You’re eating when you’re not hungry;
You’re not allowing yourself to eat when you’ve noticed that you are hungry;
You’re feeling anxious;
You’re wanting to isolate or withdraw from a person or situation;
You’re feeling angry/resentful/frustrated/annoyed/impatient; and/or
You’re feeling listless, drained, depressed.
Ask yourself what just happened or what you just thought of (past/present/and future) that might have triggered you to feel overwhelmed.
Ask yourself what you’re telling yourself about that situation that is triggering your stress (fight or flight) response.
Adding the tag line of “and that means” to every story to identify what is real, true, factual, life circumstance and what is all-or-nothing thinking.
For each actual, factual stressor, ask yourself what needs to happen in order for you to feel peaceful in this situation.
Often the answer will be that you just need to reassure yourself that you’ll take care of yourself and not compromise yourself to meet the needs of others or to gain their approval.
Sometimes though, you will need to offer yourself that reassurance and take some action towards influencing a certain outcome.
If you identify what needs to happen in order for you to feel peaceful and you suddenly feel that shut-down, sinking feeling, it means your Drill Sgt. has just told you why you can’t have what you want / need and that you have to suck it up and hope for the best.
This is what we call “Learned Helplessness” and it is at the root of all of your use of food to cope and all of your stress in any situation in your life.
Therefore, it is imperative that you become a master at catching and releasing your Learned Helplessness. The steps above will aid you greatly in that effort.
When you notice that you’ve just shut yourself down to whatever you needed in order to feel peaceful, the next step is to ask of yourself:
“What am I telling myself will happen if I take that action?”
Add the tag line “and that means” to any of those stories to release the all-or-nothing thinking, and whatever is left will be the questions you need to ask/information you need to gather from the appropriate parties involved in this particular situation in order to make a sound decision.
Ask those people those questions. You can start out by saying, “I just need a little more information in order to feel comfortable committing to this situation/making a decision.”
Once you’ve received that person’s answers say: “Thank you, that helps a lot. I’m going to think about this for a bit and get back to you.” If this is a time-sensitive situation, give that person a time/day when you will reply.
Commit to yourself that you will not make a decision in that conversation, you’re just gathering more data. Hold yourself to this agreement, even if you feel completely peaceful and ready to commit. There’s no rush. Even if you give yourself 15 minutes to sit with the answers you receive and make sure you still feel peaceful about your choice, that will make a huge difference.
If after asking some questions and taking some time to consider how you feel and whether you’re peaceful within about the steps you’re planning to take, you feel anxious/unsettled at all, repeat the steps above to see if perhaps some old learned helplessness has crept in or if, perhaps, you realize that you need a little more information.
At this point you may discover that you have all the information you’re going to get from that person/those people and you’re still not feeling like you are ready to decide. If you’ve cleared any all-or-nothing/learned helplessness as outlined above, this is an indicator that you need to get a second opinion from an expert/professional who knows more about this particular situation. Allow yourself to do so, and don’t be at all reluctant to let the other people involved know that you are doing that. Again, just let them know when you’ll make your decision. Seeking counsel in order to make the right decision for you is a completely respectful, healthy choice, and the only people who push you to decide before you’re ready are those who are more interested in getting one over on you than they are in building a solid, healthy relationship and maintaining their own integrity. Don’t doubt that. You are never obligated to compromise yourself to meet another adult’s needs. Ever.
Once you feel completely peaceful about a decision, take action. In fact, this step is redundant because the only reason you wouldn’t naturally feel drawn to take action is because you’re not feeling peaceful. So peace naturally equals honoring action. You don’t have to convince, cajole, pressure, bribe or threaten yourself to take an action that feels right to you and you will not hear from the Drill Sgt. either in this process. That’s how you know it’s right.
So many of us have been taught to ignore our innate sense of distress and disease that the notion of waiting until we feel peaceful to act in a certain situation seems akin to never taking any action. Au contraire, mon frère! Your food and body image stress, your anxiety and your depression, your dysfunctional relationships and any other part of your life that feels like it needs a tweak or a full overhaul, is the way it is because you ignore your inner wisdom (as you’ve been taught to do by others who were also taught to ignore their own truth) and instead take actions that are led by fear and not mature, confident, respectful self-awareness.
If you’re ready to have a lot more peace and a lot less food to cope in your life, give this a whirl and you’ll be amazed at how quickly peace and self-confidence descend.
And if you give this a try and feel a little stuck anywhere along the path, know that often we need a little help and some fine-tuning as this is new and foreign to us. It’s easy once you get the hang of it, but just like riding a bike, we all need a little instruction and a little support at the start.