Category Archives: Health

How to Cope with Election Results

Traveling under series of arches

Stress and anxiety are normal

During an election year, stress and anxiety can be expected. Particularly when you have strong feelings about one of the candidates or a certain issue, an election can seem all-consuming.

Once an election results ends, you may be stressed about what’s going to come next or how your friends will react if you voted for different parties or candidates.

Everyone deals with stress differently. The important thing is for you to identify healthy ways to address election results and move forward.

Understand that you are not alone

Election campaigns, election events, and post-election updates have put people on edge. One study found that 38% of people reported that they lost sleep over the 2020 U.S. presidential election and 25% of people felt rage when they thought about the election.

To deal with election-related problems, it might help to remember that they impact many people and that you’re not alone. You don’t have to feel as though something is wrong simply because you’re upset.

There has been a lot of unrest over the election and other issues in the United States. There are least two sides in an election – and everyone feels as though they are on the right side. Some people will get angry or upset when others do not agree with them. While this might not be pleasant, it is normal.

You can identify yourself as passionate. That is fine unless you let your passion blind you to alternatives, or if your passion leads you to compromise your honesty and integrity. Or, you can identify yourself as empathetic. As you start to understand and share the feelings of others, it’s easier to see the similarities and differences that you have.

Many highly empathic people learn to use their skills for good. You can start conversations to understand more about people. Remember to listen and state your views, but don’t argue. With empathy, you may be able to inspire change, allowing you to feel as though you have more control over what’s happening in the world around you.

Learn how to process stress

When elections seem to be taking their toll, remember that there are healthy ways to cope with stress. Try to identify what you’re experiencing, whether it’s stress, disbelief, shock, helplessness, other emotions, or a combination of these. Know that physical and emotional symptoms can be stressful on your body.

Practicing self-care is of the utmost importance. Think about what you can do to help yourself. You’ll want to get a good night’s sleep, eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and take breaks.

Particularly when it comes to election stress, the media can be your worst enemy. Try avoiding the news for a bit if it’s bothering you. If you feel that you absolutely need an update, limit yourself to 10 or 15 minutes of news.

It’s also a good idea to unplug from social media for a while. Give yourself a break of a few days or a week. When you’re not constantly dealing with your friends’ arguing over issues and candidates, you might find it easier to relax.

If you continue to feel stressed and worried, it may be time to talk to someone. Start by talking to friends and family about your feelings. If needed, discuss the problems with a psychologist or other trusted professional.

Similarly, if you’re dealing with election-related stress by using alcohol or drugs, seek help at drug or inpatient drug and alcohol treatment centers. Professionals at those facilities can treat addictions as well as stress, depression, anxiety, and other factors that could contribute to addictions.

One of the most important aspects of managing stress is knowing when you’re at a breaking point. There’s no need to burn out simply because an election didn’t go in your favor. You cannot stress on things that are out of your control.

Take a deep breath and remind yourself that there are other things that you can change. If you’re still struggling, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Identify your behaviors

You might tend to isolate yourself and feel sad.  Or you might reach out with more anger and irritability that makes other people uncomfortable. Either way, it makes it harder to get the support you need.

It’s easy to become addicted without realizing it. You may pour a drink as a way to relax. Maybe you went through half of the bottle before you knew it, because you still weren’t able to relax. This might happen night after night, and before you’ve fully comprehended it, you’ve developed a drinking problem.

Alcohol and drugs are unhealthy ways of numbing pain, though.

If you find that you’ve developed problematic behaviors, work to stop them. If you encounter setbacks or withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop, it’s important to know that there is help available, including online resources for recovery or addiction.

The sooner you identify unhealthy behaviors, the sooner you can get them under control. Although election results might trouble you, they shouldn’t consume your entire life. It is OK to step back and watch things unfold.

Focus on what you can control

There are plenty of things that you can do to gain control of your life. If you’re stressed about election results, think about what you can do locally:

  • Join a group so that you can talk about politics with others who have similar views or debate others with different perspectives.
  • March for your rights to ensure your voice is heard.
  • Volunteer for causes you find important.

