A Life Steering Act

by Catherine DeAngelis

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“It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

– from the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley

What would it be like if we were to imagine ourselves steering our way through life, setting goals as if we were a captain at the helm of a ship? We could control and navigate the ship across ocean or sea waters skilled at facing from mild and calm, severe and harsh to wet and cold weather. Some might say we can do this travelling alone or have done it alone, but even a captain needs help with actions and tasks before setting out onto open waters.

We have read story books about ships that sailed the many seas around the world and heard the myths and legends built famous on superstition.

With a sea map in hand, the captain’s duty is to make it across waters safe and with smooth operation, securing the ships seaworthiness, meeting conditions even those potentially hazardous.

Think about our life map and how prepared we are to adjust and meet head on the task or situation that tests our abilities whatever life throws at us.

What is a Life Steering Act?

A Life Steering Act is about being the captain at the wheel of our ship in life. As captain, we are in charge of the movement of the ship’s rudder and the direction in which it is going. Similar to life, we address our life map regularly and make a commitment to plot our goals in such a way to get us a desired result in our daily life.  

Keeping track of goals is never an easy momentum to maintain. We can reinforce the skill of steering in the direction we want to go by relying on either mechanical equipment or the tools to aid us.

The values we live by are important to help us understand what we deserve, especially to know our worth and usefulness and where all the stuff of life we are needing or wanting is coherent with our values. Also, to live and learn is by managing what we want or what we need and aim for the most important to us based on what are our life’s priorities.
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A ship’s construct differs significantly from a human body. However, casually liken a human skeleton to a ship’s parts and connect them both as requiring a skill to operate that offers a miraculous ability to manage or guide someone or something.

SkeletonOur physical form for example is the mechanism that gets us to sit or stand, walk backwards or forwards. A ship has its various sizes but able to float on some of the deepest ocean waters. It too has its various structural components to get it to do what it does – float and, as humans we move.

Someone has to be present with the knowledge on how to reach a place or get something. And to get our brain and physical body in motion to steer into the channel to act the way we want to, can be a feat in itself.

Our Will In Action

Victorian Poet, William Ernest Henley aptly writes in his last line of his poem Invictus, “I am the captain of my Soul.” This poem was life affirming for Nelson Mandela. He used it to keep himself alive during his 27 years in prison. Mandela suffered incarceration. He lived with tuberculosis and during this period of solitude he had to grieve being unable to attend his son’s funeral. All this took place before becoming South Africa’s president. His force of reckoning got him to leading a nation out of apartheid and into democracy.

Another person with a will-in-action-of-another-kind is high-wire performer Nikolas Wallenda, the first accomplished aerialist who performed a tightrope walk over a 1,500-Foot Grand Canyon Gorge. Who would plan and scheme for such a feat let alone imagine ever doing it but instead succeeding at it non-fatalistically.

Our Emotions

Curiosity leads us to think what does it take to undertake such an astounding task. Wallenda is master of the all pervading emotion “fear” and he appeals to the crowd’s obsessiveness: how does he obliterate fear from knocking out his knees?

What might have been the optimism pumping through Mandela’s blood which gave him the fortitude to prevail over the depravity he felt in his prison: within the walls and within himself?

As captains of our soul, we ensure our vessel has prudent conduct and does what is needed to adhere to the discipline and stand by go in the path that is most compelling in us to get us there.

Our Getting Unstuck 

We do not need a brand new year to get ourselves revved up, ready to contemplate the list of goals for what we need and what we want. The crunch comes when we think and feel and dig deep into the essence of who we are and to who we know ourselves to truly be. Go ahead and pull out the pieces of our own scheming, whatever these may be, and add them to the list.

Get ready to boot-camp ourselves into realizing goals and making it a time of completion.

  • Who will make the changes in us whatever we think are the most important at work, at home, emotionally, physically or spiritually?
  • What is it we need and what is it we want that will bring us to a place to take better care of ourselves?
  • Why do we avoid that dreaded state of non-functioning and delay the leap to make changes without or with help?
  • When do we know it is time to get started on the almighty task list of wants and needs and succeed at attaining them?

In answer to these, we may find ourselves overcome by a whirlwind of thoughts that bring us to a full stop and get nothing done. The scenario replays itself over and over in our head and we anoint ourselves number one procrastinator and stay stuck there.

How to be Captain of Our Soul?

These things we are trying to get done or balance out, whatever we define them to be, are they calling out from under the despair of procrastination or from a depression creating a behavior to prevent us from achieving our aim?

Dr. Timothy A. Pyschyl explains the relation of Depression and Procrastination in his article of the same, that these are two common problems or experiences that people share – depression and procrastination — and that they are related. And, he teaches us that procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task which “needs” to be accomplished. We get into this mode of procrastination because we prefer to be doing the more pleasing things in place of ones that are not so pleasing or are easier to tackle.

It is vital to ask ourselves what is in the way of meeting our needs and our wants and how come we are not the captain of our soul, the captain of steering our own life map?

Our human vessel is sensitive during times of e.g. loss of a parent or a child, being fired or laid off from a job, uncommunicative relationships or physical illness. The body and mind shuts us down and emotional exhaustion tears away at the tendons; exercise or practice of some sort to get to the bull’s eye of the matter of identifying these needs and wants becomes just another four letter word in our minds.

Psychologists report procrastination and depression are related. And, if we are poised for awareness of these, then we can apply managing tools so that we can feel better. At the same time, we can zero-in and identify what are the priorities, the goals we want and need to set for ourselves, and steer toward it all within our choosing based on our values that matter to us the most.

Taking action to steer our life in the way we want it to go is to know what it is we need or want simple as that. True, maybe we already know like Mandela knew or Wallenda knows (true captains of their souls). Maybe we need or want specific things we haven’t yet been able to navigate onto the right course to bring to us what exactly we need or want right here, right now.

For us to make it a time of completion, i.e. a time of letting go of procrastination, talking to a doctor and getting assessed for depression is a magnanimous move forward to where we need to start off for a restored life map.

Taking a Life Steering Action

Find a quiet place to sit or take a a meditative walk to think about what are the things in life that are a want or a need and matter the most?

Write a list down of the multitude things that need to get done or want to get done – just write it down and hold yourself back for shoving this task aside.

Answer below truthfully:

  • What is I WANT now? – to have a desire to have or do (something); wish for.”I want an apple” synonyms: desire, wish for, hope for, aspire to, fancy, care for, like. Explore the  WHAT? HOW? WHY? WHO?
  • What is it I NEED now?  to require (something) because it is essential or very important. “I need help now” synonyms: require, be in need of, have need of, want; WHAT? Start off by working off Deviations: regroup/ replenish/restore and look at real issues that have made you deviate from getting things done or simply procrastinating and feeling less than.
  • What are my Life Steering ACTION Goals? – To get us to identify what we need and what we want within the realm of our Life Steering Action Goals we may check our life skills and how comfortable we are with our emotional; physical; spiritual, financial, relationships and work life. We prioritize the identified wants and needs in these areas and place them in the order of our choosing to gather them into our life – we may ask if we are effectively balancing these life skills.
  • HOW? – Change Environment/perspective – e.g. Change Beliefs – better nutrition, more exercise, develop meditative/spiritual Practice, play and have more fun.
  • WHY? Embrace/expand Strengths – e.g. Lesson learned and opportunities or any violation to your values that may have been experienced.
  • WHO? Partnerships/collaborate – e.g. do I need further tools, more training/education, need to go for a routine check up or ask a family member, or friend for a shoulder to lean on? Are you a lone wolf?

