This is my experimental winter. I’ve had winter blues since I was a child, but this year I decided to accept it and observe it rather than feel angry.
I’ve learned to accept that this is my slower time of year, that this season is for contemplating and reflecting. I do a lot of that in the summer too, but it’s different.
I’ve realized that winter is when all my inner garbage comes to the surface. Any buried fears, hurts, loneliness, anger, or pain of any sort comes out. For years I’ve stuffed it down with food and denial, and while I’ve done my fair share of emotional eating this winter, I’ve also done a lot of “cleaning.”Issues that I thought I’d resolved and pains I didn’t even know were there are floating up for me to work with. They lift their heads and say “here I am!” and even though they seem like ugly little suckers at first, they all have something valuable to teach me. When I learn, I reap the peace and freedom that comes from letting go, and enjoy it all summer long until the next round of “trash picking” arrives. It’s like rebreaking bones so they’ll set properly. It’s painful and liberating. I know that dealing with these feelings authentically is the only way to move past them.
I’ve understood this for awhile now, but I’m writing about it now because the biggest monster of all has risen to the surface, past hurts lodged deep inside. I’ve had a massive headache all day long and I feel exhausted because haven’t taken the time to sit with him, hear what he needs me to know, and send him on his way. My deepest, slimiest, most gripping fear has come to visit. I doubt this is the last time I’ll see him, but I can feel that our relationship is about to change.
I don’t think I’m the only one who goes through periods like this. I think everyone does to some degree, but not many of us realize it. It’s terrifying and painful when our deep hurts rise up for us to see. We numb them out, we shut our eyes, we pretend they aren’t there, but they don’t leave until they’re acknowledged. Sometimes we call this depression, or a bad day, or getting “triggered.” These times come in all shapes and forms.
Notice when these times come to you. You’ll probably feel tense or grumpy, maybe weepy, you may feel physical discomforts, maybe all of the above like me. Don’t fear it. Meet your monsters, listen to them, and part as friends (or at least call a truce).
Enjoy the peace of letting go.
If you’ve been reading Handprint Soul for awhile, you know that I’ve had problems with compulsive eating in the past. I’m not one of those people who wastes away when I’m upset; quite the opposite in fact. While I’ve spent lots of time researching the various genetic, nutritional, hormonal, emotional, and cognitive reasons for this and have taken steps to balance them, this tendency still pops up from time to time.
For most of the past year, I’ve had a good handle on eating intuitively. I lost 30 pounds last summer and felt free from any kind of food obsession. I felt fabulous.
I’ve been pretty munchy for the past couple months, especially the last few weeks, and I have a little bit of a “winter coat,” though I’m pretty confident it will go away in the spring. In the meantime, the couple extra pounds don’t really bother me, but the thoughts do. I don’t like thinking about food all the time. I’d rather think about art, writing, Sam, my friends, or just have a clear head sometimes. I don’t like it when food seems like the most comforting, exciting thing in my life. In the week before a party or planned dinner out, the thoughts of food keep popping in my head and don’t go away. I know this isn’t entirely under my control and that certain parts of my brain tend to be overactive, which is why I get “stuck” on certain thoughts (I’ve put lots of research into this.)
To a certain extent though, I can observe this happening and even talk back to these thoughts. One tactic I’ve been using lately is to think “What is feeding me today?”
If the only enjoyable parts of my day revolved around food, I know one of two things. Either I’m experiencing fear and avoiding thinking about something, or I’m not caring for my spirit.
This is tricky, because it changes every day. I love walks most days, but some days I’d rather paint, or read a book. Sometimes I just need to snuggle with my cat and write in my journal. Once in awhile I want to go out with friends, or be spontaneous. Sometimes, I’m just sad and need some comfort from something other than cookies. The other day, a snap of beautiful weather filled me like nothing I’ve felt in months.
If you struggle with food or any other compulsion, ask yourself what you get out of it and what you’re really missing. Can you give yourself what you really need? Is something off with your mood? Do you need more excitement or challenges in your life? Have you taken time to pursue your own interests? Do you take time for rest?
I’m still getting the hang of this, and I’m learning to eat intuitively during the winter and deal with low moods authentically rather than numbing them. This is a useful tool that I’m learning to use. I feed my body when it needs it, but I also try to feed my spirit just as often, with spiritual “meals” of walking outside, connecting with others, creating, and a little dash of adventure now and again.
Has anyone else had experience with this?
Well, the past few months have been crazy awesome busy, and hopefully I’ll be able to unveil my secret project later this week!
Also, with this underway I’m planning on posting regularly again, so stay tuned for regular spouting from McKella’s fountain of wisdom. Ha.
Ok, with housekeeping out of the way, it’s time for me to share with you one of the most important things I’ve learned in this year of tremendous growth. Just two little words, a special mantra I’ve used to keep my head on straight through stress and fear.
This is actually one of many mantras I’ve used over the past few months, but let me tell you why this one is special.
- It’s reminds us that we are the masters of our own lives, and that we are powerful. If something isn’t working out for us, if we’re struggling to overcome a harmful habit or if we feel trapped, we can always choose something else. We live in a free country where we always have options, and you can always make a choice to change.
