Life after surgery can be fraught with unexpected turn of events, changes in relationships, complications, and big life changes. You may be feeling stressed from not just what and how to eat, but how to cope with the real mental work behind your relationship with food and your relationship with others. All of these things can feel like pounds of weight on your chest as you’re navigating a new life with a new stomach. In this blog post, we are going to work through a simple mindset strategy that can help you get rid of stress. We may not be able to get rid of ALL of your stress, but it will definitely help you feel more in control of your stressors and take a lot of the pressure off.
What Does Stress Feel Like?
Stress can be sneaky. It can creep up on you silently day by day. You may notice racing thoughts, feelings of anxiety, pressured thinking, and an obsessive thought process of having to do-all-of-the-things in order to stay on top of everything.
You may feel like you are treading water and are barely coming up for air.
You may also start to notice yourself beginning to slip away from your structured routine of self-care and healthy habits. Old unhealthy habits can start to slip back into your life due to emotional eating, lack of time and attention to your ultimate health goals, and a shift in your priorities.
This can cause you to panic, which exacerbates your current state of stress.
Can Stress Make You Sick?
Chronic stress (meaning- stress that accumulates over a long period of time) can have detrimental effects on your health. It can raise your “stress” hormone- Cortisol- and can impair your immune system. You may find yourself getting sick more often and taking longer to recover. Stress can also reduce our quality and depth of sleep, worsening the stress cycle.
When we feel scattered and out of control of our daily routine, we may start noticing that our once consistent healthy habits are now spotty and inconsistent.
We may start slipping on taking our bariatric multivitamins regularly. We may not be drinking our 64oz of water or 60-80g+ of protein each day.
These small shifts can add up to complications and problems after surgery down the road.
The Role Of Our Mindset During Stress
In order to break the stress cycle, we need to start paying attention to what is happening in our minds.
When we are stressed, overwhelmed, and out of our routine, we may start mentally spiraling and speaking to ourselves in a very negative way.
The harsh judgmental thoughts that we begin telling ourself can sound malicious and cruel.
For example, your mental dialogue may sound something like this when you’re feeling off track and stressed:
- “I’m not eating as healthy as before. I’m losing control.“
- “I’m not working out. I’m such a failure. I can never do anything right.”
- “I deserve this (piece of cake). I’ve had a hard day.” [Then- after cake slice- “I can’t believe I ate that. I feel terrible and am disgusted at myself.”
Our mindset can take us down a dark path that breeds an all-or-nothing mindset, or one that has to be in alignment of perfection, otherwise we consider ourself to be a failure.
Re-Framing Our Thoughts To Get Rid Of Stress
In order to rid yourself of stress, you need to ditch the “all or nothing” mindset. You also need to recognize that getting back on track requires imperfect action. This is not about being “perfect” at anything. Perfection is NOT realistic.
Therefore, when you’re feeling stressed and begin to hear negative thoughts racing through your head, I want you to start by just identifying them as just that. THOUGHTS. Inside Banana Bariatrics, I refer to these as Trigger Thoughts- thoughts that corrupt your mind and tempt you to change the healthy trajectory of your life.
After you have identified a Trigger Thought pop up in your mind, you then have 2 options:
- You can FEED these Trigger Thoughts, or
- You can COUNTER them with more productive and encouraging ones.
Here’s how you can re-write your mental dialogue around a Trigger Thought:
THOUGHT: “You’re not eating as healthy as before, you’re losing control.“
RESPONSE: I am in a stressful yet temporary phase of transition right now. I’m not losing control. I can still find healthy options throughout the day and will forgive myself for not being perfect. As long as I keep making a consistent effort, I am at least in control of that basic intention.
THOUGHT: “I’m not working out. I’m such a failure. I can never do anything right.”
RESPONSE: My body doesn’t feel up to the same caliber of exercise right now. I’ll still move my body on a daily basis, but it may be more gentle and lower impact for now. I’ll be back to my normal routine soon.
THOUGHT: “I deserve this (piece of cake). I’ve had a hard day.” [Then- after cake slice- “I can’t believe I ate that. I feel terrible and am disgusted at myself.”
RESPONSE: “My day was challenging and stressful. I’m feeling lonely and scared. Maybe I’ll call my friend / family member to talk through it instead of reaching for something sweet that won’t address the emotion that I’m really feeling.” [OR] After eating the cake: “My body doesn’t feel great now that I had the cake. I was emotionally eating and wasn’t being as mindful in the moment. I’ll use this moment to think about how I could do this differently the next time I have a hard day and am thinking about eating cake. I don’t like how my body is feeling right now and want to make a healthier choice next time that ideally doesn’t involve food in order to be in better alignment with my health goals. I’ll try to do better tomorrow.”
At one point or other after surgery, you will experience a stressful season of your life. If left unchecked, chronic stress will eat away at your health and the encouraging and motivated mindset that is imperative for your long-term success after bariatric surgery. When we feel like our stress is building up, it is important to start paying attention to the thoughts that we tell ourselves during these times to help get rid of stress. When they are destructive and judgmental- telling ourself that we’re a failure or that we should just give up altogether- we need to practice replacing these Trigger Thoughts with encouraging words that can reset the clock and get us back on track of your health goals.
If you’ve struggling with shifting your mindset to one that is positive and supportive of your health goals and have found yourself slipping back into old habits (that may or may not translate into weight stalls or weight regain), then I encourage you to explore our FREE Weight Regain Resource below.
This resource will give you specific action items of where to start to get back on track with weight regain, or to prevent weight regain in the future.