Captain of My Soul WorksheetA Life Steering Act Worksheet – Download this Worksheet for easy use for a quick and easy getting started tool. This will help set you off to a start or continuum in defining needs and wants.

Many services are available for people to work on setting life goals and support for overcoming the debilitating affects of depression.

Everyone is different! We are our own captain steering our own life-ship.

Life coaching is available to give supportive listening — without attempts to repair but help resolve some strong feelings that may arise in the writing of our list. A life coach offers strategies to help map out a life plan and work together on creating a renewed method of managing life skills.  Other helping professionals are available e.g.: social worker, psychologist or psychotherapists.  Talk to a family doctor to work through if any concerns about mental well being. Giving up is never an option and seeking self-love and understanding; find support to uplift and build a life map which declares “…I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

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Break free from emotional blockages standing in the way of your potential. Catherine DeAngelis’ Out of Pocket Emotions’ 5-way tool is customized to fit your needs and guide you
to meet goals head-on.

Hallelujah a Rejoicing…

 

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“Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen –
Meanings and Thoughts” by Amos

 

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Amos is a self-proclaimed ‘cohenphile,’ touched by Canadian songwriter, Leonard Cohen’s philosophy, music and character. Amos is a blogger at Itsallaboutall.com who has contributed an illuminating perspective into the depth of song and emotions attached to Cohen’s “Hallelujah;” a contemporary song given birth in the 80s and covered by some of the most honorary vocalists of our time. A song possibly as epic as the chorus Handel’s Hallelujah.

 

Have you ever tried to understand what is the meaning of this tremendous song –
Hallelujah“? Is it a love song? Is it a spiritual-religious song? Is Leonard Cohen trying to tell us there’s no hope for love? Or maybe there’s something else that Cohen aims to in his lyrics?Let’s go on and  try to figure out some of these questions…

Read more:
“Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen – Meanings and Thoughts”
by Amos
http://itsallaboutall.com/leonard-cohen/hallelujah-meaning/

 

 

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all rights reserved with copyright permission by Amos

R.I.P. Leonard Cohen

Suzanne
Leonard Cohen

Shame, Shame…

by Catherine DeAngelis “Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before – more sorry, more aware of my … Continue reading

In Curiosity of Grief

by Catherine DeAngelis
InCuriosityofGriefOutofPocketEmotions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pueblo Blessing
*Nancy Wood

Hold on to what is good
Even if it is a handful of earth
Hold on to what you believe
Even if it is a tree that stands by itself
Hold on to what you must do
Even if it is a long way from here
Hold on to life
Even if it is easier to let go
Hold on to my hand
Even if I have gone away from you.

Grief is a complex matter bringing us deep sorrow; above all, when caused by the death of someone we know and love. It comes to us suddenly, accidentally, traumatically, tragically and sometimes expectantly or prematurely. We learn as part of our natural life we will undergo grief of different kinds then that related to a physical death. Respectively, a loss is a cause of emotional inner conflict while coming to terms with someone or something we love or attached to taken away from us. The bereavement occurs and we mourn as we begin the getting through toward our healing.

As we age, at some point, we will realize it is inherent we all die. As sharp as this might sound, what a part of life to grasp no matter how much we are aware and vibrantly we live. At this bend, it is where we innately pick up as we go and carry on with grief. It will present itself to us no matter how much we protect ourselves. More, it is here where we do not isolate. We open up, encircled by a community coming together in this time of discord. Now it is at this place, we can believe it is possible our suffering will lessen and we will carry on.

Teenage girl praying outdoors at twilight. Shallow DOF.

Looking for comfort during time of grief is personal for each of us from a child, older youth to adult, seniors and vulnerable seniors. We need the coping skills to endure. We may find ourselves suddenly called upon to serve as a guide or a mentor to the young or old during this time of discomfort.

Grief is a word synonymous with many emotions: anger, sorrow, misery, sadness, anguish, pain, distress, heartache, heartbreak, agony, torment, affliction, suffering, woe, desolation, dejection, despair and from mourning, mournfulness to lamentation and more. To help make sense of it, we may describe it as an emotional reaction to the loss, compared to bereavement, which is an emotional event, and mourning is the process toward healing.  During these times, the lead emotion we most feel is anger.

Anger is a legitimate and a normal healthy emotion that comes to alert us we have an inner conflict to manage and decide if we need some backing to help us gain a footing during these days.  Open to Hope Foundation® is a non-profit foundation with its mission for helping people find hope after loss and offer a free webinar on understanding anger.

A death of loved one of the most traumatizing is when someone takes his or her own life. For surviving family members and friends, it is not easy to accept this suicide. A sense of anger and deep shame transpires. Along with this, family members may feel guilt and blame themselves, or covertly made to feel liable for being unaware of the signs that led to the taking of one’s own life. The subject of suicide is taboo in many cultures. Religiously and publicly unacknowledged, honestly making the cause of death of the loved one unknown. Families needing solace instead feel shame during their grieving and bereavement and familial mourning occurs in isolation.

When we have experienced grief, we are better able not to be overcome by it as we allow ourselves to continue with the bereavement and accept the time of mourning. As we become the bereaved, we inevitably face sadness. Sadness is the unhappiness we feel around this time of grief and the emotion in which we express our sorrow over the loss.

InCuriosityofGriefOutofPocketEmotionsSadMan

Grief of Another Kind

During our lifetime, we suffer losses that have nothing to do with death as we more commonly know it, and yet find it hard to cope due to situations that challenge us and to give us pain. We are unable to explain what is happening to us, but we are hurting. If it is hard to explain, our emotions are likely reminding us we are upset due to what is going on in our life to create a huge shift from our normal routine.

When no one died, we are alive, but human as we are there are reasons we might have for grief due to losses of another kind:

  • Life-changing or life-threatening illness
  • Loss of a healthy childhood
  • Aging/retirement
  • Children going off to college
  • Move to another country/refugee status
  • Divorce/loss of in-laws, familiar friends and home
  • Friends distancing, breaking up, arguing, or outgrown one another
  • Loss of spiritual connection, life objective or dream that didn’t shape up to what we had hoped
  • Developing a disability
  • Financial loss
  • Job loss/fired/career transitions
  • Loss of a beloved pet-companion

Grief, Bereavement and Mourning

While the terms grief and bereavement are often used interchangeably, bereavement refers to the state of loss, and grief is the reaction to loss. Grief is a natural response to loss and with it comes various stages. Whatever time is given to the process of bereavement can vary on how close we are to the person who died, and if the death was an anticipated loss.

