Self-Soothing vs. Self-Medicating

I still self-medicate with food. 

When I’m writing and have deadline stress, all of a sudden I feel like I “need” popcorn. It is irrational and powerful and does not let up until I eat some popcorn. 

So often, overeating is about what’s happening on the inside. It’s reaching for food when you are really seeking love, acceptance, happiness, or comfort in the face of a difficult situation or relationship. 

My coach has helped me discover that my “pressure cooker” feelings of deadline stress are old limiting beliefs about what I’m capable of. It’s the tyrant inside me—who I have quieted in so many areas of my life—who is still bullying me to perform and be “perfect.” I’m coming up with ways to self-soothe rather than self-medicate with food.

I wanted to share this blog by Dr. Anne Nanmoum because I thought she did a fabulous job of describing the difference between self-soothing and self-medicating those painful emotions you may be avoiding by reaching for your favorite comfort food.

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After a particularly stressful day, a friend of mine noticed that she came home from the grocery store with several items she would not normally buy: a wine cooler, an apple pie, and a gallon of ice cream. “If I keep up with this, I will end up fat and miserable as well as stressed out!

She realized that she needed to come up with a better approach to handling her stress, including ways to “self-soothe” rather than “self-medicate.”

The ability to self-soothe rather than self-medicate in the face of stress, anxiety, boredom, or other uncomfortable emotions is an important skill for healthy living. When we don’t have good strategies for self-soothing, we may be inclined to overeat, abuse alcohol or drugs, bury ourselves in work, or spend hours watching TV or YouTube videos in order to “numb” ourselves.

What is the difference between self-soothing and self-medicating?

Self-medicating generally involves doing something that distracts from or avoids the uncomfortable feeling, at least temporarily. In addition to the more obvious forms of self-medicating with alcohol or drugs, self-medicating can also take the form of compulsive shopping, over-exercising, video games, orany activity that anesthetizes us from the discomfort without addressing the underlying problem. (Like when taking painkillers for a broken bone without setting the fracture, the pain will return when the medication wears off.)

While self-medicating involves numbing and avoiding, self-soothing involves acceptance of the discomfort, and the decision to do something that will make us feel better in the long term as well as the short term. Self-soothing does not involve activities that will ultimately hurt our health, relationships, or integrity.

Self-soothing could be the decision to go for a walk rather than eat that pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, or call a friend rather than drown our anxiety or exhaustion in a few glasses of wine. Writing in a journal, gardening, doing yoga, painting, or just taking a few deep breaths can also be self-soothing.

Sometimes an activity can go from self-soothing to self-medicating when done excessively or compulsively, even “healthy” activities such as exercise, work, or community service.

Try asking yourself these questions if you are trying to decide if you are self-medicating:

  1. Am I doing this in order to avoid an uncomfortable feeling or situation?
  2. When the pleasure of this activity wears off, will I feel better about myself and the situation, or worse?
  3. Is this activity likely to bring me closer to those people I want to be close to, or create more distance?

We all self-medicate to some extent, or as author and researcher Brené Brown describes it, we engage in an activity to “take the edge off” of the pain, anxiety, disappointment, shame, or other difficult emotions we are facing. Her research has shown that individuals who are able to feel the feelings, stay mindful about the numbing behaviors, and try to lean into the discomfort of unpleasant emotions are more likely to be healthy and happy.

AnneNamnoumBooksWhile virtually everyone numbs and takes the edge off to some extent, addictions develop when the numbing behaviors become compulsive and chronic.

For me, reading books can be self-soothing, but at other times it can be self-medicating if it keeps me from confronting a situation that is bothering me, or distances me from my family members. (My children would likely point to the piles and piles of self-help books in my office as evidence that this is something of an addiction for me.)

The first step in moving from self-medicating to self-soothing is to notice when we are “numbing,” and to get curious about what we are numbing from. Exploring different options for self-soothing, finding which appeal to us most, and practicing a few of these regularly can reduce our tendency to self-medicate when faced with unpleasant emotions.

AnneNamnoumPhotoAnne Nanmoum, M.D. is a Johns Hopkins trained OB/GYN and Reproductive Endocrinologist who wants women to thrive rather than just survive. She offers workshops and seminars in the Atlanta area on the science of happiness and well-being, and factors that influence your health such as stress, hormones, and nutrition. She believes that being well-informed gives you the ability to make healthier choices, but medical information is often contradictory, confusing, and ever-changing. She uses her background as a medical doctor to share information in a way that is evidence-based but easy to understand in order to help you take better care of yourself. Her goal is to give women the insight and confidence they need to become their own health experts and advocates.

To read her blog go to http://www.annenamnoum.com/self-soothing-vs-self-medicating/

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My blog is moving! To keep following my posts after January 15, you will need to follow my new blog, at LoveYourWaySlim.com. I look forward to continuing the journey with you!

Wellness Tip of the Weekend

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Wellness Tip of the Weekend:

Release stress by seeing yourself as capable, confident, energetic, empowered, and engaged. Harness the power of your self-perception.