When you’re able to build support systems and find outlets for your emotions, it can be easier to manage stress in all aspects of your life. Remember that you’re not alone and that others are willing to help.

Sources:

prnewswire.com – Mental Health Survey: Rage, Election Worries and Covid-19 Fears Plague Americans

greatergood.berkeley.edu – Six Habits of Highly Empathic People

cdc.gov – Coping with Stress

Blog # 23 added 12-14-20 by guest author Patrick Bailey (with minor edits by Mary Knutson).

Author Bio: Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoys writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.

Website / Blog URL: http://patrickbaileys.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Pat_Bailey80

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/patrick-bailey-writer

Trauma Can Affect You: Ways to Help Yourself to Recover

Past or current trauma can affect you, your thoughts, and your behavior. Having past trauma, as a child or as an adult is common in our society.

Trauma affects some people more than others

Some people are more resilient and have more support. Ongoing anxiety issues may be something you need to learn to cope with.  If you have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), more distressing symptoms may continue to affect your life.

Some health care settings are embracing Trauma- informed Care (TIC)

TIC assumes that people have had past traumas and attempts to avoid “triggers”. They want to prevent people feeling re-traumatized while they are receiving health care, and help them feel more safe and secure.

TIC Resources and Education are needed

I developed a Trauma Recovery Webquest  to share important information about TIC concepts including both childhood and adult scenarios.  It was designed to be used for health professionals as well as for anyone else.

Please realize that the linked video of childhood trauma in the first Powerpoint. Living with Trauma-Finding Recovery can be quite upsetting.  Feel free to skip that part if you don’t think you should watch it.

The webpages have many valuable links. The Trauma Webquest Process page includes a Resilience website and many handouts to help people cope with their symptoms of anxiety, flashbacks, dissociation, or thoughts of self-harm.

I have included (for free) links to some of the Recovery Workbooks that I have had for sale on my website, including Managing Anger, Managing Addiction, Depression, and a Coping & Relaxation Workbook.

Most importantly, you can use the Finding Your Way to Cope with Trauma Workbook !

I sincerely hope that you will find this information to be helpful and useful.

Believe that recovery  is possible.

You might enjoy the following video to inspire you:

 

Blog post #21  8-27-20 by Mary Knutson Health Vista, Inc.

A Great Way to Plan Ahead: Use a Coping Plan!

Thoughtful woman looking toward a bright path

Your path ahead looks uncertain, and it will be full of ups and downs.  Most people struggle with how to cope when their emotions may tend to get out of control.

What is a Coping Plan?

I would like to share a simple worksheet that was developed to help with that.  It will guide you to put some thought into what “triggers” you, and what warning signs would be seen by others when you are upset.

It also helps you explore what is helpful and what is not helpful if you feel like you are losing control.   The Coping plan can be shared with others, so they understand more about you and your needs. And, you will be able to be more prepared  for successful coping if you plan ahead.

How to Use a Coping Plan

Please go to to my Coping Plan webpage to read more about using the worksheet and about Trauma-Informed Care.  It was developed to help prevent people from being re-traumatized because of the reactions of others to their behaviors. To summarize:

Trauma can shape people’s mental, emotional, spiritual
and physical well-being.  Nearly every
family is impacted in some way.  Instead of asking “what is wrong with you?” ask “what has happened to you?” Reduce the blame and shame that some people feel. Build understanding of how the past impacts the present and help you progress
toward healing and recovery

The original link used for the information above was:

WI Dept. of Health Services. (2012). Wisconsin State Trauma-Informed Care (TIC)
Educational and Media Campaign. Retrieved 7-15-12 from
http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/mh_bcmh/tic/index.htm 

A current link for more information about Trauma-Informed Care is https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/resilient/trauma-informed-practices.htm

You will probably also learn that your behaviors are not so different than many other people who we interacted with as we developed the worksheet.

The coping plan worksheet is available here >>>

Find successful ways to cope

My goal is to help people who are struggling with anxiety, anger, depression, addiction, or other behavior problems to cope better.  There are lots of ideas on the worksheet!

