Many of us turn to food when difficult feelings arise. And it’s understandable. Eating is a quick way to adjust our emotions, according to clinical psychologist Susan Albers, PsyD, in her book Eating Mindfully: How to End Mindless Eating & Enjoy a Balanced Relationship with Food.
We’re able to immediately soothe or distract ourselves, she writes. But, of course, eating only stuffs down our emotions. And, in turn, we never process our feelings or truly nourish ourselves.
The result? Our emotions consume us, and we’re left feeling miserable.
In her book, Albers offers valuable ways we can effectively cope with emotions.
These are some of her soothing suggestions.
- Identify your emotion. Observe how you’re feeling. Then describe the emotion by writing a letter to yourself.
- Adjust the emotion. Imagine you can adjust your emotion like you would a dial. From 1 to 10 consider the severity of your emotion. If it’s at a 10, determine what you need to do to turn the dial down to a six.
- Reconnect with your body. Put the focus back on your body. As Albers writes, “Feel your feet against the floor. Let your shoulders and neck drop. Observe how it feels not to resist the pull of gravity.”
- Don’t fight your feelings. Often the more we tug and resist our emotions, the bigger they become. So, if you’re feeling sad, feel sad, Albers writes. Tell yourself that you can accept your feelings. Find helpful ways to cope with them, such as seeing a movie or calling a close friend.
- Don’t punish yourself. No doubt we’re our harshest critics. And, whenever we feel guilty, instead of soothing ourselves, we impose a sentence. But, as Albers points out, this only kick-starts another cycle of mindless eating. “You gain more power by being compassionate with yourself and your compassion will prevent negative feelings from arising that could trigger more mindless eating.” And remember that you deserve compassion and kindness.
- Engage in daily rituals. An everyday ritual can help you release built-up emotions, according to Albers. Rituals have “a grounding effect and foster awareness.” For instance, she suggests journaling, singing a calming song, saying a prayer aloud or burning incense. Try to practice your ritual at the same time every day.
As Albers reminds us in Eating Mindfully, feelings are fleeting. They’re also not permanent facts, she writes. Any time you’re experiencing a strong emotion, remember that — and give one of the above tips a try.
Check out these other pieces on coping with emotions:
- How to Manage Emotions More Effectively
- The Upside to Embracing Dark Emotions
- 4 Journaling Exercises to Help You Manage Your Emotions
- WAIT: Being Mindful of Emotions
- Identifying Your Emotions
- How to Name & Explore Your Emotions
- How Music Impacts, Helps Our Emotions
Learn more about Susan Albers at her website.