When I first realized that I was somewhat addicted, I was concerned. Obviously, chocolate isn't going to solve anything. It's not a proactive coping mechanism like journaling, visualizations or assertiveness training. Also, it won't make me less reactive to future stress like meditation, PMR or exercise can. (And it's far more likely to lead away from--rather than toward--my fitness goals.)
But then I realized a few things, and have come to accept (okay, embrace) chocolate as part of my coping repertoire:
- Chocolate Can Be Good For Me
According to this article by my friend and colleague, Mark Stibich, chocolate can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and most of the fat in chocolate does not affect your cholesterol. It also contains antioxidants (about 8 times the amount that strawberries contain!) and can actually work to balance your hormones.
- Chocolate Does Make Me Feel Better
Chocolate actually stimulates the production of endorphins (the 'feel good hormones') and the release of serotonin (a natural anti-depressant), and has a jolt of caffeine (but not too much), to provide a burst of energy and a mood boost.
- Chocolate Signals That More Coping Is Needed
Chocolate--dark chocolate, with a high percentage of cocoa, eaten in small doses--can have health benefits. It's not the best stress management technique out there, but I don't find myself craving meditation, exercise or visualizations when I'm stressed the way I crave chocolate--I have to remind myself to do those. And sometimes I find myself craving chocolate before I realize I'm stressed! In that way, chocolate cravings can act as an early-warning system to remind me that my stress levels are rising and one of the more standard stress management techniques should be employed. Thanks, chocolate!
Many 'vice' coping mechanisms, such as smoking or excessive drinking, are problematic because they cause more problems long-term than they alleviate. However, I'm taking sweet little chocolate out of that category.
What about you? Do you use chocolate (or another un-traditional stress reliever) to help you through the stressful days? And are you okay with it? Why or why not? Leave your musings in the comments or start a thread in the Stress Management Forum.
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