Share your coping plan with people around you

Allow  family, friends, and community be able to help you more.   Things usually seem easier when they are discussed ahead of time and they know what to expect.  Stronger relationships can happen with better coping.

Hopefully,  life’s path will look brighter as you feel more prepared and in control.  I hope this information is helpful to you!

 

Blog Post # 20  written 6-25-20 by Mary Knutson

Balancing Fitness and Self-Care

Fitness training. Muscular man holding weights in one armed plank positionpushing up

Are you balancing fitness with self-care?

Is your New Year’s resolution still going strong? Are you still spending every spare moment improving your health and fitness? If so, congratulations to you. It’s hard to keep up the progress toward self-improvement long-term. For many of us, there comes a point where we push a little too hard and become burnt out.  Even if you feel like you could keep at this rate for weeks to come, your progress may stall. If you don’t have enough self-care, you will more likely decide you want to give up.

Developing a fitness routine has become a cornerstone in the lives of many. For some, exercise has been a saving grace—a way of coping for those suffering from depression, anxiety or addiction. It can help refocus their lives as they strive for recovery. But as with anything in life, the benefit is limited if we start to overdo it.

How We Burn Out on Fitness

In our efforts to become better people, we may push our minds and bodies to their limits. Self-improvement requires insight into ourselves to see if there is something wrong. Maybe it’s that we are overweight, can’t run as far as we’d like, or that we rely too heavily on an addictive substance that’s ruining our lives. When we see room for improvement, we set goals and start an action plan of what we think would help us meet those goals. We may spend more time at the gym, improve our diets, or change our lifestyles, all in the name of personal fitness.

Over time, as we see improvements, it fuels us to push a little harder. We push and push until one day we notice that for some unknown reason the scale begins to tick in the wrong direction, or something happens to cause discomfort. Even something small that could be gut-wrenching and upsetting. Suddenly, we may realize how much time and energy we’ve spent focused on losing weight or gaining muscle mass. That tired feeling we’ve been pushing off is back and we decide to maybe skip the gym today. This is what burning out can feel like. It can mark the end of our progress for better fitness and self-improvement.

Importance of Balancing Fitness with Self-Care

So how do we avoid burn out and sustain a fitness routine for the rest of our lives? The answer lies ultimately in our ability to love ourselves and care for our needs. Self-care is about taking a moment to pause. Start by appreciating who we are and what we’ve acheived. Instead of always striving for self-improvement and always pushing to be better, we can decide to reward ourselves for simply being who we are. Personal acts of self-care may include taking a day to get a massage, lounge in the spa, sleep in on a weekend, or meditate. If you enjoy meditating, consider finding a quiet space in your home where you can create your own meditation room. These acts of treating ourselves reward us with rest and relaxation can be just as motivating as “sticking your nose to the grindstone” with your fitness routine.

Make Time for Fitness and Self-care

The key to finding the right balance between your fitness routine and self-care activities is by setting aside time for both. Perhaps you’ve already discovered your physical and mental limitations when you pushed yourself to be fit. Decide to never push yourself to do more than you can handle. Whenever you feel strained or discouraged, allow yourself a day or even a weekend to indulge in self-care.

By scheduling some self-care days throughout your calendar, you give yourself small pauses in your procession of self-improvement to reflect and catch your breath. Knowing that you have an upcoming day for self-care will help motivate you to keep pushing yourself in your fitness routine and prevent you from burning out along the way.

Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

Posted 10-5-18 Blog article by Guest Contributer Shiela Olson.

Shiela has been a personal trainer for five years. She believes the best way to achieve physical fitness and good health is to set and tackle small goals. She encourages her clients to stay positive and incorporates mindfulness and practices for reducing negative talk into her sessions.  FitSheila.com was created to spread the word about her fitness philosophy.

