How I’m learning to embrace overwhelm without alcohol and chocolate (or falling apart)

For the past few weeks I’ve been incredibly busy between work and my very full family life. While my typical M.O. is joyful and productive most of the time lately I’ve started to allow the feeling of overwhelm to creep in. This feeling is often followed by feelings of morning apathy – not wanting to get out of bed and night-time desire (for red wine or dark chocolate).  These feelings of apathy and desire are followed by feelings of guilt and embarrassment because I am a nutritionist, medical professional and a weight loss coach who helps others deal with their emotional eating and I’m supposed to be above all of that.

In the past, I would have handled the morning apathy by FORCING myself to get out of bed against my own will and then later in the day allowing myself to eat a carby snack like popcorn or corn chips or dark chocolate or had a glass of red wine as my reward. And, I would have hid in a virtual cave with my embarrassment about still having the occasional craving. But, I now accept that I am an imperfect human in a human body having a human experience. And, I don’t automatically reach for the wine or the dark chocolate because I’ve trained myself not to go for the food or alcohol in times of stress. I KNOW that if I eat those foods or drink that glass of wine, I won’t feel better and my problems won’t be solved, I will just get a temporary buffer from my unpleasant feelings.

I’m learning to embrace my feelings of desire and overwhelm

What I’ve come to realize is that when I get these feelings of desire (for chocolate or wine or to hide my head under the blanket) they are actually a gift from my unconscious telling me to slow down and take better care of myself. For me, the desire for these things almost always comes before I’m even aware that I’m having a stressful feeling like overwhelm. Does that happen to you too?

The desire for food is the body’s shorthand for letting me know that I need to focus on what is going on

The body only has so many ways to trigger us to pay attention to it and hunger is a big one. Except hunger is such a blunt instrument. Sure we need to eat food to fuel ourselves but what about all the other times we feel “hungry” and there is really something else going on inside (for more on how tell if you are truly hungry, check out my blog on your physiological hunger signals)? I used to resent having desires and urges and sometimes I still do but I realize now that actually they are my body’s way of saying PAY ATTENTION TO ME!

Here’s what helps

1. When you get feelings of desire whether to run and hide or eat a bag of popcorn STOP (that glass or wine or chocolate will still be waiting for you).

2. Take 2-5 deep breaths. I made a background on my smartphone to remind to intentionally breathe

Image-13. Choose an activity that sparks joy. Did you read my blog post on this and make your list yet?

4. Try quick daily journaling for 1-3 minutes every day and night. I use the 5 minute journal but there are other equally great products out there. That helps me start and finish my day off on a positive note.

5. Take one action every day towards your goals. Just one small action a day can help to offset the feeling of overwhelm.