside, the familiar thoughts of "Not now…" arise. You may even quickly scan your options: give in and have sex, gently say no, avoid it all cost, or tell him you have another "headache." Which option do you choose when the last thing on your mind is sex?

The bed is made for more than just sleeping, yet hundreds of women struggle with intimacy and lack the desire. What happens when he wants to have sex….but you don't? This is definitely an issue that needs to get addressed.

There are many reasons to why some women just don't want sex. Women don't get aroused the same way men do and the body functions differently. Sometimes the cause may be an organic and physical issue and a meeting with your doctor may help. And other times the lack of sexual intimacy can be caused by relationship instabilities, the discomfort in your own skin, low energy levels, and past traumas.

Let's take a look at a few of these issues…

Secure vs. Insecure Relationships:
Insecure relationships not only create discomfort out of the bedroom, it also can damage the bedroom interactions. The more anxious and insecure the relationship is, the more it impacts the ability to become vulnerable with intimacy. For example: Yo-Yo relationships going from really good to really bad can cause the worry of "when is the next time we fight?" feeling. Sex is the rawest form of attaching with your partner, and a necessity in a relationship. Start working on building a solid foundation in your relationship. Seek outside resources such as books, relationship seminars, couples counseling, guidance from friends, etc. Learn more about
Creating a Strong Connection.

Comfort in your own Skin:
Feeling uncomfortable in your skin can be painful and on-going battle. The more you are in battle with your body; the less likely you will be open in the bedroom. This may include growing up with the "no-no" sex topics in family and the negative messages from church. These can strongly influence feeling comfortable in your own skin and negatively damage your sexual interactions. Remember, sex is good for the relationship. Take note of the messages you got growing up, and make your own decision about what sex is about. Get comfortable in your own skin and start building a healthy relationship with your body. If you have struggled with feeling uncomfortable in your own skin, seek counseling to make a long term change.

Energy levels:
If your energy level is depleted by the end of the day, you have too much on your plate. Exhaustion is your body telling you that you are over-worked and need down time, without neglecting the relationship. Pick times of day when you have energy and are open for sex, such as morning time or lunch time. Don't take on the "super woman" approach. Ask for help. Take breaks during the day and catch up on your to-do list. "You" time can help rejuvenate you and give you the energy to tend to your partner. Not only will this help you with your relationship, but it will also help you feel better about yourself.

Past Trauma:

Rape, molestation, and sexual abuse may have occurred in the past, yet can rear its ugly head in intimacy. You might notice becoming tense when touched, or avoid sexual encounters, or even become anxious in the evenings. Some victims of abuse try to put the abuse in the past and move on, but unfortunately the body remembers trauma and may be retriggered during intimacy. Talk to your partner about the past and create a team-like approach to navigate through this issue in the bedroom.

How to get rid of dry winter skin

Body Cream
With freezing temperatures and harsh winds outside and hot, dry air and blowing heaters inside, winter is rough on your skin.

While it's easier to hide any alligator skin under a cozy sweater, there are some top tricks to keeping your skin hydrated and touchably soft.

1. Skip the super hot showers and baths.

I know, I know...when you jump out of bed on a freezing cold morning, one of the greatest comforts can be a nice, hot shower. Unfortunately, very hot water can dry out your skin and hair in a jiffy. Go for a lukewarm shower or at least minimize the time you spend taking a hot shower. Can't bear to cool things off? Keep reading...

2. Use a moisturizing body wash.

Bar soaps tend to dry out skin more than liquid formulas, so treat yourself to a rich, moisturizing body wash. Better yet, go for a decadent sugar-based body scrub to exfoliate dry skin and give your skin a dose of rich moisture. Try LaLalicious Sugar Souffle Body Scrub ($34). It keeps skin soft and it smells totally delish. For a more budget-friendly option, try Soap & Glory Spa Sugar Crush Body Scrub ($16.99, Target).

3. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!

The best time to battle dry skin is the minute you step out of the shower. While your skin is still damp, use an ultra-rich body butter (I love this one from H20 Plus).

Another trick you can try is to throw your bathrobe in the dryer before you get into the shower. As soon as you're done showering, slather on your body butter or body oil (plain old baby oil works great) and then throw on your hot robe. The heat from the robe will not only help warm you up, but it will also help the body cream to penetrate your skin more effectively.

4. Make your own luxurious skin treatment

One of my favorite winter skin treats is to make my own heated lotion. Just put a little lotion or body cream in a microwave-safe bowl, zap it for about 10 seconds and voila! You've got your own decadent spa treatment at home (just be careful that you don't overheat your lotion and burn yourself!).

Perform random acts of loving

I hear from many people who are mired in the same bad relationship cycle. The circumstances, of course, are all a little different. The end result, however, is the same. She's irritated with him over a long list of grievances. He's irritated with her either because she's irritated with him or because he has his own list. Either way, they back bite, perform random acts of sabotage (not folding his clothes when she is folding the laundry, for instance, or purposefully not washing his favorite shirt), and generally bicker and fight constantly.

There are lots of problems in such relationships, and when I read such emails I often, think, "Oh Lord, where should they start?"

Today, for all of you who are mired in such relationships, I'm offering one place to start. It's not the only place to start. It's not a relationship cure. It's just one good place.

It's this: perform one random act of love every day.

You did this naturally when you met. That's when you were in love. It came naturally for him, back then, to chisel the ice off your car at 6 a.m. because he loved you and for you to make that chicken pot pie that he so loves because you loved him.

Now things are a little different. Now it's going to take quite a bit of effort, not to mention humility, courage, and forgiveness. Everyday, at least once a day:

Do a good deed for your significant other. Bring him lunch at work. Fold his socks. Buy his favorite brand of beer. Send his mother a birthday gift.

Hug him and tell him that you love him.

Compliment him.

Say something nice about him to one of his friends.

Try not to do that one thing you know he hates. For instance, for me, I try not to leave my hairbrush on the bathroom counter.


It may sound silly and overly simple, but these random acts of love can help to pull your relationship out of the random acts of sabotage cycle. They can remind you that you both fell in love for a reason and are together for a reason. They can give you the strength to face your problems together and to talk about them like grown ups. Most important, they just might help you to fall back in love.

Welcom, all ladies!

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