Additionally, mourning is by way of how we adapt and cope with the loss. Many cultural customs, rituals, and even society’s rule commands how our mourning is influenced. When a death takes place, we want to express our needs. We accept words of condolences as support at a time when life appears to us confusing and fragmented we feel emotionally numb and out-of-place unknowingly, while we contend with the reality we are grieving a loss.

Vulnerability is an emotion during this time that makes its presence known in us. It is vital we are honest as much as it is possible even if it is not easy to understand. We are struggling with what in unknown to us, about how we feel, our fears, what we need or even how to go about asking for what it is we do need. Instead, we center on barely coping and stave off unhealthy habits we think soothe the unexplainable pain we are feeling. Sudden addictions may arise such as emotional eating or bingeing, added use of prescription medicine, alcohol or gambling. These dependencies are emotional fixes for a while, however to postpone the inevitable, emotional pain may likely appear again in the distant future due to unresolved grief from a past loss. Grief counsellors or support groups or both will benefit us at this time.

Hand ReachingHow can we give all that we have and move through with our basic living?

  • We will cope day-by-day with the belief time will heal – we can accept things will be rough for a while.
  • We will eventually feel better — might not be today, tomorrow, but soon.
  • We reach for backing to aid us with the unfamiliar ground we stand on until we feel it is doable to live through this and accept the personal changes that comes with it.
  • We work hard every day to look after ourselves.
  • We may resist and be unrealistic by doing too much or think we are able to do as much as we used to before the loss.
  • We will find time difficult and need to give ourselves the pause needed from the usual activities so we may gain momentum of living with a another kind of memory.
  • We promise we will not go it alone, we will reach out and seek comfort in the people we know we be there for us.

The Stages and Phases 

Many grief theorists who have studied grief presented either similar, comparative or opposing views on the stages and phases of what we may go through during our grieving.  Erich Lindemann is a psychiatrist who in the late 40s developed his grief theory developing a grief work model. From the model he surmises the bereaved has to accept grief as an adaptive response and to take to heart, we are not the person who has died, but our beloved who has died. He also agrees death will change the bereaved from the point of death forward. The pain of this initially hurts terribly. Yet his belief is to adapt and see grief as not the adapting to a loss, but the emotion or the emotions around the loss we are getting through.

We never know as a family member, friend, or acquaintance, when the right time is to approach the knowing of what to do to show support. Intentions are to help ease the pain of the loss during mourning.  However careful we tread, we want to make sure to place an offering of care and present ourselves with astuteness and higher sensitivity than usual. MP900227519

The bereaved will experience cognitive confusion and their ability to concentrate is lessened. Many may experience anxiety, disorganization, or pre-occupation about something. The behaviors we witness from the bereaved are sadness, withdrawal, a crying or constant weepiness. Sometimes hostility surfaces and usually erupts in anger rejecting thoughts a loved one has died.

Grief theorist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross known for the 5-stages and phases of grief and David Kessler, grief expert, explain denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are part of healing phase. They remind us at times, people in grief and bereavement will often show more stages, justly showing us, our grief is as individual as we are. Though our emotions are unexplainable at times, we are vulnerable. The stages represent the responses to the loss. There are many tools available to aid in these stages that block us in our healing and may need to seek counselling or group therapy to guide us forward.

Having compassion is the best way to go. We start by asking permission and genuine concern for the bereaved suffering. We can try in our way to relieve the hurt, however try as we may, it must come with the bereaved having openness to this. If such as, you recommend a book or a piece of healing music as a kind gesture— should I go ahead and ask.  Of course, do this by making sure it is with heartfelt consideration. We may offer can we meet to chat about the book or the piece of music when it is more proper. Awareness and attention to the receptiveness of our actions negative response maybe minimized as we go about this with careful intention and timing.

Getting Through and Healing

InCuriosityofGriefOutofPocketEmotionsMan2

The healing process is not linear and more than a simple “getting over a loss.” To say to the bereaved, getting over it will sound dismissive to them, and their process of healing in their loss is unimportant. It can pose meaningless stressors, as if simply asking to step over a bucket of water in their way and get on with it.

Taking care of ourselves is the best option no matter how uncomfortable grief feels.

If the grief becomes too difficult and suicidal thoughts start to surface in our mind, tell someone, and immediately go to hospital emergency – opting out of life is not an option.  Getting through a loss, we need to go through and get out on the other side and continue walking no matter how messy it feels along the way.  Imagine surgical sutures or stitches when removed. What remains is a scar. We are not the same person we were before the loss and will be reminded often how much has changed. We can only move toward acceptance and healing is allowed to take its own course. In tow during this journey we go with loving compassion to our bereaved and ourselves.

The Harvard Medical School reports, “If prayer hearten or sustains you, set aside time for it. Read spiritual texts that you find comforting, attend services, and share your circumstances with a religious leader who can help place the death in the context of your faith. Gardening or communing with nature, which offers many opportunities to observe the rhythms of life and death in the natural world, is also soothing to some people. So, too, is meditation or yoga.”

Some suggested teachings follow by Dr. Alan Wolfelt, author, educator, and grief counsellor, known for his inspirational messages for people who are grieving, taken from Grieving Person’s Bill of Rights by Wolfelt:

  • No one else will grieve in exactly the same way you do.
  • You have the right to talk about your grief.
  • You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions.
  • You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits.
  • You have the right to experience grief “attacks.”
  • You have the right to make use of ritual.
  • You have the right to search for meaning.
  • You have the right to embrace your spirituality.
  • You have the right to treasure your memories.
  • You have the right to move toward your grief and heal.

Hope and Resiliency

Dedicated belief and a stronger tDSC_7463 (1)han usual support system in place, will bring us hope and emotional reconciliation to the inevitable – we are resilient!

Resiliency comes to us not only by way of healing from the love of a beloved we’ve lost to death, but as well loss can happen too for the family, who have left their country upon escaping war, persecution, or natural disaster, as well moving beyond hope and toward resilience.  Here is where being able to adjust in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or tremendous stressors can exist.

If we feel we must bounce back from pain quicker than we think, opening up our mind and heart and showing kinder than usual personal and community care, the road to healing is less isolating, painful and a sense of belongingness exists for all of us

Pueblo Blessing previously published in Many Winters: Poetry and Prose of the Pueblos by Nancy C. Wood, Doubleday, 1974

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Improving Emotional Health

Strategies and Tips for Good Mental Health

Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A. and Jeanne Segal Ph.D.
Last updated: May 2016 (Reprinted with permission)

Improving Emotional Health

People who are emotionally healthy are in control of their emotions and their behavior. They are able to handle life’s challenges, build strong relationships, and recover from setbacks. But just as it requires effort to build or maintain physical health, so it is with mental and emotional health. Improving your emotional health can be a rewarding experience, benefiting all aspects of your life, including boosting your mood, building resilience, and adding to your overall enjoyment of life.

What is mental health or emotional health?

Mental or emotional health refers to your overall psychological well-being. It includes the way you feel about yourself, the quality of your relationships, and your ability to manage your feelings and deal with difficulties.

