Insights from an ED survivor #3: The one about EMOTIONS!
The day I learned that it is okay (normal, human, & encouraged) to have and manage messy emotions, is the day I realized that I had numbing all my feelings of low self-worth & anxiety/depression out of a fear that they somehow made me a "screw up" - rather than learning how to face and manage them.
That is when I began to give myself permission to feel my emotions, no matter how messy or vulnerable, so I could manage them rather than numb them with damaging and self-sabotaging behaviours.
I did this, and continue to do this, with the help of therapy, self-reflection to understand what I actually need a moment of struggle, asking for help so I don’t go it alone, and turning to helpful coping strategies rather than harmful ones.
Years ago, when my tough and unexpressed emotions started to centre around my self-worth, body image, and acceptance, my coping strategies started to centre around food/lack thereof, alcohol, (over)exercise, and self-harm. These were methods I cultivated to numb, avoid, and bury the s**t I was feeling rather than face it. If you are in this boat, you are not alone!
Now, when I am having a rough day/week/month (yes, life is still messy even when you learn to face your emotions!) I turn to connection with loved ones, spending time in nature, cuddling with my dogs, staying hydrated and well-nourished, self-compassion and mindfulness exercises. I set boundaries around not drinking, stepping back from social media, having meals prepared in advance, and more chill time to recoup when I am down.
I know myself and I know how to respond, although it is still tough at times!
Strategies that helped me begin to recognize and rationalize my emotions, and that may benefit you as well, include:
1. Reaching out to a therapist who aligns with your values and goals (in my opinion) should always be the first step on this journey! The following are links to help get you started with finding someone that works for you. The second link is specific to BC residents, whereas the third is for anyone located in Canada.
2. Education surrounding shame and vulnerability, Brené Brown’s TED talks, podcasts, and books (i.e., The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly) are great places to start with this!
3. Self-reflection around areas in your life you have been suppressing emotions and needs, Glennon Doyle’s podcast (We Can Do Hard Things) and book (Untamed) can be a good jumping-off point!
4. Learning ways to be more self-compassionate with yourself, Kristin Neff has great research in this area and her website (self-compassion.org) has practices (guided exercises) as a perfect place to start!
5. Nourishing your body with balanced meals, supplementing with essential vitamins and minerals for mental health (concurrent blog & IG series), drinking lots of water, and moving your body in ways that feel good!
What are some of your go-to’s to cope with emotions and self-soothe?!
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