Updated for readability 5-25-20 by Mary Knutson

Additional link suggestion:  https://faithcenteredfitness.com/

Anxiety: The Other Stage of Grief

Woman trying to find her way through woods

Sadness and anxiety often happen together. It’s common to feel anxiety after the death of a loved one. Grief and anxiety happen together. But, not much attention is given to this side of grief. When you’ve experienced a major loss, it’s easy to feel like you’ve lost control and like the world is no longer the safe and normal place you once knew. When you pair these strong emotions of grief with feelings of helplessness, it’s easy for anxiety to grow.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety starts as extra worrying that interferes with your everyday life. You may feel a sense of dread or distress for no apparent reason, struggle with concentration, be irritable and on edge, and have trouble eating and sleeping. When anxiety is related to grief, it’s especially common to find yourself having obsessive thoughts. You may think about bad things happening to you or your loved ones. You may even face panic attacks where you have feelings of extreme fear, an increased heart rate, shortness of breath, sweating, and dizziness.

Why Does Grief Cause Anxiety?

When you lose someone close to you, especially if that loss is unexpected, your sense of safety in the world can be shaken to its core. Suddenly you feel powerless and aware of how fragile life is, in a way you’ve never thought of before. You may develop an intense fear of your own death, or begin to worry about how you will manage without your loved one. These feelings can be incredibly stressful, especially when paired with the usual symptoms of grief. You may even have anxiety triggered by a fear of your own grief emotions or a feeling that you’re not able to cope with your grief.

How to Cope?

Dealing with anxiety isn’t easy. Anxiety often comes on unexpectedly and it can be hard to figure out the cause. That makes it more difficult to prepare for or avoid. However, there are some things you can do to cope with anxiety when it hits.

When you feel anxiety coming on, try practicing deep belly breathing. Breathe in slowly, letting your chest and stomach rise as your lungs fill with air, and then breathe out slowly. Breathing deeply and focusing on your breath can help tone down your body’s stress response, heading off an anxiety attack before it starts.

If you find yourself unable to sleep because you can’t turn off your racing thoughts, try playing guided imagery recordings. By guiding your thoughts toward positive imagery and away from unwanted thoughts, guided imagery can help you relax and clear your mind.

Try creating an anchor thought. An anchor thought can help you manage your anxiety when it creeps in. It’s called an “anchor thought” because it helps anchor you to reality and keeps your mind from spiraling into anxious thinking. An anchor thought might involve recalling a happy memory and the positive feelings associated with it. Or, it might be a breathing exercise or mantra you repeat until you’re feeling better.

Consider Seeking Treatment

If your anxiety doesn’t get better as your grief fades, or if it’s interfering with your everyday life, it’s important to seek treatment from a mental health professional. You may choose to talk to a grief counselor, join a support group, seek medication from a psychiatrist, or all three. No matter what you choose, getting help for your anxiety is an important step you can take toward managing your grief.

Recognize Normal Emotions

Anxiety is a normal part of grief. Grief pushes you into a world of intense emotions where nothing feels certain except, perhaps, uncertainty itself. While grieving a loved one can be an incredibly isolating experience, it’s important to remember that intense reactions like anxiety and even depression are normal, and there are experienced professionals who know how to help.

Image via Pixabay by Unsplash

Blog by Jennifer Scott, guest contributor posted  3-13-17

Updated for readability 5-25-20 by Mary Knutson

Healing so Your Inner Child can be Free

Encourage Your Inner Child to be Free

football jersey girl with beads on and streaks of black makeup on cheeks

Healing, recovery, and coping involves taking care of ourselves and our “inner child”. Each of us has the desire to be cared for, loved and nurtured. That little child inside of you, (even when you are an adult), is called your “inner child.” Many people try to control their inner child, keeping them from truly being free to be themselves.  They may hide their inner child and make him or her invisible by:

Wearing one of these “masks”

  • “Fashion Show Plate” – Dressing up extremely fancy or carefully
  • “Make-up Artist” – Wearing too much make-up
  • “Body Perfect – Too much work on body shape and exercise
  • “Miss Manners” – Too much politeness
  • “The Blob” – Too much weight (obesity)
  • “The Glumstress” – Wearing drab colors
  • “The Overachiever” – Taking on all challenges
  • “The Daredevil”- Too much risk taking
  • “The Perfectionist” – Being obsessive or fixated on details

Masking your inner child:

People Pleasing –Always giving people what they want to please them, gain approval, and avoid conflict

Entertaining – Being the “life of the party” by making jokes, being a clown, and making other people happy without being sensitive to your own needs or feelings

Withdrawal, pulling in or nonfeeling – Holding back any emotional responses to make sure no one gets to know how you feel

Looking good – Being sure to look good by overachieving, being perfect, and doing only what seems to be the right thing

Enabling, or rescuing– By always focusing your attention and energies on the needs of others, you keep the focus off of yourself to the point that you can’t identify anything you need to work on yourself – You are out of touch with who you are.

