3 Tools to Aid in Emotional Detox

 
release.jpg
 

When you think about cleansing and detoxing, you might only think about what to eat, drink or supplement to clear out unwanted toxic build up in your body. It turns out some of the most dangerous residual toxic materials are related to excessive stress hormones that can accumulate in your body. Excessive stress hormones negatively impact sleep, mood, energy and overall wellness by disrupting all the systems of your body.

While detoxing through wellness practices, nutritional additions or even supplements can help get the process started, there are other practices you can incorporate that will help aid in restoring balance from excessive toxic emotional residue due to stress, anxiety, grief, anger, resentment, overwhelm, fear, contempt and other emotional build up that can settle into your being and cause significant tension and discomfort internally.

Have you ever felt as though you have been emotionally “slimed?” Where you feel like you just can’t shake or rid yourself a particular emotion and the triggering thoughts associated with those emotions? If so, you are not alone! Emotions can be difficult to cope with, feel and release. These three tools below can help to detox the “slimy” internal residue of uncomfortable emotions and stress. A big part of releasing toxic emotional build-up in the body is acknowledging it and having a method to release. These three tools are helpful as they can offer an opportunity to create a space to explore the emotions and let them go.

1.    Journaling

Writing in a journal can act as a container for your thoughts, feelings and emotions. When you hold on to stressful thoughts and feelings, you keep your mind and body in a state of fight or flight—this is not healthy or helpful. Journaling has been proven to help reduce stress hormones, to improve the quality of your life and create a healthier perspective on emotions and life in general.

The next time you just can’t seem to “let-go” of an uncomfortable emotion or stressor, dust off an old journal or notebook—or even open up a document on your computer—and just start writing. If you are not sure where to begin, start with the emotion, the stressor and write-write-write. See how it feels to get it out, to purge these thoughts and feelings, close the journal and move forward. Think of journaling as a detoxing process for your mind, which will consequently help to clear your body of built up tension and stress.

2.    Art Making

Creativity is a major component to living a full life. Art making by its nature is healing and life enhancing. Creating a mandala is similar to journaling. To create a mandala, draw a circle on a piece of paper and then use any art materials such as colored pencils, markers, oil pastels or even crayons to release your feelings onto the page. The mandala (circle) acts as a guide, not a barrier. Begin by selecting a color that represents your internal emotions or stress and use line, shape color and form to let it out! You can change colors throughout, just begin with one that represents the emotions you are desiring to release.

Mandalas are one of my favorites because the circle acts as a balancing form on the page, however, even scribbling, doodling or doing soothing painting with water colors can have the same impact. Try not to focus on the product (what your picture looks like!. This is not relevant to the desired outcome: releasing uncomfortable stress and emotions! Art making acts as an emotional detox by letting it flow through you, out and away from you. Art making can be more freeing as you are not limited by words. The next time you are feeling stuck in pattern of holding onto a negative feeling, try creating with art materials and notice how it impacts your mood state. 

3.    Breathe

Your breath offers a direct passageway to greater health in mind, body, and spirit. You will breathe whether you think about it or not, it is a marker of being alive. However, you can bring your breath into your conscious awareness and access the healing benefits through specific actions of your breath.

When you breathe diaphragmatically you engage the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that calms you down. Parasympathetic nervous system response is referred to as “rest and digest mode.” The other function of the nervous system is the sympathetic nervous system response which is referred to as “fight or flight mode.” When you are harboring stress, uncomfortable emotions, or thoughts that are triggering those emotions, even subconsciously, you expose yourself to the toxic residue of these emotions. Emotions themselves are not good or bad, they are valuable information about our experience of our lives. However, if you hold onto emotions they can become a negative experience inside and out, causing significant discomfort that gets shoved into your physical body and creates toxicity.

Breathing helps to calm the nervous system and offers more clarity of thought. This can open you to deeper awareness of why the emotion is there, and how it came to be stuck or stagnant as you may originally not have been open or comfortable with receiving the message it was there to offer you. To begin, place one hand on your abdomen and the other hand on your chest. Then, direct your breath in through your nose and expand your abdomen as you inhale slowly. Then, breathe out through your nose drawing your navel in towards your spine slowly.

Continue with this pattern, breathing slowly and deeply and notice the impact on how you feel. Try not force it, just assure that your abdomen is expanding with your inhale, not your chest. You can pair this diaphragmatic breathing with a phrase, such as “let go”—saying “let” in your mind as you inhale and “go” in your mind as you exhale. This helps to free stuck emotional residue and can significantly reduce your stress. This practice also gives your mind a point of focus making it less likely that it will wander off to any other stressful or distressing thoughts.

Emotions are a part of life. Learning to experience, manage and release them is a tremendously valuable part of life. The paradox is often that if you avoid the discomfort you perpetuate its existence. If you allow yourself to feel your emotions, be present with them and make a decision about how to respond in the moment, you offer yourself to feel it as it’s related to the triggering circumstances—versus feeling all of the toxic build up and residue from long-term avoidance and fear.