Good mental health isn’t just the absence of mental health problems. Being mentally or emotionally healthy is much more than being free of depression, anxiety, or other psychological issues. Rather than the absence of mental illness, mental and emotional health refers to the presence of positive characteristics. Similarly, not feeling bad is not the same as feeling good. While some people may not have negative feelings, they still need to do things that make them feel positive in order to achieve mental and emotional health.

People who are mentally and emotionally healthy have:

  • A sense of contentment
  • A zest for living and the ability to laugh and have fun
  • The ability to deal with stress and bounce back from adversity
  • A sense of meaning and purpose, in both their activities and their relationships
  • The flexibility to learn new things and adapt to change
  • A balance between work and play, rest and activity, etc.
  • The ability to build and maintain fulfilling relationships
  • Self-confidence and high self-esteem
  • These positive characteristics of mental and emotional health allow you to participate in life to the fullest extent possible through productive, meaningful activities and strong relationships. These positive characteristics also help you cope when faced with life’s challenges and stresses.

The role of resilience in mental and emotional health

Being emotionally and mentally healthy doesn’t mean never going through bad times or experiencing emotional problems. We all go through disappointments, loss, and change. And while these are normal parts of life, they can still cause sadness, anxiety, and stress.

The difference is that people with good emotional health have an ability to bounce back from adversity, trauma, and stress. This ability is called resilience. People who are emotionally and mentally healthy have the tools for coping with difficult situations and maintaining a positive outlook. They remain focused, flexible, and creative in bad times as well as good. One of the key factors in resilience is the ability to balance stress and your emotions.

The capacity to recognize your emotions and express them appropriately helps you avoid getting stuck in depression, anxiety, or other negative mood states. Another key factor is having a strong support network. Having trusted people you can turn to for encouragement and support will boost your resilience in tough times.

Physical health is connected to mental and emotional health

Taking care of your body is a powerful first step towards mental and emotional health. The mind and the body are linked. When you improve your physical health, you’ll automatically experience greater mental and emotional well-being. For example, exercise not only strengthens our heart and lungs, but also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals that energize us and lift our mood.

The activities you engage in, and the daily choices you make, affect the way you feel physically and emotionally.

Ladies working out

  • Get enough rest. To have good mental and emotional health, it’s important to take care of your body. That includes getting enough sleep. Most people need seven to eight hours of sleep each night in order to function optimally.
  • Learn about good nutrition and practice it. The subject of nutrition is complicated and not always easy to put into practice. But the more you learn about what you eat and how it affects your energy and mood, the better you can feel.
  • Exercise to relieve stress and lift your mood. Exercise is a powerful antidote to stress, anxiety, and depression. Look for small ways to add activity to your day, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or going on a short walk. To get the most mental health benefits, aim for 30 minutes or more of exercise per day.
  • Get a dose of sunlight every day. Sunlight lifts your mood, so try to get at least 10 to 15 minutes of sun per day. This can be done while exercising, gardening, or socializing.
  • Limit alcohol and avoid cigarettes and other drugs. These are stimulants that may unnaturally make you feel good in the short term, but have long-term negative consequences for mood and emotional health.

Improve mental and emotional health by taking care of yourself

In order to maintain and strengthen your mental and emotional health, it’s important to pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Don’t let stress and negative emotions build up. Try to maintain a balance between your daily responsibilities and the things you enjoy. If you take care of yourself, you’ll be better prepared to deal with challenges if, and when, they arise.

Taking care of yourself includes pursuing activities that naturally release endorphins and contribute to feeling good. In addition to physical exercise, endorphins are also naturally released when we:

  • Do things that positively impact others. Being useful to others and being valued for what you do can help build self-esteem.
  • Practice self-discipline. Self-control naturally leads to a sense of hopefulness and can help you overcome despair, helplessness, and other negative thoughts.
  • Learn or discover new things. Think of it as “intellectual candy.” Try taking an adult education class, join a book club, visit a museum, learn a new language, or simply travel somewhere new.
  • Enjoy the beauty of nature or art. Studies show that simply walking through a garden can lower blood pressure and reduce stress. The same goes for strolling through a park or an art gallery, hiking, admiring architecture, or sitting on a beach.
  • Manage your stress levels. Stress takes a heavy toll on mental and emotional health, so it’s important to keep it under control. While not all stressors can be avoided, stress management strategies can help you bring things back into balance.
  • Limit unhealthy mental habits like worrying. Try to avoid becoming absorbed by repetitive mental habits—negative thoughts about yourself and the world that suck up time, drain your energy, and trigger feelings of anxiety, fear, and depression.

More tips and strategies for taking care of yourself:

  • Appeal to your senses. Stay calm and energized by appealing to the five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. Listen to music that lifts your mood, place flowers where you will see and smell them, massage your hands and feet, or sip a warm drink.
  • Engage in meaningful, creative work. Do things that challenge your creativity and make you feel productive, whether or not you get paid for it—things like gardening, drawing, writing, playing an instrument, or building something in your workshop.
  • Get a pet. Yes, pets are a responsibility, but caring for one makes you feel needed and loved. There is no love quite as unconditional as the love a pet can give. Animals can also get you out of the house for exercise and expose you to new people and places.
  • Make leisure time a priority. Do things for no other reason than that it feels good to do them. Go to a funny movie, take a walk on the beach, listen to music, read a good book, or talk to a friend. Doing things just because they are fun is no indulgence. Play is an emotional and mental health necessity.
  • Make time for contemplation and appreciation. Think about the things you’re grateful for.Mediate, pray, enjoy the sunset, or simply take a moment to pay attention to what is good, positive, and beautiful as you go about your day.

Everyone is different; not all things will be equally beneficial to all people. Some people feel better relaxing and slowing down while others need more activity and more excitement or stimulation to feel better. The important thing is to find activities that you enjoy and that give you a boost.

Supportive relationships: The foundation of emotional health

No matter how much time you devote to improving your mental and emotional health, you will still need the company of others to feel and be your best. Humans are social creatures with an emotional need for relationships and positive connections to others. We’re not meant to survive, let alone thrive, in isolation. Our social brains crave companionship—even when experience has made us shy and distrustful of others.

Social interaction—specifically talking to someone else about your problems—can also help to reduce stress. The key is to find a supportive relationship with someone who is a “good listener”—someone you can talk to regularly, preferably face-to-face, who will listen to you without a pre-existing agenda for how you should think or feel. A good listener will listen to the feelings behind your words, and won’t interrupt or judge or criticize you. The best way to find a good listener? Be a good listener yourself. Develop a friendship with someone you can talk to regularly, and then listen and support each other.

Tips and strategies for connecting to others:

  • Get out from behind your TV or computer screen. Screens have their place but they will never have the same effect as an expression of interest or a reassuring touch. Communication is a largely nonverbal experience that requires you to be in direct contact with other people, so don’t neglect your real-world relationships in favor of virtual interaction.
  • Spend time daily, face-to-face, with people you like. Make spending time with people you enjoy a priority. Choose friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family members who are upbeat, positive, and interested in you. Take time to inquire about people you meet during the day that you like.
  • Volunteer. Doing something that helps others has a beneficial effect on how you feel about yourself. The meaning and purpose you find in helping others will enrich and expand your life. There is no limit to the individual and group volunteer opportunities you can explore. Schools, churches, nonprofits, and charitable organization of all sorts depend on volunteers for their survival.
  • Be a joiner. Join networking, social action, conservation, and special interest groups that meet on a regular basis. These groups offer wonderful opportunities for finding people with common interests—people you like being with who are potential friends.