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My blog is moving! To keep following my posts after January 15, you will need to follow my new blog, at LoveYourWaySlim.com. I look forward to continuing the journey with you!

Take Five to Transform Holiday Stress

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“Stress isn’t something that happens to someone. It’s something someone feels about what’s happening. Your capacity to deal with any outer situation is based on your inner perspective. . . How we see ourselves determines everything.”

Bruce D. Schneider

There is a lot about the holidays that can impact people’s wellness. One of the biggest culprits is stress.

Holiday stress can come from overeating, or feelings of depression or overwhelment, or challenging relationships, or just too much on your to-do list.

Now I’m going to be perfectly honest and authentic with you.

I’ve been stressed the last couple of weeks.

Oh, it wasn’t the holidays. I’ve learned how to manage getting ready for the holidays in a healthy and balanced way.

None-the-less, for the first time in two years, I found myself stressed and I didn’t listen to my body when it was telling me to slow down. As a result, I’m just now getting over a cold that I had for weeks.

Believe me, the irony of that was not lost on me every day when I was writing my blogs!

The thing is, your wellness and finding balance in your life is never done. You’re not likely get to a place where you can slap your hands together and say, “Woo hoo! I can check wellness off my list of things to do. Thank goodness I’ll never have any more stress again.”

New things will come along that you have to make adjustments for and that require re-finding your balance. That is part of the evolution of life.

So what threw me into serious stress mode?

It was taking my business to the next level by launching my new brand and website last week, getting ready to launch a new coaching program on January 7, and planning my first ever Love Your Way Slim beach-side retreat in April.

What I forgot is that stress is not created by the situation I am in. What I forgot is how powerful I am.

We are the creators of the limitations—and the success—that we experience. When we are stressed, we are not accurately seeing ourselves, what we are capable of, what we deserve, and the support we are receiving from the Universe.

When I was seeing myself as overworked, limited, tired, and overwhelmed, I was not seeing myself accurately.

My coach was able to help me shift my perspective slightly so that I could see myself as capable, confident, energetic, and empowered. She reminded me to ask for the support I needed, and to see the support I already had. And that slight change in perspective made all the difference in the world.

Not only did I immediately feel emotionally better, but I began feeling physically better, too. All of a sudden, I was able to see how to work in the rest and self-care I had been neglecting, and my to-do list didn’t seem so overwhelming.

The only thing that was different was my perception of who I was in relationship to what was happening.

We are all so much more powerful than most of us realize. Huge changes can be made with just a slight shift in how we see ourselves.

While it took my body reminding me of this—and to practice what I preach—the great news is I have the tools and have been able to get my body back in balance.

And even better news is I didn’t fall back into old patterns of reaching for comfort food or overeating.That is a huge win!

Now, I know I’m not the only one who has struggled with stress the last few weeks.

You may be having a really hard time right now. And the idea that your stress is a result of limited self-thinking and faulty beliefs may sound like tosh.

But the Truth is, Who you really are is capable, confident, energetic, empowered, and engaged. The key is shifting your perspective just enough so that you can begin to believe it.

One way to reach for a new thought and perspective is to quiet your mind. Even taking a 5-minute mental break can make a huge difference in how easily you can see solutions to your situation.

Make quieting your mind—even for 5 minutes—a priority over the next few days. 

Do this by:

  • Meditating
  • Going for a walk
  • Taking a nap
  • Enjoying a stress-relieving bath
  • Sitting down with a cup of tea and a good book
  • Taking 3 deep breathes

Even if all you can manage is shutting the door and actually going to the bathroom by yourself, that can be enough to help clear your mind.

Then remind yourself that you are capable, confident, energetic, empowered, and engaged. Harness the power of your self-perception.

I know 5 minutes doesn’t sound like much, but consistently quieting your mind for even just a few minutes a day—and then reminding yourself of Who you really are—can have a profound impact on your physical and emotional health.

When you feel better, you’re better able to take care of your family—and be the version of you that your family actually wants to be around!

Make it a priority today to take a few minutes to quiet your mind and remember Who you really are. What difference does that make in your stress-level? What difference does that make in how much you enjoy your holidays?

Together we can do it!

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My blog is moving! To keep following my posts after January 15, you will need to follow my new blog, at LoveYourWaySlim.com. I look forward to continuing the journey with you!

Wellness Tip of the Day

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Wellness Tip of the Day: Life stressors aren’t going to go away. The only way to deal with them positively is to eat right and exercise anyway.

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My blog is moving to my new website LoveYourWaySlim.com. To keep following my posts after January 15, you will need to follow my new blog. I look forward to continuing the journey with you!

Take Care of You to Take Care of Others

15837s3rsga1hfaYesterday’s events in Connecticut may have left you reeling emotionally.

While it may feel selfish, now more than ever you need to focus on your own self-care.

This includes gently moving your body, getting enough rest, reaching for some highly nutritious foods, and taking some quiet time for meditation, prayer, or reflection.

And the number one thing you can do for your own wellness?

Ask for the support you need.