Try integrating one or more of these tools and notice the impact it has on your life, your body, and your self-awareness. When you free yourself of the discomfort of holding onto emotions that are not needed for your present moment experience, you open yourself to the possibility of offering a deeper space of peace and contentment within.

4 Common Causes of Nighttime Eating and How to Effectively Manage Them

 
Nighttime Eating Causes and Management
 

Nighttime eating is a major concern for many people who have a conflicted and difficult relationship with food. Nighttime eating typically indicates one of the following imbalances:

1.    Nighttime eating may indicate that you are a chronic dieter. If you significantly restrict calories your body will crave nutrients and calories at the end of the day.

2.    Nighttime eating may indicate that your blood sugar is out of balance. This will cause cravings at the end of the day. 

3.    Nighttime food cravings can indicate that you are an emotional eater. Unstructured time in the evening can trigger emotions and stress that cause uncontrollable emotional food cravings.

4.    Nighttime eating may indicate that you are stuck in a deeply engrained habit pattern of eating at night that can be effectively changed with desire and effort.

If you struggle with nighttime food cravings and nighttime eating, it is most likely a combination of more than one of the above possible reasons. 

Let’s begin by addressing nighttime eating problem number one. Restricting calories during the day and the chronic dieting mentality can cause intense food cravings. Here’s the thing, dieting is not a sustainable form of weight loss—in fact—studies show that chronic dieting causes weight gain! The weight loss industry has based their marketing on the premise that they can make you feel as though you do not know how or what to eat. The dieting industry makes you feel as though you are out of control and in need of someone or something else to be in charge of your food intake. While this may work temporarily (for weight loss, NOT necessarily for health), what happens when the diet is over? (Hint: usually a dangerous cycle of binge eating or overeating after an extended time of feeling deprived.)

If you have been significantly restricting your caloric intake, please know that it is simply not realistic long-term. If you find that you are hungry and unable to resist eating at night when you have restricted your food intake during the day, you are most likely having these strong cravings because you are indeed hungry! You also may be having these strong cravings because your body is trying to communicate to you that you are even malnourished. Your body is most likely craving energy and nourishment and your “self-control” reserves have been depleted and you find yourself eating and most likely in an out of control manner.

The most effective way to remedy this is to STOP DIETING! Start eating real, nutritious whole foods and begin to focus on healing your relationship with food through mindful and intuitive eating practices. Stop restricting and begin focusing on why you want a certain food and if that food serves your health and wellness goals. You can begin to add more nutrition to each meal during the day and notice if that helps reduce your cravings in the evening. Chronic dieting can contribute to blood sugar imbalances as well, which leads us to nighttime eating cause number two!

If your blood sugar is out of balance, it can cause strong food cravings at the end of the day. One cause for this imbalance can be when you start the day with a high amount of carbohydrates and sugars. This will spike your blood sugar early in the day and cause residual cravings all day long. The primary remedy for this is to add protein to your breakfast to help stabilize blood sugar throughout the day. Another way to manage blood sugar imbalance is to minimize taking in excess sugar, processed foods and certain carbohydrates (without being entirely or overly restrictive.) Balancing protein and fiber will help as well—vegetables that are loaded with fiber like leafy greens eaten with a healthy protein source can be very stabilizing and satiating.

Possible cause number three is emotional eating, which is often a major contributor to nighttime eating. Unstructured time in the evening can trigger many feelings. Some of the most common feelings that trigger nighttime eating are: stress, anxiety, boredom and loneliness. The most effective way to begin to manage emotional eating is to have a healthy, non-food-based outlet for your emotions. If you would like more guidance and support surrounding emotional food cravings you can check out my blog on the 5 stages of awareness here to guide you through becoming more emotionally aware. I also have several blogs dedicated to understanding and releasing emotional cravings and emotional awareness and food cravings, you can check out one here.

Emotional eating is complex and may be an area where you could benefit from support by working with a therapist. However, giving yourself an outlet will help to identify the feeling and then make a choice on how to respond to the feeling. Once you can recognize, name and understand the trigger for the emotion you are experiencing, you can create a new outlet for your emotions. Learning to be present with them rather than eating them away and numbing them out with food is essential. This part of the process is definitely not easy. Give yourself time to process your feelings through journaling, talking about them, and/or doing something creative to release them in order to have a place for them to be acknowledged, respected, understood and released.

Now onto scenario number four, nighttime eating as a long-standing habit. If you have had the habit of having a bowl of popcorn and a glass of wine while unwinding in the evening or having dessert every night regardless of whether or not you are hungry, this can indeed be a difficult habit to break. Creating a new habit takes time, effort, discipline and consistency to make happen.

You can begin by identifying the habit you want to change and determine your WHY. Why do you want to change this habit? Make it something that is truly important to you and involves your personal values. It is helpful to remind yourself of your personal WHY continually to remain motivated to maintain this change. Determine what you’d like to do instead of your typical nighttime eating habit. Preplanning an alternative to eating in order to take away the challenge of having to force yourself in the moment will help you to change this habit. Maybe you’d like to have a cup of tea, journal, read, knit—whatever it is—set yourself up for success by having this new evening habit ready to access.