Passive aggressive – Agreeing to go along with requests or orders when you disagree and have no plan to follow through

Jumping to negative assumptions – Assuming the worst about what others think and plan to do, you give other people power over you. Many people who have negative thinking hide their true selves to avoid conflict

Acting out, troubled person – Being a person who draws attention to your negative behaviors, you try to hide your real self who is sensitive and needy

Healing to overcome “invisibility” and becoming free to be yourself:

  • Believe that you and your inner child deserve respect.
  • Give yourself the nurturing, caring, love, forgiveness, and respect needed to heal.
  • Let go of self-pity over being neglected or abused as a child, and take charge of your life.
  • Create a bond between the adult you, and your inner child (to give you a sense of security and self-confidence).
  • Like your inner child, you may think, “All I want is to have someone hug me and tell me they are proud of me. Why can’t it happen?”
  • Instead, give yourself a hug every day, know your strengths, and be kind to yourself.
  • Say, “I am proud of me!”

Revised from Messina, J. J. & Messina, C. (2010). Growing down: Tools for healing the inner child. Retrieved from http://jamesjmessina.com/growingdowninnerchild/innerchild.html

Blog #11 written 1-23-16 by Mary Knutson RN for Health Vista, Inc.

Updated for readability 5-25-20

Nurturing and Healing Your Inner Child

Overhanging tree At the side of a creek
Play with your inner child at the side of a creek

Every child deserves  nurturing and security, but some children don’t have it.  Each of us has the desire to be cared for, loved and nurtured. That little child inside of you that needs healing, (even when you are an adult), is called your “inner child” or your inner spirit.  Sometimes, the people who raised you aren’t capable of giving the love and support that you deserved. Healing can happen if you direct caring thoughts and behaviors inward toward the child inside of you.

Your inner child is a free spirit that is emotional, sensitive, fun-loving, joyful, imaginative, and creative.

Finding your inner child:

  • Your childhood spirit may have been tamed, lost, or forgotten, but it is still somewhere inside you.
  • It can influence our decisions, even when we are unaware, because our inner child is part of our beliefs about ourselves.
  • That inner child may need healing and support if it was hurt, neglected, frustrated, or abused during childhood. Even if you have masked, or hidden the inner child, it may be causing you to be worried and fearful of being treated badly.
  • People often ignore their inner child if they have felt guilty or “not good enough.”
  • Our inner child may be hidden if we had to pretend our family was happy and healthy, even when it wasn’t.
  • Sometimes when we dream or daydream, we can picture what the little child is like.

We know our inner child is active when we:

  • Lose ourselves in fun
  • Enjoy playing with games, toys, or pets
  • Get emotional looking at old photo albums, scrapbooks or home movies about our childhood
  • Still think as a child does, seeking to please parents or extended families

Instead of nurturing and healing, many people hid their inner child and make him or her invisible by:

  • Wearing one of these “masks”
    • “Fashion Show Plate” – Dressing up extremely fancy or carefully
    • “Make-up Artist” – Wearing too much make-up
    • “Body Perfect – Too much work on body shape and exercise
    • “Miss Manners” – Too much politeness
    • “The Blob” – Too much weight (obesity)
    • “The Glumstress” – Wearing drab colors
    • “The Overachiever” – Taking on all challenges
    • “The Daredevil”- Too much risk taking
    • “The Perfectionist” – Being obsessive or fixated on details

Nurturing and healing your inner child:

Nurturing to overcome “Invisibility”

  • Believe that you and your inner child deserve respect.
  • Give yourself the nurturing, caring, love, forgiveness, and respect needed to heal.
  • Let go of self-pity over being neglected or abused as a child, and take charge of your life.
  • Create a bond between the adult you, and your inner child (to give you a sense of security and self-confidence).
  • Like your inner child, you may think, “All I want is to have someone hug me and tell me they are proud of me. Why can’t it happen?”
  • Instead, give yourself a hug every day, know your strengths, and be kind to yourself.
  • Say, “I am proud of me!”

