By Susan Furtado, Registered Holistic Nutritionist
Anxiety can trigger emotional eating. There is a good reason for this. When we make a list of signs of hunger – a gnawing; empty feeling in the stomach, rapid heart rate, feeling irritable, we realize that they are identical to some of the symptoms of anxiety. So it makes sense that we eat when anxious, trying to relieve what we sometimes mistakenly interpret as hunger. But this can set a vicious cycle in motion. When we realize that we’ve eaten inappropriately, we only feel more anxious.
Here are two ways to practice working with anxiety:
Investigate anxiety and its antidotes
Anxiety is so pervasive that we may not realize we are anxious. It can be helpful to track anxiety for one week. How does it manifest in your body? Do you tighten your brow or facial muscles when the tension mounts? How does anxiety manifest in your mind? Racing thoughts? Do you have a sudden desire to eat?
You can check your anxiety level at intervals during the day. If anxiety is present, stop and practice a few moments of mindful breathing, Anxiety can make breathing quick and shallow, so you might try slower and deeper breaths. Move your awareness as far as possible from the anxiety-producing thoughts in your head by shifting your awareness to the bottom of your feet and the solid ground beneath them. Imagine breathing out anxiety and breathing in peace and mind.
2. Separate anxiety from hunger
When you feel unexpectedly hungry, check internally and ask your body, “Is this true hunger or is it actually anxiety?” If it is anxiety, eating may make it worse. When we realize that our true need is not for comfort food, we can make another choice. We can “feed” and comfort ourselves in many different ways; we can call a friend, drink a cup of herbal tea, take a walk in nature, play with a dog or cat, rest your eyes on something pleasing, listen to a soothing piece of music, or do a few minutes of mediation. You can make your own list of “non-food comforting snacks” that relieve anxiety for you.
Have you given much thought to the role that self-care and self-compassion plays in your overall health and wellbeing? Join Caer Weber, a self-care and self-compassion advocate, educator, and blogger for a workshop that explores how this practice can bring you increased feelings of wellness, a calmer mind and body, and a more positive self-concept.
So you’ve been reading about how beneficial journaling can be for your wellbeing and emotional health, and you’ve decided that this is something you NEED to make time for in your life. You’ve even got a beautiful new journal with perfect, creamy white pages just waiting to be filled with all your insightful words, thoughtful reflections and imaginative doodlings. You know that you’ve got a lot to say and a lot of things to explore and yet…you just can’t seem to get started.
Starting a journaling practice can be an intimating process but it is important to remember that your journal is a place where you can just be yourself. You can write about your most embarrassing and humiliating moments and nobody’s going to judge you. It is just for you and sharing is completely optional.
Try to let go of product-oriented thinking when it comes to journaling and embrace process – oriented thinking. You aren’t trying to create a work of art for public consumption; you are trying to reveal to yourself how to feel happy and well. So if sometimes, you read back what you have written and it seems clichéd and inauthentic, that’s OK. And if you aren’t able to find the words for what you want to express and you find yourself feeling frustrated, that’s OK too. Don’t give up! if you keep at it, you will be surprised at how often your writing will uplift you and bring you clarity and understanding.
The blankness of the pages can certainly be unnerving- but instead of launching into a writing exercise right away, there are tons of simple ways to start to fill your journal. Think of these ideas as fun warm-ups that will make your journal feel like a familiar, comforting friend that you can always lean on.
Journal Warm-Up Ideas:
Choose some of your favorite inspirational quotes and put them on random pages throughout the journal.
Tape or glue some photographs or images that give you a sense of peace and calm.
Doodle your name on the first page. Decorate with little drawings of things that you like.
Make a few lists titles and scatter them in the journal- you can fill them in later. Some ideas are: 5 Things I’d like to learn more about/ 5 places I’d like to go/ 5 things that always make me smile
If you really want to start a wellness journal, you can do it! The next time that you find yourself staring at blank pages and procrastinating, all you need to do is get your journal ready by putting your personal stamp on it. Once you’ve broken it in a little and made it your own, you will find that the words will just start to flow.
If you have been experiencing stress and anxiety and want to get together with others who are struggling with the same concerns, check out our new self-help action group starting in February. You will learn simple practices such as mindful breathing and visualizations to help you relax and calm your body and mind. MDABC self-help action groups are offered in our Counselling and Wellness Centre, and you will find yourself in a warm and accepting environment in which you can meet new people and find support and connection.
The MDABC is excited to announce that we will be at the Vancouver Wellness Show on February 12th, 13th and 14th so if you are in the area make sure you stop by and visit our booth. We will have tons of mental health information to give out and an interactive activity to keep you busy! (More details on the activity to come in a future post).
In addition to our booth, MDABC Counselor Valentina Chichiniovia will be presenting a “Mindful Relationships” seminar on the Living Well Stage at 5:15 pm on February 11th.
The Wellness Show is in its 20th year and attracts over 30,000 guests each year. There is definitely something for everyone at this event -you can check out seminars, demos, displays, samples, and raffles. There will be everything from Acupunture to Zumba! For more information about the 2016 Wellness Show and tickets go to www.thewellnessshow.com .