- Knowing we have a choice changes our mindset. Instead of thinking in terms of “should” and “have to”, we can see our abundance of options. Instead of feeling overpowered to binge or let people walk all over us, we can choose to listen to our bodies, to stand up for ourselves. Having a choice sets us free.
Ok, let’s back up for a second. I participated in last month’s Self-Discovery Word-by-Word, and I loved it so much I wanted to contribute to this month’s too. When I realized that this month’s word is “Anger”, I almost decided to skip it. “What do I know about anger?” I thought. “I hardly ever get angry.”
That was two weeks ago, and since then I’ve realized that there are two kinds of people in this world that don’t get angry: People like my Uncle Rhett, who never take crap from people but deal with it in a low-key way, and people who get walked all over and pushed around until they finally explode.
How did I never see it?
I’ve never been good at standing up for myself. My mom often says that when I was little, I never got candy when the pinata broke because I wouldn’t dive in and fight for it like the other kids. I cry when people get mad at me. I avoid conflict of any sort and when someone pisses me off, I keep my mouth shut.
I’ve lived this way all my life, afraid to express any emotion I considered negative or inconvenient for other people and those corked-up feelings manifested in my body though weight gain, adrenal fatigue, compulsive and restrictive eating, depression and anxiety.
When I discovered Intuitive Eating a few years ago, I realized that I had a whole underground chamber of emotions to sort through before I could ever be free of eating problems, and I’ve only recently reached the point where I can deal with these emotions without gorging myself on chocolate chip cookies. I’ve slowly let my suppressed anger bubble to the surface so I can experience it and then let it go.
I’ve learned that emotions aren’t good or bad, they’re just emotions, and I’ve finally…finally…given myself permission to experience them. I’m not a bad person for feeling angry or sad or competitive. With this kind of emotional freedom comes a greater ability to experience feelings and understand their roots, to go deeper and deeper and fully understand why I hurt in the first place. With this understanding comes freedom of choice: “Should I really let this bother me?” or “Is this really a big deal?”. It’s like a ladder to greater mindfulness, and embracing my anger was the first step.
Now, emotions allow me to gauge how I’m doing and how I need to take care of myself. They’re like pressure gauges and thermometers. Pissed off? Time to get some space. Overwhelmed? Time for self-care. Resentful? There’s a misunderstanding somewhere and we’d better work it out.
In this sense, anger is a gift for self-awareness. When used properly, it’s a tool for self-improvement. Learn from it, experience it, use it. It’s a beautiful thing.
This post was written as part of the Self -Discovery Word-by-Word series. The May series is hosted by Jules at Big Girl Bomshell. Get details here to participate!
A few hours ago, I had a massive craving for chocolate chip cookies. Enormous craving. I could taste that cookie in my mouth. I knew I had all the stuff to make them, and at that moment, I wanted nothing else in this world as much as one of my own chocolate chip cookies (If you’ve ever had my cookies, you understand. My cookies work miracles)
However, instead of baking a batch, which I can do in about 15 minutes, I paused. This is a warning. For one thing, I know that dairy and sugar make me feel awful, so cookies might not be the best choice. I know cookies are my #1 comfort food and I definitely feel out-of-sorts today. So instead of firing up the KitchenAid, I sat on the couch and thought about why ooey-gooey cookies have taken over my brain. What am I really feeling? What is this craving covering up?
For the first time in years, I feel like I’m really progressing into my creative potential. I’ve been painting all week, I’m working on my novel again, I’m looking for a voice teacher and I’m toying with the idea of performing again. It feels amazing, but today I just feel uncomfortable; I just want to lay on the couch in my comfy sweater, eat cookies and watch Supernatural reruns. Today I felt stagnant, like I was reverting back into that creative paralysis I’ve been in for months.
But the same issues, or “creative knots” I’ve been rolling around in my head for weeks came up again: How am I going to create my career? How can I do what I love and fulfill my creative potential while making money? Am I truly being myself? Who do I want to become? I wasn’t stagnant, I was contemplative. I find that when I’m in a period of growth, every once in awhile I’ll need a few days or a week to just think about things and untangle some of those “creative knots”, working out the logistics of what I’m doing and gauging where I am on my path.
After a few hours of journaling, pondering, and listening to Laura Hollick teleclass audios, I feel like I’m on my way to being the creator I’ve always knew I’d become, like I’ve cleared some of those inner obstacles. I don’t know how things will work out, but I know they will. I’m 22. I have plenty of time to work things out and nothing’s stopping me from enjoying the ride, because it’s all part of the process.
So we can take a few lessons from this experience:
- Turn stagnation into contemplation and progress– I hate feeling stuck. I always want to be accomplishing something or moving forward in some way. Normally this restless feeling I experienced today would have driven me nuts and I might have stayed in that place even longer wishing it would just go away. Everyone feels like this sometimes. Instead of letting that feeling paralyze you, understand that it’s an indication that you have some thinking to do. Make some time to study or ponder whatever’s troubling you and reach a conclusion, or at least a place that satisfies you at that time. Make this a habit and you might even look forward to these “contemplative” days instead of seeing them as a problem.
