A few things I learned this week that may help you manage your self-soothing habit / addiction.   emotional-eating1Here’s the headline: When feeling a difficult emotion, trying to get myself to feel “good” instead of “bad” is too high a task.  I have used food as a freeway because it’s such a far distance between those states.  But if I have a more reasonable expectation of myself, then I won’t need to rely on this tool to attain the unrealistic.  Coming back to a neutral state with just my own internal resources is doable.  Thanks Regina for the conversation that led me here!  

I would love to see you write in the comments – what is your self-soothing habit and how you are dealing with it?

  1. Setting a reasonable goal for my ability to shift my emotional state.
    • Realizing that when I’m “feeling bad,” I have had an unreasonable expectation of “forcing myself feel good” or of “healing the emotion” by confronting its root cause.  
    • Rather, a more doable goal is to dissipate the unpleasant emotion to return to a neutral state. This is important because I would only be in a situation of wanting to eat emotionally if I am too underresourced (emotionally triggered, tired, alone, etc.) to make a healthier choice.  So in a way, this would be the least likely time I could expect myself to accomplish such a feat as healing childhood pains or make myself feel “great about life again.”  
    • So, the question in these moments becomes: Can I create a clean slate (come back to neutral) right now? Yes, No, or Maybe.  Another word for this is becoming present or mindful.
  2. Spend 90 seconds for emotions to pass
    • Emotions can be intense or overwhelming to deal with.  If we start reacting to them, they can last any amount of time – minutes, hours, months, etc.  But if we wait in the moment and are present with them, they can pass quickly.
    • Here’s the 90 Second Rule: When a person has a reaction to something in their environment, there’s a 90 second chemical process that happens in the body; after that, any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop. In other words, the lifespan of an emotion is 90 seconds.  
    • When you start feeling a difficult emotion, choose to take 90 seconds to feel how it takes form in your body, and then invite, allow, and watch it dissipate from your body.
    • One note here is that emotions are like onions with many, many layers.  So you may get to repeat this exercise many times to finally heal from an emotional experience.
  3. If it’s too hard to confront emotions, shift my thinking from focusing on “what emotions am I having” to “what energies are impacting me right now?”
    • I have on so many occasions not had the courage or wherewithal to spend those 90 seconds.  Emotions are connected to deep-rooted pains from childhood that in an underresourced moment are complex and not immediately healable.  
    • Therefore, I now think of impulses/feelings within me as free-form passing “energies” rather than emotions.  
  4. Cleanse unhelpful energies
    • An image in my mind here is clearing the slate, allowing energies to pass, and coming back to myself as I am, present in this moment.  
    • Think about how to cleanse energies that come up or are leftover from experiences.
      • Some ways to do this: burn sage, take a shower, light a candle, use essential oils, write, draw, text a friend about it
      • Gain awareness of what energies get absorbed within you and how to best deal with the various types.
  5. I’m starting to see food as an artificial, temporary source of joy, but the body as an independent, self-replenishing, never-ending resource of pleasure.  
    • Today was an amazing day on this.  I have been feeling a discomfort recently in my body. I can feel my hip fat getting scrunched when I sit or do certain yoga poses, and I realized that it actually hurts.  I was thinking that while I constantly have this low-grade discomfort, what I could be feeling instead is the pleasure and delight of the healthy body I currently have.
    • Today when I ate, the joy came from two new places (in addition to enjoying the food):
      • Creating a pleasurable feeling in my body by taking steps to have less fat on it – someday.
      • Enjoying the pleasure my body is giving me – right now – just by breathing and sensing the world around me.  Saying to myself: “I am willing to feel the pleasure of being in my body today.”

Let’s have some community about this… please leave a comment below to let others know how you are evolving your own approach to managing emotions!  Thanks!