Revised from Messina, J. J. & Messina, C. (2010). Growing down: Tools for healing the inner child,  Retrieved from http://jamesjmessina.com/growingdowninnerchild/innerchild.html

 

Blog # 10  by Mary Knutson 1-18-16 for Health Vista, Inc.

Updated for readability 5-25-20

Emotions and Eating

angry toast
Person holding a piece of burnt toast in front of his face with a sad smiley face cut out of it

Emotional Eating during the Holidays and beyond:

After the holiday season many of us find our pants fitting a little tighter and our bellies looking a little rounder. The holidays are an amazing time filled with family, fun, friends and of course food (especially the kind that we try to avoid all the other times of the year). Emotions and eating can be connected, making it difficult to avoid overeating during emotional times. Either good or bad emotions can contribute to emotional eating.

Once the holidays are over and reality kicks back in we can take a step back and work harder to avoid overeating. Then, start fresh as you leave behind the holidays and the emotions that they bring. But it can be difficult to avoid emotional eating all year long.

Connections between emotions and eating:

Food and feelings go together. We tend to link food with enjoyment, affection, and nurturing. Food is usually part of emotion-filled events, either happy or unhappy ones. Eating for comfort is a common behavior that comes from a deep connection within us. However, many people eat in response to emotions rather than hunger. If you are overweight, ask yourself if emotional eating is an issue for you.

How to improve control of emotions and eating:

Mindfulness and other cognitive skills (the way that you think) can help limit emotional eating. It can help a lot if you learn to cope better with the ups and downs of daily life, and don’t think that everything needs to be perfect.

Learn how to eat healthier to improve your well-being and your mood. Recognize and avoid any “triggers” you have. A trigger food can set off a “binge” of eating, no matter what your mood is. Examples include ice cream, cookies, nuts, potato chips.

Eat when physically hungry and stop when you are full:

We often respond to the sight of food with the impulse to devour it – whether or not we are actually hungry. We miss the subtle feelings of hunger and fullness if we don’t slow down to finish chewing and swallowing before we pick up the next bite. It takes 20 minutes for your body to signal its fullness. By eating fast, you are likely to overeat.

Try eating mindfully by savoring the sight, smell, texture, and color of the food. Think about the connection to the outside world, the taste and feel of the food as you eat it slowly.  Stop eating when you are satisfied, even if you haven’t finished what is on your plate. You can put it away and eat it later when you are hungry again,

Work to understand the connection between emotions and eating, to help you succeed in maintaining healthy habits and a healthy weight.

Blog #9 by Mary B. Knutson of Health Vista, Inc.

Updated  5-25-20

Coping with the Holidays

Old-fashioned Christmas Holiday tree

The holidays can be a stressful and hectic time of year.  It is important to find ways of coping and surviving the holidays. They seem to come so fast and it can seem like a letdown when they are over.

Ways of Coping

I have been trying to manage during the holiday season by being more mindful and grateful.  So far, it is helping. I also realize that I am not perfect and my family gatherings won’t be either. I have been using candles and scents more. Making efforts to add relaxation to my days or evenings has also been helpful for me.

More Resources for Coping:

On my website, www.healthvista.net,  I have several engaging Powerpoints written by Shari Cavadini, a registered nurse I used to work with.

One of those presentations can be helpful this time of year. It is called 12 Ways to Cope with the Holidays.  You can find it on the website or at the link below.

https://healthvista.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/12WaystoCopewiththeHolidays.pdf

The Coping and Relaxation Workbook can also help you cope with the Holiday, or at any time of the year.

As you use your own (both old and new) ways of coping, I hope you can feel the peace and joy of the season!

 

Blog #8 12/10/15 by Mary Knutson of Health Vista, Inc.

