A couple nights ago, I admit, I had a heck of a time trying to feel calm, cool and collected. I found myself being overwhelmed by life’s demands (ok, to be specific, the sounds of a sick, whiny, demanding two-year-old and a hungry seven-month-old) so I ended up feeding my toddler “snacky” stuff – mind you, we were “fancying it up” by having organic wheat stone crackers with hummus, feta cheese and smoked oysters (yes, my toddler likes smoked oysters! Strange, I know). Trying to have him eat veggies last night was not flying so well (actually, the veggies were flying from his plate to mine).
Feeling tired, hungry and overwhelmed on every sensory level (screaming kids, pawing hands, visual of screaming kids and pawing hands and a messy kitchen) – you get the picture and I’m sure you can relate to my feeling of how high my stress levels were at this point even if the content is different …the last thing I wanted to do was a series of breathing exercises (although I did try taking deep breaths in as I was in the midst of this), journaling (can’t escape), or any kind of emotional regulation tool (they all went out the window). The only thing I really wanted to do was escape or zone out (yes, this happens to even me, an expert in emotional regulation!)
And being that my old pattern is to turn towards food to zone out, I did made a conscious decision to turn towards food to cope with stress. Rather than zoning out, I stayed present to the variety of colors of each food in front of me, the shapes they take on, the aroma of the garlic hummus. I spread the hummus over a cracker, topped it with a piece of cheese and smoked oyster. Then I sloooooowly took a bite, taking in delight of the crunching sound and the burst of flavors on my tongue. I just stayed very present to my so-called supper. I also indulged in organic dried figs topped with raw almond butter for my dessert. So instead of zoning out and binging, I “zoned in” and “ritualized the binge” by staying present to my meal. This is a strategy I have taught to my clients who tend to emotionally eat.
I always emphasize that emotional eating is not a bad thing, in fact, food is a great way to nourish our emotions, and it should not be the only solution. However, if we make a conscious decision to binge (i.e., eat foods that we are craving in copious amounts), then ritualize it. What I mean is take out the foods you are craving to eat, put them on your fave plate as if you are displaying for guests (I like to use my sons’ bright colorful plastic plates because color makes me happy), and take your time to eat with an open heart. Often when we binge, it’s in shame, hiding and alone. Do the opposite and be in joy, openness and in presence of others (given they are emotionally safe to be around). Many of my parent clients talk about what healthy modelling this is for their children, as they take in the joy of eating. When we stay present to our food experience and how it’s connected to our physical and/or emotional hunger levels, we honor our emotions and body. When we truly stay present to our experience, we take in the satisfaction of these foods and listen to our satiety cues (or make a more conscious decision to give self permission to overeat). It’s about coming from a place of love and consciousness, rather than fear, stress, shame, anger or (insert negative emotion here).
The next morning, my stress levels carried over, and I knew I had to proactively do something about it to find my inner calm because I wasn’t going to allow my stress to guide my day! So I youtubed Yoga with Adriene and up came one of her videos titled Yoga for Stress Relief. Perfect! So with my 7-month-old son in the jolly jumper to the left of me, and my toddler on the iPad (a parents’ best friend!) to the right of me, I went into my yoga practice. As I was half way through the video, Adriene had me in a position of knees on the ground, my left hand on the floor directly under my shoulder, and my right shoulder resting on the ground so that my arm is “threaded” through my left arm (it isn’t as complicated as it sounds!). Adriene instructed that we play with our balance by lifting the left knee off the ground.
What happened next I didn’t actually expect to happen: She said “Sometimes we have to throw ourselves off balance in order to deeply connect” and if I was a cartoon in that moment, you would have seen a lightbulb bubble pop up. Literally, a sensation ran through my body – you know that one you get when you have an “a-ha moment”? Yes, that one…and at that moment, I truly realized that I’ve been embracing the (emotional) “mess” which brought me to that present moment- deeply connecting with myself. In fact, all the deep breathing from my practice combined with my a-ha moment, allowed me to feel an endorphin rush through every cell of my being. Beautiful. I felt as if I was completely surrendering to my glorious mess of emotions, and releasing them in my practice.
I felt completely rejuvenated, the reset button was pushed, and any “stress” rolled off me for the rest of my day. WOW!
So moral of my post? Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed, embrace the mess (rather than resist it), by proactively finding some way to calm in the mess- because when you do so, you create opportunities to connect deeper with your higher self. I was able to do this when I ritualized the binge, and in engaging in stress-relieving yoga postures.
I’d love to hear how you can embrace your mess too.