This post is part of a series about Complete Recovery. If you’d like to read all of the blog posts in the series, see The Three Steps to Complete Recovery – 1, 2, 3, 3 1/2, Step 4, Step um, I dunno…, Step 5 and Step 6.
Step 7: The final steps in the 3rd core tool
For the past 8 weeks we’ve been exploring the 3 core tools you and anyone else on the planet needs to completely free yourself from a stressful relationship with food. This week marks the final installment of the sharing of the tools. What you now have is a very complete and functional toolkit to begin to handle any life experience without restricting, overeating or purging.
Below you’ll see I’ve posted the full handout for you but if you’ve been following along you’ll be familiar with all the steps up to and including step # 5. I encourage you to experiment with this most valuable tool at least once a day for the next 2 weeks, whether you feel like you need it or not! J It will make a huge difference in all areas of your life and make this process move along very rapidly for you.
It is quite common for people to get hooked in all-or-nothing thinking as they’re working through this process. I have mentioned that at the end of the handout so you can be reminded to be on the look out for it. But I also want to say that if you are feeling at all resistant/procrastinating in regards to using these basic tools, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it or that they don’t work, it simply means that your learned helplessness has kicked in and you’re telling yourself those old harmful all-or-nothing stories about how you can’t do it, you’re not capable, it’s going to take too long or be too hard for you to be successful. Every single client I’ve ever had got stuck in those stories and every client was able to get free by reminding themselves that those thoughts weren’t true, they were only learned helplessness (see the first 2 articles in this series) and they could just step free.
It is also quite common for people to need a few sessions to integrate and fine-tune these tools for their own personal situations. Please take advantage of the fact that you’re almost there and let yourself reach out for some support if you’re at all confused or just procrastinating on using the tools. This process is simple, it doesn’t have to take a long time and you can be completely free of your stressful relationship with food forever. Just use your tools.
List of Stressors Handout:
Note: This process needs to be written down the first few times, not done in your head. If you try to do it in your head, your Drill Sgt. and his all-or-nothing thinking will get in the way and you’ll end up feeling more stuck. When you write out a list of stressors you will end the process feeling free and peaceful and will be able very soon to just do this process in your head automatically whenever you feel the slightest bit anxious – you won’t need to wait until you’re already overwhelmed and binging, purging or restricting to tune in and release yourself from the stress in your life.
1. Notice when you are engaged in any of the following coping strategies:
- feeling that anxious (P.L.A.) feeling in your tummy; or
- a sinking/depressed feeling; or
- when you are restricting; or
- thinking about binging or purging; or
- you are in the middle of binging or purging; or
- have just finished; or
- hearing critical thoughts in your head; or
- wanting to isolate; or
- wanting to procrastinate; or
- having a bad body thought; or
- wanting to act out in anger (towards yourself or others).
These are all coping strategies. They are nothing in and of themselves. They are signposts and they exist to let you know one thing and one thing only: You have needs that aren’t being met. The proper response to noticing any of these cues is to take the following steps to seek to understand what needs have been triggered for you and what action you can take to meet that need in a way that enhances your self-esteem and all aspects of your life.
And, if trying to be mindful of them all seems a tad overwhelming (as it did to me when I was first learning this process), just pick one or two to be on the lookout for – it will be enough, I promise.
2. When you notice any of those thoughts, feelings or behaviours kicking in just acknowledge aloud: “I am kicking in to using one of my coping strategies and that absolutely, no exceptions, means I’m in all-or-nothing thinking. Every time!”
3. Ask yourself: “Just prior to me feeling that sinking feeling or kicking in to the coping strategy of binging and purging, what just happened or what was I just thinking that might be stressing me out?” Invite yourself to make a note of the first 3 things that come to mind.
If you’re drawing a blank or you are absolutely convinced that the only thing that’s stressing you out is food and/or your weight, trust me, it isn’t! And try this: Consider the Matrix – past, present, and future – not just what is apparent to you in this moment. Ask yourself: “What was I just thinking about from my past or what might I have just been imagining in my future that could have triggered stress for me?”
Write down your answers (these are your stressors). If you still struggle to find an answer (and you may as you’ve likely been disconnected from your emotions and thoughts for some time), try this: Write down all of the key roles you have in your life (daughter, partner, individual, professional, volunteer, student, etc.) and identify the things that you are or aren’t doing in those areas that you have judgement of (things you should/shouldn’t be doing).
Allow yourself to identify your stressors using the tools above and just write one or two words to name them. This should be point form, bullets, not sentences at this point. We’re just getting out on paper a simple list of all the topic headings that may be triggering unmet needs and leading you to use one of the coping strategies above.
4. Now, for each one of your stressors ask yourself: “What is the story that I’m telling myself about this?” Ie. What should/shouldn’t be happening? What should or shouldn’t I or others have done? Where should or shouldn’t I be? Etc. etc.
5. For each story/stressor, ask yourself is there any all-or-nothing thinking in this story? (ie. can I formulate that story as a “should” statement?). If you’re not sure, or if the story feels true, just add “and that means” to the end of each statement in #4 and see what comes up – is there any all-or-nothing thinking in that story? Circle or put a mark beside the stories that are all-or-nothing.
6. Now, for each all-or-nothing story, come up with at least 3 alternative stories. Ie. what else could happen? How else could things go?
7. Then ask yourself, are any of those alternative stories equally or more likely than the original all-or-nothing one?
8. If yes, could you allow yourself to let go of the harmful all-or-nothing story?
9. If the answer is “No” just ask yourself: “What am I telling myself will happen if I allow myself to let go of this story? And is there any all-or-nothing thinking in that?” Then take steps 6 – 8 again and see what happens. I’ll bet you feel much more relaxed and peaceful.
10. If you feel anything other than lighter and clearer after this process it means that you’ve just bought in to some more all-or-nothing thinking and you need to begin again at step 3.
This process may take 15 – 30 minutes or less the first few times and soon (literally after a few go-rounds) will take just a few minutes as you begin to be able to identify more readily what’s really triggering you, zero in on the one key stressor in the moment and easily identify your all-or-nothing thinking.
Remember it is the old all-or-nothing thinking and learned helplessness that prevents you from moving forward into complete freedom and lasting change. It isn’t these tools – they work every single time to help you identify and let go of any all-or-nothing thinking and to take immediate and respectful action towards meeting your needs, whatever they might be.
Each time you run through these simple steps it gets easier and easier, and you will need to do it less and less as you start to shift from a default all-or-nothing mindset to a more open, possibilities mindset. Usually, after you’ve done a handful of them on paper (or computer), it takes just a minute to complete the full exercise in your head and free yourself from the sinking feeling of stuckness (learned helplessness) and the use of food to cope.
Whether you prefer one-on-one counselling (in-person, by phone, or email), our intensive and transformative workshops, the self-help approach with the book, or our Food is Not the Problem Online Membership Program, take action today to have a stress-free relationship with food. Sign up for our free newsletter today (see the left top side of your screen). Newsletter subscribers receive exclusive product discounts and are first in line to get on all the latest new at CEDRIC.
© Michelle Morand, 2010