- Dispel the notion that we must be content at all times- I used to think that happiness meant feeling joyful and content all the time, but now I realize that without some emotional discomfort, a) we’ll never appreciate the good time, because everything must have it’s opposite, and b) we’ll never be prompted to grow or make change. Use these emotions as a tool for creating the life you want and whenever those not-so-fun emotions show up, you’ll know something needs some tweaking.
- Pay attention to emotional “symptoms”– Sometimes our emotions don’t manifest on the surface, but instead cause you to experience “symptoms”. For me, it’s food cravings, usually for sweets. For you it might be the urge to go shopping, a shift in the music you listen to, or you might just notice that you’re more on edge than usual. Recognize that these are all symptoms of a larger emotion, which is an indication that something in your life needs attention. See these symptoms, whether it’s emotional eating or a tendency to snap at your spouse, as a blessing. It’s a meter that measures your emotions.
I feel kind of stupid writing a post about stress relief when I spend half my time on the verge of exploding. I’m surprised my cortisol levels aren’t shooting out my ears. Obviously, this is something I need to work on, so why not write a post?
I’ve been an emotional eater all my life, and though I’m getting better stress is the one emotion that causes me to hunt down the nearest chocolate bar while practically foaming at the mouth. Today was just one of those days, so now I’m collapsed on my couch with my laptop perched on top of my food baby. Time to find a better plan.
I compiled a list of simple techniques to try instead of causing a world chocolate shortage:
- Listen to music (Dave Matthews seems to work pretty well.)
- Do some Ujjayi breathing. Preferably when I’m alone so I don’t scare anyone.
- Sneak into an empty room and do some stretches
- Talk to someone
- Go for a walk, or a furious run. If I can’t leave maybe hop on the stationary bike and pretend I’m riding away to a sunny beach somewhere.
- Stick my face in a pillow and scream (I haven’t done this for awhile, but I remember it feeling pretty good) then I can pound on it if I want.
- Watch an episode of the Muppet Show. If I don’t have time, watch that clip of Beaker, Swedish Chef and Animal singing Danny Boy. (Yes, this is the kind of stuff that makes me laugh. Don’t knock it.)
- Clean or organize something. Better yet, get rid of something.
- Play with Louka or Meeko (my calm kitty and my cousin’s psycho kitty)
- Take a bath
I must still be stressed. I can tell because my writing gets really snarky, but I’m not in a bad mood or anything. Hopefully when this posts in the morning, I’ll be refreshed and calm.
Do you have any tricks to manage your stress?
Wow, it’s Monday already! I hope everyone had an awesome weekend, because I sure did.
This past week, I worked on being more mindful as part of my Happiness Project. If you’re a new reader, check out these links:
My mindful guidelines:
- Be here now: I think everyone who isn’t a Buddhist monk has a hard time with this, because our minds are spinning out of control and we’re always thinking about everything except where we are and what we’re doing right now. For me, this usually means worrying about the future and wishing for the past. This week, I made an effort to rein in my thoughts. When I started to stress out about money, I pulled my mind back to the present and focused on what I was reading. I tried to pay attention to each bite of food I put in my mouth and describe it to myself. What does the sky look like today? How warm is it? Are the leaves any redder than they were yesterday?
- Sing like I mean it- To be honest, I kind of forgot about this one. I took voice lessons for years, but I quit and now my voice is in pretty bad shape, but singing is such a freeing thing. However, last night at my family’s house, I did decide to play my little brother’s guitar and sing Alanis Morrisette’s “Ironic” at the top of my lungs. By the way, I’ve never played guitar in my life. My husband was pretty amused and there’s probably a video on the internet somewhere.
- Keep better track of spending- Also, still need to work on this. I check my account every day and keep a general total in my head, but I really need to write everything down. I used to be a stickler for checkbook balancing, budgeting and coupon clipping. No need to be extreme, but I need a little more discipline.
- Honor my emotions- By this, I mean not using food to handle emotions, but to embrace them. Also, not feeling bad about the way I feel (wrap your brain around that one for a second, but that’s what I do) I stopped to think about what I was doing before I dove into the M&M bowl I hide in our room. I write about what I’m feeling, gush to my aunt and cousin, and take breaks when I need them. Surprisingly, I don’t feel anywhere near as overwhelmed as I did a week ago.
- Limit screen time- I started off trying to limit computer time to 45 minutes a day, but I realized I don’t waste much time on the internet watching videos or playing games. I spend a lot of time researching and reading useful information, writing, promoting my blog, networking, etc. I did limit the idle time watching videos and stuff like that, but now I’m much more mindful off what I’m doing on the computer and I realize it’s not a bad thing.
Though I wasn’t perfect, I feel I made significant progress this week, at least with managing my emotions and living now. Now just for managing my money…
Next week: Attitude
–Decide to have fun
-Dress nicely. And shower every day.
-Don’t let myself off the hook