  • You may want to go it alone.
  • You may not feel comfortable asking for help.
  • You may be embarrassed by your emotions.

Much of holiday stress is feeling like you are in this alone.

And that’s a really tough, and painful road.

This is not the time to tough it out by yourself.

Study after study shows that having at least one person support you in meeting your wellness goals will dramatically increase your chances of success.

Having support helps you:

  • Normalize what you’re going through—You realize that everyone gets emotionally stressed, overwhelmed, overeats, and has moments of weakness. You are not a failure or a freak.
  • Notice and honor what you are doing for your self-care—Having someone to share the positive steps you are taking helps keep you motivated to take more steps.
  • Problem solve— You’ve got someone on your side who can see your situation more objectively and can help you brainstorm ways around any obstacles.
  • Re-find your inner peace—going it alone makes it easier to get caught in the negative thought spiral going on in your head. Having support helps break the inner patterns enabling you to refocus on the present and the blessings you have in your life.

Where can you find help?

  • Ask a friend or family member—Choose someone who is consistently positive, good at problem solving, and will be uplifting and inspiring.
  • Join a group—There are a number of on-line and in-person support groups. One such site is transformation.com. This incredible free community recognizes that emotions play a big role in wellness.
  • Hire a coach—Consider working one-on-one with a certified professional health or wellness coach who can help you stay focused on your self-care.
  • Go to a counselor–If your fear and grief are so intense that you are having trouble functioning, seek out the help of a professional counselor or therapist.

Taking care of yourself no matter what enables you to take care of others.

And if you have the inner resources to give, reach out to someone and offer unconditional support and encouragement—even love. The result is you both feel better—body, mind and spirit.

What can you do this weekend to reach out for—or give—support?

Having at least one person helping to cheer you on, boost morale, and problem solve will make it easier to take care of you, even in the face of really difficult circumstances.

Together we can do it!

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My blog is moving to my new website LoveYourWaySlim.com. For the next month, I will post both here and there. To keep following my posts after January 15, you will need to follow my new blog. I look forward to continuing the journey with you!

Super Woman is in the Way of Getting the Body You Want

powerpose-daquellamanera-2973850707This summer, one of my clients was giving herself a hard time because a week after moving to a new state and a few days after starting a new job, she wasn’t relaxed. In fact, she was downright stressed.

I call this the Super Woman Syndrome. This is the expectation that you can—and have to!—do everything while always being happy and relaxed.

How reasonable is that? Particularly if you are going through some pretty significant life changes?

Super Woman Syndrome seems to turn into an epidemic during the holidays.

All the shopping, decorating, socializing, cooking, sending out holiday cards—the list goes on and on. Or you may be trying to make everything perfect—for yourself or for others.

 It can leave you wiped out, particularly if you feel like you have to do it all yourself.

Super Woman Syndrome impacts your overall wellness—and how easily you are able to get the body you want. 

During the holidays, exercise and sleep—those good solutions for stress and fatigue—may take a back seat to chores and errands.

I know. 

Just to be totally open and authentic with you fabulous readers, I am experiencing Super Woman Syndrome right now, as well.

Oh, I have the holidays in hand, but my business is ramping up this week with the launch of my new website, LoveYourWaySlim.com, and a tele-class I’m giving for Impact ADHD, both happening on Thursday, as well as the January 7 launch of a new coaching program and the planning of a Love Your Way Slim Beach-side Retreat in April.

I am feeling the stress and my body is letting me know that my thoughts, feelings, and beliefs are not supporting me as I step into this new level of business activity.

My body is reminding me to ramp up my own self-care.

So I thought this was an opportune time to remind myself–and share with you–some tips to help relieve stress and have more fun.

  • Ease up on yourself, particularly in the moment. Notice your reaction, but let go of the self-judgment as much as possible. Beating yourself up for your reaction—to any situation—is just adding negative fuel to the catabolic fire. It makes you feel worse and will prolong the stress.
  • Give yourself a little perspective. How much of your day do you feel stressed? Is it 100 percent of the time or were there just some significant moments of overwhelm that colored your perception of your day? Start paying attention to how many good moments you are having. Begin to track how much of the time things are going well, you are making progress, you are coping, you are feeling relief, satisfaction, gratitude, and even joy. You might be surprised that there are more of those positive anabolic moments than you thought.
  • Give yourself a break. Being is just as important as doing. Take a moment to slow down. Think about how important a task is before you make yourself do it when you are exhausted and really need a break. Will an unswept floor really crash your day tomorrow? Really?

It’s time to get Super Woman out of the way so that you can get the body–and life–that you want.

You are more than just this physical body going through the motions. Letting yourself relax and have some fun—and shifting your attitude so that you are having more fun doing what you are doing—will actually boost your energy level. 

This will help you maintain your wellness, get more done with much less stress, and show up more as the person you want to be.

Together we can do it!

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My blog is moving! On Thursday, I will be shifting my blog to my new website LoveYourWaySlim.com. For the next month, I will post both here and there. To keep following my posts after January 15, you will need to follow my new blog. I look forward to continuing the journey with you!