wellness

The Struggle Bus

The past few weeks have been some of the most challenging days I’ve had in a while. While I did have some amazing days throughout (like my sister’s wedding, where I danced my booty off), I had some days where I reallllly struggled to cope with everything I had going on. I recognize that my life is amazing and these are really just champagne problems, but I found myself on the struggle bus anyway.

In times like these, I like to think back to where I was a year or so ago and use it as an opportunity to see just how far I’ve come. 21-year-old Mackenzie probably would have shut down, and 20-year-old Mackenzie probably would have turned to food as a coping mechanism.

Something that not many people realize is that many individuals who are very restrictive in their eating (whether they have been diagnosed with an eating disorder or not) do a 180 during times of stress. I can remember a night where I ate until I felt sick because I thought it would help alleviate my stress. And it did, but only for a little while. Then the problem was back, and it seemed just as big as before.  

While there’s nothing wrong with a little emotional eating here and there, using food to provide comfort doesn’t provide long-term releif. While I’m not saying you have to run into a therapist’s office during times of stress (although I highly recommend that approach-more to come on that later), there are some healthier coping mechanisms that can be used.

Cook something

While this is technically a food-centered approach, picking a recipe you’ve never tried before, or just experimenting in the kitchen allows you to focus on the process of cooking rather than eating in general. I actually put this approach into practice a few days ago, when I made a healthy shrimp burrito with veggies, avocado, and cheese. I decided to take it a step further a film a mini cooking demo for Instagram, because I’m extra like that.

Journal

Journaling is kind of like being your own therapist. A layout I like to use for journaling when I’m working through tough feelings is:

  1. What is this feeling?
  2. What event caused me to feel this way?
  3. Are my thoughts logical, or are they driven by fear/anxiety/whatever emotion I’m feeling?
  4. How can I help myself now in a healthy way?

Now that I think about it, maybe I should trademark that.

Move your body

Getting active can help your body release endorphins, which can make you feel happier and more at ease. Whether you decide to go for a run, lift weights, or have a dance party in your kitchen, breaking a bit of a sweat can help you to see things from a different perspective. The other day I was having a minor freak out about a presentation I had to give, and I decided to go to kickboxing to clear my head. After the 45-minute class was over, I had a way more logical and optimistic outlook. And of course, my presentation went just freakin fine, like most things do.

Read

Reading is great because it allows you to focus on a character’s problems rather than your own. It’s also just an opportunity to get out of your own head for a while. If you’re like me, it can be really hard to shut your brain off when you’re stressed. Also, most of the time the characters in books have really big problems, like having to hide a dead body or something, so at least it makes your problems seem a little smaller.

Just breathe.

There’s a lot of different breathing exercises that are known to relax the body and ease anxiety. One that I like to use is called “square breathing”. It goes like this:

  1. Breathe in slowly for four seconds
  2. Hold your breath for four seconds
  3. Exhale slowly for four seconds
  4. Hold your breath here for four seconds, and repeat as much as needed.

I highly recommend google-searching more breathing techniques and adding them to your “toolbox” of coping mechanisms.

Talk to someone

Whether it’s a therapist, your mom, a religious leader, or a friend, you are loved and have people around you who care about you.   

Instead of using food to cope, 22-year-old Mackenzie has spent the past few weeks experimenting in the kitchen, texting friends for advice (like, a lot), reading, and moving her body to make the ride on the struggle bus a little more bearable. It hasn’t been a perfect journey. It’s been full of bumps in the road and a blog post with bad metaphors. But one thing is certain-the ride can’t last forever, and when it ends, she’ll end up exactly where she’s supposed to be.

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