Risk factors for mental and emotional problems

Your mental and emotional health has been and will continue to be shaped by your experiences. Early childhood experiences are especially significant. Genetic and biological factors can also play a role, but these too can be changed by experience.

Risk factors that can compromise mental and emotional health:

  • Poor connection or attachment to your primary caretaker early in life. Feeling lonely, isolated, unsafe, confused, or abused as an infant or young child.
  • Traumas or serious losses, especially early in life. Death of a parent or other traumatic experiences such as war or hospitalization.
  • Learned helplessness. Negative experiences that lead to a belief that you’re helpless and that you have little control over the situations in your life.
  • Illness, especially when it’s chronic, disabling, or isolates you from others.
  • Side effects of medications, especially in older people who may be taking a variety of medications.
  • Substance abuse. Alcohol and drug abuse can both cause mental health problems and make preexisting mental or emotional problems worse.

Whatever internal or external factors have shaped your mental and emotional health, it’s never too late to make changes that will improve your psychological well-being. Risk factors can be counteracted with protective factors, like strong relationships, a healthy lifestyle, and coping strategies for managing stress and negative emotions.

When to seek professional help for emotional problems

If you’ve made consistent efforts to improve your mental and emotional health and you still don’t feel good—then it’s time to seek professional help. Because we are so socially attuned, input from a knowledgeable, caring professional can motivate us to do things for ourselves that we were not able to do on our own.


Red flag feelings and behaviors that may require immediate attention

  • Inability to sleep
  • Feeling down, hopeless, or helpless most of the time
  • Concentration problems that are interfering with your work or home life
  • Using nicotine, food, drugs, or alcohol to cope with difficult emotions
  • Negative or self-destructive thoughts or fears that you can’t control
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

If you identify with any of these red flag symptoms, consider making an appointment with a mental health professional.

If you want your relationships to be more satisfying, fulfilling, and supportive, FEELING LOVED can help. Read: Feeling Loved: The Science of Nurturing Meaningful Connections and Building Lasting Happiness 2015

 

Resources and references


The Road to Resilience
– Guide to resilience, including ten ways to build your resilience, how to learn from your past, and how to stay flexible. (American Psychological Association)

Mind/Body Connection: How Your Emotions Affect Your Health – Learn how emotions affect your health and what you can do to improve your emotional health. (American Academy of Family Physicians)

Mental Health: Keeping Your Emotional Health – Defines good emotional health, describes how stress affects emotions, and offers tips for avoiding problems. (American Academy of Family Physicians)

Making and Keeping Friends: A Self-Help Guide – Offers practical advice and tips on developing supportive friendships. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

What Every Child Needs for Good Mental Health – Parenting advice on how to provide the love, security, and boundaries every child needs for mental and emotional health. (Mental Health America)

Download Meditations – Download or stream a dozen free meditation recordings to help you cope with life’s inevitable hurdles. Comes with handouts. (Sitting Together)

Emotional Health – Written for college students, with special sections on adjusting to college life, how relationships factor in, and why it’s important to reduce stress. (Princeton University)

Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A., Robert Segal, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. Last updated: May 2016.

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On Being Stuck!

by Catherine DeAngelis

Wall
When you are thinking to yourself you are falling into an emotional abyss and you just don’t know how to stop spiraling downward! Is it that tyrant inside your head controlling your thinking that you don’t know what to do forcing you into a shut-down mode and paralyzing you from living the fullness of life?

Being stuck sucks because it is that silent oppressor that can cause depression, emotional outbursts, insomnia, indecision, procrastination, and addictive behaviors such as smoking, too much sex (not enough), drugs, alcohol, food, and exercise to spending or gambling compulsively!

What is it you use as a conduit to be in control of, or in distraction from, being stuck?

When you get stuck in the negative thought streams, find out what it is you can do. Make yourself accountable. Be responsible! Blaming others for your inaction only fuels the pain and it takes you further into this ineptness and inability to move forward.

The best way to unstuck yourself is to open up to the realization that it is okay to ask for help. Watch the taboo mind-set and avoid “what, me, I don’t need any help – I can help myself!”

Is it the stuff in your head that you think should or could or is not being done to lighten the pressures of having to do everything needed to be done right now at  this moment? The repetitive negative thinking pattern only gets you into a state of nervous agitation.

Think about what is getting in the way.  Stress might just be the first thing that deters you or makes you feel like you are knee-deep in mud. Think about your own stress level, your own health, and help yourself. Think about what are the stressors in your life. If you don’t spend time thinking about how to relieve that kind of stress, you will be stuck and those around you may have no idea what is wrong and then who will give you the love and care that you need?

Many think finding help is a sign of weakness or defeat!  Stay away from the shame or embarrassment. To admit that you are experiencing impact to your emotional and mental well-being is crucial. Seeking guidance and support meets your courage head on and makes self-awareness a start to pulling yourself out the kind of “mental sludge” that’s got you going like Whirling Dervishes!

Do what you can to make sure you are eating well, keeping physically active, and managing your stress ensures your brain will be healthy.  Check out this source if you don’t know where to start eatrightontario.ca.

Getting stuck in negative thought patterns can hinder you in your life in many aspects – don’t go it alone — ask for help. There are all kinds of talk therapies and support services available to explore solutions – if you don’t know where to start read about the resources available to you to get you on track and living life you are responsible for and deserve!

Get out of your way and make YOU matter! Affirm the positives, find ways to reverse the self-deprecation. Tools are available that work to halt the ongoing belittling or undervaluing of yourself.

Resources to Keep You On Track…

There are many sources available, able to give you answers and found within your community from life coach, psychologist, psychotherapist, psychiatrist to group supports, family practitioners or community services in your neighbourhood.

Overall most of us look to trusted family members and close friends or spiritual members of the community to give us the love, support and understanding we need. Take the path of support and lead yourself into being uplifted and out of the state of “going nowhere fast.”

Many communities have information centres that produce lists of available services which you can view at social service agencies or public libraries. Other sources of information include books about specific problems, also available at your public library or local bookstore and films, videos and audio tapes, courses and workshops offered through community centres, secondary schools, colleges and universities..

More Information: Canadian Mental Health AssociationMental Health America or Global Mental Health.

Contact Catherine DeAngelis certified master coach practitioner and founder of Out of Pocket Emotions  to ask about a complimentary offer for individual life coaching session – we promise to answer any specific questions you might have – please write info@catherinedeangelis.com  or call 416 246 0025.