Commit to one month of changing this habit. At the end of the month, take time to reflect on how it goes. What has changed? How did this change impact you? How did it impact your health? How did it impact your self-esteem and your self-image? This is important stuff to notice! Not to sound like a broken record, but I will anyway—if you are truly hungry, allow yourself to eat—just ensure you are not mindlessly eating out of habit, boredom or otherwise.

Nighttime eating is pervasive and many of us struggle with this challenge and yet most people don’t share this struggle with others. Many people feel ashamed and maybe attempt to hide it. Awareness is the first step. If you feel you could benefit from support, reach out! The upcoming Finding Freedom From Emotional Eating Online Group Coaching Course will help support you through challenges such as nighttime eating and emotional eating! You can learn more about this course here.

I hope these methods help to bring more awareness to the why behind any nighttime eating and that these steps will help you begin or continue your journey to make peace with food as well as with yourself.

Creating Your Emotional Cravings Protocol

Creating Your OWN Personalized Emotional Cravings Protocol

WFTLogo.jpg

 

When you are working to heal emotional eating, having a personalized approach is most effective. The three step cravings protocol that I recommend, Pause, Reflect, Release, is helpful for most as a guideline. However, what you do within each phase will help you make it your own. When you have a personalized approach, it feels more authentic and doable and is far more likely to be sustainable.

When you find the tools that work for you, you want to practice them consistently. Awareness builds with effort and consistency. Self-awareness will continue to grow as you become more and more comfortable understanding and accepting your internal emotional world. I emphasize the acceptance process as it is absolutely vital to healing. When you understand the inner workings of your own mind, you create a tremendous capacity to heal, grow and accept yourself and others without judgment.

As you continue to more effectively manage your emotional food cravings, you create a sense of mastery which inevitably increases your experience of internal emotional comfort. When you no longer fear your feelings but instead understand, embrace and deeply accept them, you are essentially understanding, embracing and deeply accepting yourself.

The process of making peace with food is the process of making peace with yourself. With emotional, stress and disordered eating, it is never actually about the food, it is more about a limited acceptance of yourself and a limited ability to connect with yourself in a meaningful way. When you place conditions in order to accept yourself completely, you leave yourself open to creating negative cognitions about yourself such as feeling not good enough, inadequate or as though you have to be perfect.

These negative cognitions are not useful, generally untrue and hold you back from knowing yourself and caring for yourself. When you are not caring for yourself and believing the negative cognitions as if they are true, you will most likely lack motivation. As you become more emotionally aware you build confidence, you are able to believe in yourself and your capability to feel strong and healthy. Releasing the old negative cognitions and subsequent thought patterns is essential.

As you work with your own personal emotional cravings protocol, you will feel empowered in the moment, you get to choose how to manage a specific emotional craving. As you build your determination to use your protocol consistently, you will strengthen your mindset and make the best choice possible in the moment.

When you think about the three specific steps, Pause, Reflect, Release and creating a personalized protocol that works for you, it is helpful to know the specific element of each that you find to be useful.

Within the Pause phase, what helps you Pause? Do you prefer to set a timer for 1-5 minutes in the moment of awareness that you are mindlessly or emotionally eating? What is helpful next? Have a glass of water and wait for the timer to go off? Do a deep breathing exercise? Determining the specifics of your pause that work for you will help you personalize each step into a useful, actionable tool for managing your food cravings. Once you establish the technique that works best for you, use it consistently in order to effectively utilize the Pause phase.

During the Reflection phase, what works most effectively for you to Reflect on your emotional experience? What proactive element can you incorporate to make this Reflection time useful and effective? Is it helpful for you to talk about your emotion? Do you prefer to write in a journal? Does taking a walk and pondering your emotions help? Do you need to take some space away from the emotion first and practice mindfulness or relaxation and then take time to reflect?

Find what reflective process works for you and helps you identify the why behind your emotion. Once you Reflect you can take time to make a choice on how to respond to the specific emotion. If something needs to be done, decide when you will take action on it.

As you move into the Release phase, determine what helps you Release and let go of emotions that are no longer serving you. Does deep breathing help you? You can breathe in and imagine peace and contentment flowing in, and breathe out, imagining all that is not serving you mentally, emotionally and physically releasing. Does journaling support your releasing process? Does mindfulness and/or visualization help?

To visualize the Release, you can imagine your emotions on a cloud—drifting away in the sky—or your emotions releasing with the imagery of leaves floating past you on a river. Whatever helps you internalize the experience of letting go, that is what will be most effective for you to do during this phase of Release.

Take time to write down your process and know it may be different for different emotional experiences. Write down what you will do to create a personalized Pause, Reflect and Release. Have these steps nearby so you can access them in times that it may not initially come naturally for you. The rest is practice and time, time and practice. Practice is the only way to integrate the process and make it work for you within your life.  

Did you come up with a creative Pause Reflect and Release? Let me know! I’d love to hear how you are implementing these tools. How are they working for you? Need support? Know that I am here to help support you along your journey to making peace with food as well as with yourself.