How to Stay Calm in Stressful Food Situations
You’re at a party, there is food all around you, scratch that there is GLUTEN all around you. You see cross-contact everywhere but you’re hungry and you want to enjoy sharing snacks and a meal with your loved ones. You want to stay calm in stressful food situations like this because stress does the body no good. In fact, stressing too much could trigger the very symptoms you want to avoid.
So how do you:
- Stay safe
- Feed your tummy
- Enjoy your time
- And Minimize stress?
MyTop Tips on How to Stay Calm in Stressful Food Situations:
Often when I go to events or meals with friends and family, I attend with a few people who I know are in my corner, allies if you will.
My allies are friends who’ve made an effort to understand my needs and family who’ve jumped aboard my support train. Hopefully you have similar allies too (because support is VITAL to living a safe gluten-free lifestyle).
When I am trying to stay calm in stressful food situations, I employ my allies. This means I let them know my concerns and start delegating tasks to help make sure I’m safe. While of course, you are always your best advocate, carrying all of the weight of watching for cross-contact, keeping your food safe, etc. can be burdensome. Sharing the load can do wonders on limiting your stress. Even just simply asking your allies to watch for points of cc can be helpful.
Tell a Trusted and Supportive Friend your Concerns
Sharing your concerns with trusted and supportive friends can also do wonders to help manage your stress. Simply getting your worries off your chest is powerful. In addition to that, you might find that you add more allies to your team by sharing your concerns.
For example, a conversation about the concerns of bread being in between gluten-free dishes on a buffet table can do a few things. It can employ your friend to potentially take action and try to move the bread to the end of the buffet table or even to a completely different table. Lastly, it can educate your friend on how to be an ally.
Worse case, your concerns are shared and validated and some weight is lifted off your shoulders.
Trust your Gut
I say this alot, and I know a lot of people say that they can’t trust their gut, or they feel like their gut has failed them, but to them I ask, have you’ve been listening? Have you been paying attention? Taking notes?
Throughout my years of living gluten-free I have slowly learned to listen to my body. I’ve learned quick tells on whether or not I’ve eaten something with gluten and I’ve learned to read and assess situations quickly.
Meaning if I eat something and I start to lose my appetite a bit, or suddenly I am a little more sleepy/tired then usual, then I’ve eaten something with gluten. On top of that, usually if I am in a situation where I start to feel stressed about certain things, I trust those feelings and work through them so can stay calm in stressful food situations.
For example, Thanksgiving is always stressful for me. We always host but my family likes to bring non-gluten-free pie and sometimes rolls. Meaning 1. Gluten is in my house when I strongly prefer it not to be and 2. ALL OF THOSE HANDS are touching gluten and then touching things in my house or other things on the dinner table. Over the years I’ve learned to accept this and talk myself off the stressed ladened latter. My conversation with myself goes something like this:
“The whole table is going to be covered in gluten, how will I serve my gluten-free pies/cakes safely? I could place them on the counter away from the pies on the table and serve my mother and I from there? I could be in charge of serving the gluten-free food for people enjoying non-gluten-free food so that I decrease the chance of cross-contact. I can make sure that people wash their hands after eating and rinse their plates WELL before washing.”
Now I have a plan to work with and I feel 10x better about the situation.
I want to say, this part takes practice. Learning to stay calm in stressful food situations and working through problem solving them will not be easy at first. Be patient with yourself and know that every stressful food situation is an opportunity to get stronger at fearlessly advocating for yourself and owning your gluten-free lifestyle like a boss.
Take Deep Breaths
Cheesy and cliche I know, but sometimes a few deep breaths can be all you need to bring you back from the depths of gluten-filled panic.
Go for a Walk / Get Fresh Air
Sometimes the best thing you can do is remove yourself from the situation. You will drive yourself CRAZY if you sit there and watch food being set up or prepared – watching for every spec of cross-contact. In these situations, accept it’s there and make safe decisions with the assumption that it’s there and remove yourself. Go outside, get a change of scenery, walk off the worries, and return after you’ve worked through the stress.
BONUS: get fresh air with a friend who you can share your concerns with!
Trust your Preparedness
Last by not least, a huge part of how to stay calm in stressful food situations involves being prepared. Literally any event I go to, I bring snacks. Actually, anytime I leave the house, I bring snacks. I have snacks in my backpack, snacks in my car, snacks in my pocket – I might even be a snack ;).
So when I know I’m going to an event that involves a likely stressful food situation (which let’s be real, is pretty much every event), I make sure I come with my own food. I’ll bring veggies and hummus, chips and salsa, ice cream, whatever I want. When I show up, if the food situation looks dire for me (which often it does), I simply explain that I have my own food so that I don’t get sick. I then make sure it’s clear it’s my food and try to carry it around with me or store it in a way that makes it accessible to me but not obviously accessible to everyone else. So far I haven’t had a problem.
Stay Calm & Party On
Trying to stay calm in stressful food situations might seem impossible but the more you practice these tips and other coping skills, the easier it will be. It’s important to stay calm in these situations because letting yourself overstress can 1. take away from your enjoyment of the event and 2. trigger the very symptoms you’re trying to avoid.
A reader pointed out that it’s also important not to stress to much about being exposed to gluten. Of course, you don’t want to be exposed to gluten but it happens to the best of us. Stressing out about it can make your gluten exposure symptoms worse. Instead, focus on recovery. Make sure you have a self-care plan in place to handle your exposure and use this as a learning opportunity for the future.
How do you stay calm in stressful food situations? What are common stressful food situations you encounter? Let me know in the comments!