 

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Lone Wolf…

Trances With Wolves
A New Hope for a Lone Wolf

Walking On Water   

by Stephen A. Nelson
(updated)
walk on water

 

 

 

 

 

 

A musical friend of mine, Mackenzie Brown, sings a song about her close encounter of the third kind…the song is called Walking On Water:

And I’ll be walking on water baby
I’ll be walking on water with you
I’m Walking on water ’cause I’m with Great Manitou

1. Saviour, you’re my saviour 
You are everywhere I want to be
Come save me great sky leader I need
Your guidance today

2. Let you spirit surround me
Let me feel your presence
I want to be part of you
I need your guidance today

To the spiritually minded, Mackenzie’s lyrics written and sung by her, are resplendent with Christian imagery: a baby and the Great Manitou. A Saviour who leads and guides. A “spirit in the sky” whose presence surrounds.

These lyrics would have resonated with Father Jean de Brébeuf, author of The “Huron Carol” (or “‘Twas in the Moon of Wintertime“), a Christmas hymn he wrote in the native language of the Huron-Wendat people. He had given the song to them as a gift and referred to it during his teachings and missionary work.

But Mackenzie says she was not conscious of such metaphors when she wrote the song. She actually composed the ode after she saw a wolf pack making its way across the partially frozen Jasper Lake. To her, it looked like the wolves were walking on water. It was a profound spiritual experience.

I thought of Mackenzie’s song – the story behind it– when I saw two photos that recently went viral on Facebook and Twitter.

The first was an image of the Northern Lights in which the Aurora Borealis took the form of a wolf; a Spirit in the Sky. It was like “the heavenly dancers” meets Dances With Wolves. It was so spooky, so unreal, that some people refused to believe it was real.

AA Sky Wolf Marja-Terttu Karlsson left her home in Pajala boost

The second photo was picture of a wolf pack trekking through the winter wilderness of Canada’s Wood Buffalo National Park: One of the stronger wolves leads the way; breaking trail and making a path through the snow for the others to follow. Everyone has a place. Everyone has a role. No wolf left behind. It had people thinking, “We humans can learn a lot from wolves.”

Except, of course, we humans don’t learn from “brother–sister wolf.” Instead, our society is waging a war on wolves.

aa wolf pack lomo

For example, in Alberta and British Columbia, wolves are protected and revered inside the national parks such as Wood Buffalo, Jasper, Yoho and Pacific Rim. But outside the parks, the wolf is hunted, slaughtered and poisoned ruthlessly – ostensibly to protect the even more rare and endangered caribou. But the real reason is the deep antipathy, even hatred that some people have towards wolves. Grownups are still afraid of the Big Bad Wolf.

And if the wild wolf is despised, the so-called “War on Terror” has demonised the human “Lone Wolf” among us. These days, it seems that every misfit is automatically suspect and every loner is a de facto terrorist in training. A Lone Wolf is no more a deviant or a devil than a woman in a niqab is a barbarian or a threat to Canadian values.

The Lone Wolf among us is someone who feels the strong need for independence, autonomy and solitude.

Some Things I’ve Learned


For the past few years, I’ve been part of a small group at a church in Jasper National Park.

AA Akela The Lone Wolf - The Two Jungle Books editRunning with such a pack already marks you as “odd.” Jasper’s earthly paradise is a place where people worship the Creation but have little use for the Creator. They may want “spirituality” but not “religion.” Yoga and Sunday brunch have long-since replaced liturgy and Communion.

And if you talk about “Alpha and Omega” here – people won’t immediately make the connection with the God who is “the Beginning and the End.” They will probably think you’re talking about an animated film starring “an unlikely pair of wolves.”

Paradise Lost


Living in a national park, I’ve learned some things about the wild wolves that live “outside the circle.”

All lone wolves were once part of a pack.  The lone wolves in the wilds are usually male, some are older males who been driven out from their pack – ostracized – by the younger males. Some are younger males who challenged for the leadership but failed – and were then cast out.  Some left in search of new territory, new opportunities. Some were part of a pack that disbanded as members moved on or passed away. Many of them long to return to the pack from which they were shunned, excommunicated.

The lone wolves who survive best are those that maintain a relationship with the pack; even if it’s a distant relationship. They follow the pack wherever it roams – sometimes even participating in the pack’s hunts and feeding on the leftovers from the kill. Such relationships benefit both the lone wolf and the pack.

Even a lone wolf needs others. A wolf can survive (for a time) on his own by scavenging and hunting small game. But his best chance for long-term survival is to rejoin the pack – or to find a female lone wolf for a mate and start a new pack.

Every pack needs a leader. Every leader needs a pack. Sometimes the Lone Wolf becomes the leader. And lone wolves can make the best leaders.

The Law of the Wolf Cub Pack

Wolf Cubs Centennial Crest
When I was a boy in Wolf Cubs (what they now call Cub Scouts), an adult leader was called an “Old Wolf.” The Leader of the Pack – just like in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book – was called Akela.  The name means “Solitary; Alone.” That’s right; the leader of the pack was the Lone Wolf.

In Kipling’s stories (and in the re-tellings by scouting’s founder, Lord Baden-Powell) Akela is not only the leader of the pack. His is also the close friend and mentor of Mowgli, the orphaned “man cub” that is adopted into the wolf pack. Even when Mowgli is no longer a “man cub” but a full-grown adult, Akela remains a “Yoda” to Mowgli’s “Young Skywalker.”

Here in the enchanted forests of Alberta, often talked with my “Akela” about people who want “spirituality” but not “religion.” They want to belong, to feel connected – but not if it means someone telling them what to do and how to live.
AA Wolf Cub Handbook boost

My Akela, like Baden-Powell, sees no dichotomy between “spirituality” and “religion.”  For them, God – however you understand Him – is always a fundamental part of life.

Life in the pack means living by the law of the pack: doing your duty, respecting elders, putting others first and helping them – no matter what.

Even as a Lone Wolf (or “the Lone Wolf of the group”), I sometimes think that I learned “everything I needed to know” in Wolf Cubs; from Kipling, Baden-Powell and the elders of the pack:

Be Prepared. Do Your Best!

Always help others… and accept help from others. Mowgli – the Man Cub – was an orphan. He was different from the rest. But he lived and learned with the help of his adoptive parents as well as his teachers and guardians. They always had his back and helped him to find his place.

It’s a jungle out there. There will always be adversaries and foes. But courage, loyalty and love are stronger than any enemy.

You can’t be a cub forever. Eventually, the cub must grow up to be the Old Wolf.  There are even times when the Lone Wolf becomes the leader of the pack. And guess what? Sometimes lone wolves make the best leaders.

A leader gives his or her life to the pack. And the pack gives its life to the leader. They thrive and survive because they are part of each other.

Father Christmas wolf Jody Bergsma

The Christmas season is ended. Another year over. A new one just begun.

For many, now is when the darkness sets in, people may feel the impacts of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and – to quote Canadian musician and songwriter Bruce Cockburn – we’re “trying to keep the latent depression from crystallizing.”

This is the time of year when we need an Epiphany. Light in the Darkness.  A New Hope.

Long ago, in a land far, far away, there was a teacher who people said it was “The Light of The World.” He, in turn, said that his followers were the light of the world.

See the light.  Be the light.  To the spiritually minded, that Spirit Wolf in the Sky can be our Northern light in the darkness.

To survive, learn from the wolves.  

If you can, stay with the pack.

Even if you can’t live with them all the time, work with them.