Updated 5-25-20

Reflections on Emotional Eating

Red geranium flowers on white outdoor background

Wanting to eat when not physically hungry:

I have a problem with emotional eating. I have the urge to taste almost any food that is around, and to eat too much of the “comfort foods” that I love. Sometimes when I am upset, I have been known to have a “binge” by eating way too much of something. In the past, I have eaten several servings at a time of cereal, chips, pizza, candy, or cookies. I used to take a bag of chocolate chips, out of the freezer to eat.

But I can control it better now that I recognize what is happening and I cope with the problems that are making me feel like bingeing.  I also avoid keeping “trigger foods” in the house.  Those strategies  helped me to lose weight and to stay at a healthier weight for several years.

This Emotional Eating Handout describes what I learned about how your mood can affect what you eat.

Food and feelings go together:

  • We tend to link food with enjoyment, affection, and nurturing
  • Food is usually part of emotion-filled events, either happy or unhappy ones
  • Eating for comfort is a common behavior that comes from a deep connection within us
  • Some people eat in response to emotions rather than hunger
  • If you are overweight, ask yourself if emotional eating is an issue for you

Mindfulness skills can develop ways to cope:

  • Cope better with the daily ups and downs of daily life
  • Recognize and avoid black-and-white thinking (where things and actions are looked at as being good or bad, right or wrong)
  • Avoid thinking that things should be perfect
  • Use coping skills for self-control when dealing with food temptations and relapses
  • Get the help you need for problem-solving

Mood and weight changes:

    • Food choices affect mood in positive or negative ways
    • Learn how to eat healthier to improve your mood
    • Hormones affect mood – Examples are cortisol (from adrenal glands) or estrogen (a female sex hormone)

For a more wide-ranging discussion of nutrition, also see https://healthvista.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/ExploringNutritionIcebreakersDiscussionGuide.pdf

“Triggers” for emotional eating:

  • Recognize and avoid any “triggers” you have
  • A trigger food can set off a “binge” of eating, no matter what your mood is – Examples include ice cream, cookies, nuts, potato chips
  • Trigger foods are not the same as favorite foods, comfort foods, or food cravings
  • A trigger feeling is an emotion, good or bad, that leads to overeating – Any available food will do
  • A trigger environment is a specific place or setting that leads to overeating – Examples include movie theaters, buffet restaurants, sporting events or social gatherings
  • Eating triggers do happen – They are a sign to stop and think about how you can avoid them from happening in the future

Understand the connection between emotions and eating, to help you succeed in maintaining a healthy weight

Weight Watchers Research Department. (2009). Emotional eating, Mind skills for lasting weight loss, Mood and weight, and Eating triggers retrieved from www.weightwatchers.com

Mindfulness instead of emotional eating:

People tend to eat mindlessly most of the time. When “chowing down,” we are usually thinking about other things and not really tasting our food.

We often respond to the sight of food with the impulse to devour it – whether or not we are actually hungry.

We miss the subtle feelings of fullness if we don’t slow down to finish chewing and swallowing before we pick up the next bite

It takes 20 minutes for your body to signal its fullness. By eating fast, you are likely to overeat.

Try eating mindfully by savoring the sight, smell, texture, the color and light on the food, the connection to the outside world, the taste and feel of the food as you eat it slowly.

In mindfulness retreats, the meals are usually served in silence. That way, you can think about the food and the efforts that went into growing and preparing it.

You may feel satisfied without eating as much food as you have been eating. You can practice mindful eating when you eat alone or in silence.

Siegel, R. (2010). The mindfulness solution: Everyday practices for everyday problems, p. 261-264. New York: Guilford Press

Being mindful and aware of emotional eating can really help you make healthier habits. Call a friend when you feel like bingeing. If there is something upsetting you, figure out what to do and write it down (or do it). Take a walk or do some exercises. Take a bath or shower. Get busy doing something that takes your mind off your cravings.

You can get past it if you resist for a few minutes.  If you are physically satisfied and no longer hungry, push away from the table and put the food away.  The urges will weaken and go away.  You are more in control than you think!

Blog #6  By Mary Knutson RN, MSN for Health Vista, Inc.

Updated 5-25-20