Do you find that it's easy to stick to your good intentions as long as you're feeling content and happy? You can stick to your diet plans, cut down on alcohol or take better care of yourself. Then, once stress gets a bit too much, you find yourself reaching for emotional crutches such as food, alcohol or the comfort of the sofa to make yourself feel better, leading to a cycle of beating yourself up, making yourself feel worse and starting all over again? Learning how to deal with your emotions in constructive ways will help you change and avoid your usual destructive habits, read on for 5 helpful tips to keep you on an even keel.
Know your triggers
Identify what situations, feelings, places or people lead to emotional behaviour for you. This behaviour can take on many forms, not just over eating. Excessive exercising, or giving up on exercise completely can both be emotional reactions to stressful situations or feeling deprived in other ways. Whatever your emotional 'crutch' may be, spend some time observing and identifying your triggers in order to be better prepared for them in future if you can't remove them completely. Create new ways to nourish yourself. Stock your fridge with delicious, healthy foods, plan exciting things to add to your calendar, and make sure you take time out to relax.
Don't run away from yourself
The reason we fall back on our old habits and emotional behaviours most of the time is because it's easier to do that than deal with our feelings. While distraction is not a bad thing short term, and can be useful way of bringing yourself back to calm in stressful situations, you can't run away from your feelings or hide from them in your behaviour forever. Tell yourself it's okay to feel what you are feeling, mad, sad, tired, whatever it may be. Welcome all emotions to see what you can learn from them, by approaching your feelings and yourself with kindness and understanding, your body will learn that it doesn't need destructive habits to hide from these feelings anymore.
Find other ways to feed those feelings
Once you've identified what your triggers are, find ways to feed them that are different to your usual crutches. If you're feeling anxious, get rid of your nervous energy by having a dance around your house to your favourite song, or take a brisk walk. If you're feeling lonely, call a friend for a chat, or if you know someone with a dog, if you don't have one of your own, see if you can take them for a walk or just go round for a bit of a cuddle. If you're bored, get stuck into a good book or find a new activity to immerse yourself in.
Self care is key
Be sure to take of yourself. Often we become more emotional when we're tired, so get plenty of rest if you know if affects your moods and behaviours. Make pleasure a priority in your life, but choose these pleasures carefully to avoid your normal comfort fallbacks. Flavour your water with fresh fruits, take long bubble baths and pick healthy, delicious snacks that have the added benefit of being good for your emotional health. Blueberries are packed with antioxidants and Vitamin C, great for regulating stress levels; Cashew nuts are a great snack and contain Zinc, low levels of which have been linked to anxiety and depression; and dark chocolate and oatmeal both help up the levels of seratonin in the brain, improving mood.
Ask for help if you need it
If you don't feel you can do it alone, don't be ashamed about asking for help. This can be just from friends or family, a few people who know about your struggles and that you can call when things get tough, or if you feel you need a little more guidance, don't be afraid to see your GP or approach the charities set up to help with emotional behaviours. Not only will you receive professional help from those experienced with dealing with such struggles, but you may also meet people working through similar issues to you, for support and motivation. Here are a few links that may be helpful
21 February 2017