If you’re not in a pack, BE the pack. Start your own pack by being with people you want to be with.

If you don’t have an Akela, BE Akela. Be a leader.

Who knows?  You could end up walking on water.

 

Journalist_Traveller_Writer_Photographer_Editor_Public Speaker_Bard_Troubador

Stephen is a freelance writer, public speaker and “lone wolf of the group” living on the edge of wilderness in Jasper National Park. He has worked in media for more than 25 years – including 8 years as an editor, producer and broadcaster in Taiwan. We invited Stephen to share his thoughts about this holiday time and the importance of belongingness and our search for acceptance. (This article first appeared December 31 2015 and updated January 6, 2016).

 

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Emotional Eating

Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A. and Jeanne Segal Ph.D.
Last updated: August 2015 
(Reprinted with permission)

How to Recognize and Stop Emotional Eating

We don’t always eat simply to satisfy hunger. We also turn to food for comfort, stress relief, or as a reward. Unfortunately, emotional eating doesn’t fix emotional problems. It usually makes you feel worse. Afterward, not only does the original emotional issue remain, but you also feel guilty for overeating. Learning to recognize your emotional eating triggers is the first step to breaking free from food cravings and compulsive overeating, and changing the habits that have sabotaged your diets in the past.

Understanding emotional eating

If you’ve ever made room for dessert even though you’re already full or dove into a pint of ice cream when you’re feeling down, you’ve experienced emotional eating. Emotional eating is using food to make yourself feel better—eating to fill emotional needs, rather than to fill your stomach.

Using food from time to time as a pick me up, a reward, or to celebrate isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But when eating is your primary emotional coping mechanism—when your first impulse is to open the refrigerator whenever you’re upset, angry, lonely, stressed, exhausted, or bored—you get stuck in an unhealthy cycle where the real feeling or problem is never addressed.

Emotional hunger can’t be filled with food. Eating may feel good in the moment, but the feelings that triggered the eating are still there. And you often feel worse than you did before because of the unnecessary calories you consumed. You beat yourself for messing up and not having more willpower. Compounding the problem, you stop learning healthier ways to deal with your emotions, you have a harder and harder time controlling your weight, and you feel increasingly powerless over both food and your feelings.

Are you an emotional eater?

  • Do you eat more when you’re feeling stressed?
  • Do you eat when you’re not hungry or when you’re full?
  • Do you eat to feel better (to calm and soothe yourself when you’re sad, mad, bored, anxious, etc.)?
  • Do you reward yourself with food?
  • Do you regularly eat until you’ve stuffed yourself?
  • Does food make you feel safe? Do you feel like food is a friend?
  • Do you feel powerless or out of control around food?

The difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger

Before you can break free from the cycle of emotional eating, you first need to learn how to distinguish between emotional and physical hunger. This can be trickier than it sounds, especially if you regularly use food to deal with your feelings.

Emotional hunger can be powerful. As a result, it’s easy to mistake it for physical hunger. But there are clues you can look for that can help you tell physical and emotional hunger apart.

Emotional hunger comes on suddenly. It hits you in an instant and feels overwhelming and urgent. Physical hunger, on the other hand, comes on more gradually. The urge to eat doesn’t feel as dire or demand instant satisfaction (unless you haven’t eaten for a very long time).

Emotional hunger craves specific comfort foods. When you’re physically hungry, almost anything sounds good—including healthy stuff like vegetables. But emotional hunger craves fatty foods or sugary snacks that provide an instant rush. You feel like you need cheesecake or pizza, and nothing else will do.

Emotional hunger often leads to mindless eating. Before you know it, you’ve eaten a whole bag of chips or an entire pint of ice cream without really paying attention or fully enjoying it. When you’re eating in response to physical hunger, you’re typically more aware of what you’re doing.

Emotional hunger isn’t satisfied once you’re full. You keep wanting more and more, often eating until you’re uncomfortably stuffed. Physical hunger, on the other hand, doesn’t need to be stuffed. You feel satisfied when your stomach is full.

Emotional hunger isn’t located in the stomach. Rather than a growling belly or a pang in your stomach, you feel your hunger as a craving you can’t get out of your head. You’re focused on specific textures, tastes, and smells.

Emotional hunger often leads to regret, guilt, or shame. When you eat to satisfy physical hunger, you’re unlikely to feel guilty or ashamed because you’re simply giving your body what it needs. If you feel guilty after you eat, it’s likely because you know deep down that you’re not eating for nutritional reasons.

Emotional hunger vs. Physical hunger
Emotional hunger comes on suddenly. Physical hunger comes on gradually.
Emotional hunger feels like it needs to be satisfied instantly. Physical hunger can wait.
Emotional hunger craves specific comfort foods. Physical hunger is open to options–lots of things sound good.
Emotional hunger isn’t satisfied with a full stomach. Physical hunger stops when you’re full.
Emotional eating triggers feelings of guilt, powerlessness, and shame. Eating to satisfy physical hunger doesn’t make you feel bad about yourself.

Stop emotional eating TIP 1: Identify your triggers

People eat for many different reasons. The first step in putting a stop to emotional eating is identifying your personal triggers. What situations, places, or feelings make you reach for the comfort of food?

Keep in mind that while most emotional eating is linked to unpleasant feelings, it can also be triggered by positive emotions, such as rewarding yourself for achieving a goal or celebrating a holiday or happy event.

Common causes of emotional eating

Stress – Ever notice how stress makes you hungry? It’s not just in your mind. When stress is chronic, as it so often is in our chaotic, fast-paced world, it leads to high levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol triggers cravings for salty, sweet, and high-fat foods—foods that give you a burst of energy and pleasure. The more uncontrolled stress in your life, the more likely you are to turn to food for emotional relief.

Stuffing emotions – Eating can be a way to temporarily silence or “stuff down” uncomfortable emotions, including anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, loneliness, resentment, and shame. While you’re numbing yourself with food, you can avoid the emotions you’d rather not feel.

Boredom or feelings of emptiness – Do you ever eat simply to give yourself something to do, to relieve boredom, or as a way to fill a void in your life? You feel unfulfilled and empty, and food is a way to occupy your mouth and your time. In the moment, it fills you up and distracts you from underlying feelings of purposelessness and dissatisfaction with your life.

Childhood habits – Think back to your childhood memories of food. Did your parents reward good behavior with ice cream, take you out for pizza when you got a good report card, or serve you sweets when you were feeling sad? These emotionally-based childhood eating habits often carry over into adulthood. Or perhaps some of your eating is driven by nostalgia—for cherishes memories of grilling burgers in the backyard with your dad, baking and eating cookies with your mom, or gathering around the table with your extended family for a home-cooked pasta dinner.

Social influences – Getting together with other people for a meal is a great way to relieve stress, but it can also lead to overeating. It’s easy to overindulge simply because the food is there or because everyone else is eating. You may also overeat in social situations out of nervousness. Or perhaps your family or circle of friends encourages you to overeat, and it’s easier to go along with the group.

Keep an emotional eating diary- You probably recognized yourself in at least a few of the previous descriptions. But even so, you’ll want to get even more specific. One of the best ways to identify the patterns behind your emotional eating is to keep track with a food and mood diary.

Every time you overeat or feel compelled to reach for your version of comfort food Kryptonite, take a moment to figure out what triggered the urge. If you backtrack, you’ll usually find an upsetting event that kicked of the emotional eating cycle. Write it all down in your food and mood diary: what you ate (or wanted to eat), what happened to upset you, how you felt before you ate, what you felt as you were eating, and how you felt afterward.

Over time, you’ll see a pattern emerge. Maybe you always end up gorging yourself after spending time with a critical friend. Or perhaps you stress eat whenever you’re on a deadline or when you attend family functions. Once you identify your emotional eating triggers, the next step is identifying healthier ways to feed your feelings.

Stop emotional eating TIP 2:

Find other ways to feed your feelingsIf you don’t know how to manage your emotions in a way that doesn’t involve food, you won’t be able to control your eating habits for very long. Diets so often fail because they offer logical nutritional advice, as if the only thing keeping you from eating right is knowledge. But that kind of advice only works if you have conscious control over your eating habits. It doesn’t work when emotions hijack the process, demanding an immediate payoff with food.

In order to stop emotional eating, you have to find other ways to fulfill yourself emotionally. It’s not enough to understand the cycle of emotional eating or even to understand your triggers, although that’s a huge first step. You need alternatives to food that you can turn to for emotional fulfillment.

Alternatives to emotional eating

If you’re depressed or lonely, call someone who always makes you feel better, play with your dog or cat, or look at a favorite photo or cherished memento.

If you’re anxious, expend your nervous energy by dancing to your favorite song, squeezing a stress ball, or taking a brisk walk.

If you’re exhausted, treat yourself with a hot cup of tea, take a bath, light some scented candles, or wrap yourself in a warm blanket.

If you’re bored, read a good book, watch a comedy show, explore the outdoors, or turn to an activity you enjoy (woodworking, playing the guitar, shooting hoops, scrapbooking, etc.).

Stop emotional eating TIP 3: Pause when cravings hit

Most emotional eaters feel powerless over their food cravings. When the urge to eat hits, it’s all you can think about. You feel an almost unbearable tension that demands to be fed, right now! Because you’ve tried to resist in the past and failed, you believe that your willpower just isn’t up to snuff. But the truth is that you have more power over your cravings than you think.

Take 5 before you give in to a craving

As mentioned earlier, emotional eating tends to be automatic and virtually mindless. Before you even realize what you’re doing, you’ve reached for a tub of ice cream and polished off half of it. But if you can take a moment to pause and reflect when you’re hit with a craving, you give yourself the opportunity to make a different decision.

All you have to do is put off eating for five minutes, or if five minutes seems unmanageable, start with one minute. Don’t tell yourself you can’t give in to the craving; remember, the forbidden is extremely tempting. Just tell yourself to wait. While you’re waiting, check in with yourself. How are you feeling? What’s going on emotionally? Even if you end up eating, you’ll have a better understanding of why you did it. This can help you set yourself up for a different response next time.

Learn to accept your feelings—even the bad ones

While it may seem that the core problem is that you’re powerless over food, emotional eating actually stems from feeling powerless over your emotions. You don’t feel capable of dealing with your feelings head on, so you avoid them with food.

Allowing yourself to feel uncomfortable emotions can be scary. You may fear that, like Pandora’s box, once you open the door you won’t be able to shut it. But the truth is that when we don’t obsess over or suppress our emotions, even the most painful and difficult feelings subside relatively quickly and lose their power to control our attention. To do this you need to become mindful and learn how to stay connected to your moment-to-moment emotional experience. This can enable you to rein in stress and repair emotional problems that often trigger emotional eating.

What’s more, your life will be richer when you open yourself up emotionally. Our feelings are a window into our interior world. They help us understand and discover our deepest desires and fears, our current frustrations, and the things that will make us happy.

Stop emotional eating TIP 4:

Support yourself with healthy lifestyle habits When you’re physically strong, relaxed, and well rested, you’re better able to handle the curveballs that life inevitably throws your way. But when you’re already exhausted and overwhelmed, any little hiccup has the potential to send you off the rails and straight toward the refrigerator. Exercise, sleep, and other healthy lifestyle habits will help you get through difficult times without emotional eating.

Make daily exercise a priority. Physical activity does wonders for your mood and your energy levels, and it’s also a powerful stress reducer.

Make time for relaxation. Give yourself permission to take at least 30 minutes every day to relax, decompress, and unwind. This is your time to take a break from your responsibilities and recharge your batteries.

Connect with others. Don’t underestimate the importance of close relationships and social activities. Spending time with positive people who enhance your life will help protect you from the negative effects of stress.

How sleep affects cravings and weight gain

Ever noticed how when you’re short on sleep you crave foods that give you a quick energy boost? There’s a good reason for that. Lack of sleep has a direct link to stress, overeating, and weight gain.

There are two hormones in your body that regulate normal feelings of hunger and fullness. Ghrelin stimulates appetite, while leptin sends signals to the brain when you are full. However, when don’t get the sleep you need, your ghrelin levels go up, stimulating your appetite so you want more food than normal, and your leptin levels go down, meaning you don’t feel satisfied and want to keep eating.

So, the more sleep you skip, the more food your body will crave.As well as making it harder to fight food cravings, feeling tired can also increase your stress levels, leading to yet more emotional eating.To control your appetite and reduce food cravings, try to get plenty of rest—about eight hours of quality sleep every night.

More help for emotional eating

Diet and Weight Loss Help Center: By developing healthy lifestyle habits and relieving emotional problems without the use of food, you can achieve weight loss success.

Emotional eating help

Healthy Weight Loss & Dieting: How to Lose Weight and Keep It Off
Stress Management: How to Reduce, Prevent, and Cope with Stress
Easy Ways to Start Exercising: Making Exercise a Fun Part of Your Everyday Life
Relaxation Techniques for Stress Relief: Finding the Relaxation Exercises That Work for You
How to Sleep Better: Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
Stress Relief in the Moment: Using Your Senses to Quickly Change Your Response to Stress

Resources and references

Free Emotional Eating Diagnostic – A tool developed by emotional eating specialist Roger Gould, M.D., that will convey whether you are an emotional eater or not. (ShrinkYourself)
Weight Loss: Gain Control of Emotional Eating – Find out how emotional eating can sabotage your weight-loss efforts and get tips to regain control of your eating habits. (Mayo Clinic)
Emotional Eating – Covers emotional eating, the difference between physical and emotional hunger, and ways to break the cycle of emotional eating. (The Nemours Foundation)
Do Food Cravings Reflect Your Feelings? – According to weight-loss specialist Linda Spangle, people’s food choices tend to correlate to the type of emotions they’re experiencing. Learn how to identify those feelings and find alternative solutions to eating. (WebMD)
Study Offers Clues to Emotional Eating – Learn about a 2011 study that demonstrates how sugar and fat feed our emotions on a physiological level. (CNN Health)

 

With Sincere Gratitude to the Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A. and Jeanne Segal Ph.D.
~ All rights reserved ~

Power in Change

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