Managing Your Emotions: Name That Feeling
By Diane Petrella, MSW
If you’re like most dieters, you sometimes use food to cope with difficult feelings. Instead of only eating when physically hungry, you may turn to food when emotionally vulnerable. Understanding what emotional eating means is a great first step! The next step is to ask yourself, “What am I feeling?” and instead of turning to food, ask, “What do I need?” Here’s a guideline to help you identify and manage your feelings so they’re not managing you.
Name Your Feelings
Use the following four key words to identify what you’re feeling and to find the right strategy to experience relief. Transfer the list of feelings and related strategies to an index card to easily carry with you. Add additional ways of coping that have worked for you in the past. Writing creates clarity and reinforces your commitment to change. And you’ll have a handy tool to use when necessary. Use the Stop-Breathe-Reflect-Choose strategy to further help you interrupt the emotional eating cycle.
SAD – MAD – GLAD – SCARED
Feelings can be identified within four broad categories. When you know you’re about to eat for reasons other than hunger, ask yourself “Am I sad, mad, glad or scared?” Then review the list of feelings associated with that category. When you’ve identified what you’re feeling, allow yourself to first experience the emotion without denying it or pushing it away. But if that becomes too difficult, practice using new coping strategies, instead of food, to experience some relief. There are no good or bad feelings. All feelings are ok. It’s what we do with them that matters. Four categories of feelings and suggestions for managing them follow.
Blue, unhappy, glum, dissatisfied, dejected, lonely, disappointed, guilty, ashamed, hurt, isolated, miserable, heartbroken, gloomy, depressed, despairing, grief-stricken, melancholic, hopeless, helpless, distressed, rejected, abandoned, alone, empty.
Comfort Yourself: Write your feelings in a journal; talk with a trusted friend; have a good cry and allow your tears to release the sadness; drink a soothing beverage like a cup of herbal tea; read from an inspirational book or magazine; pray; repeat a comforting affirmation like “I allow these feelings to wash through me and I open to the peace within”; wrap yourself in a blanket and rest; take a walk; be in nature; work on a craft project; listen to soothing music; watch a funny movie; watch a sad movie as that may help you release your feelings and provide relief.
Angry, bitter, frustrated, annoyed, irritated, exasperated, livid, loathing, disgusted, hostile, hate, aggravated, defensive, enraged, infuriated, furious, resentment, irate, outraged, antagonistic, mean, aggressive, rage
Calm Yourself: Do something physical to release built up tension from your body, e.g., take a brisk walk outdoors, walk up and down stairs, vigorous cleaning like vacuuming or washing a bathtub or floors; talk with a friend; write a letter expressing your mad feelings without intending to send it (this is only advisable if you can comfortably release your feelings without exacerbating them); pray; listen to calming music; do a word puzzle or another detail oriented activity as a way of creating structure; breathe to the count of ten and repeat as necessary until you feel calmer; repeat affirming words as you breathe and with each inhalation say to yourself, “Calm” and with each exhalation say, “Let go”.
Happy, elated, delighted, cheerful, loving, hopeful, appreciative, satisfied, joyful, excited, peaceful, enthusiastic, pleased, proud, caring, grateful, carefree, confident, secure, nurturing, content, blissful, ecstatic, relief, thankful
Celebrate Yourself: Share your uplifting feelings with a friend; write down your feelings to reinforce them; sit quietly by yourself and relish in this glorious state; buy yourself flowers; buy flowers for a friend and share your happiness; start a fun hobby you don’t often take the time to do.
Anxious, panicky, afraid, nervous, worried, frightened, terrified, fearful, uneasy, apprehensive, concerned, insecure, vulnerable, weak, unsettled, tense, edgy, upset, confused, shocked, overwhelmed, pressured, unsure, trapped, cautious, suspicious
Compose Yourself: Use this grounding technique to settle yourself: Sit or stand straight with both feet placed firmly on the ground and your shoulders back and square. If sitting, hold firmly onto the sides of the chair. Breathe steadily for as long as necessary to begin to neutralize the intensity of your feelings. Unless your safety requires immediate attention, affirm and repeat to yourself, “I am safe” or “in this moment all is well”. Do something physical to release stress as both angry and anxious states produce tightness and tension in the body, e.g., take a brisk walk, climb stairs, vacuum, wash floors. De-clutter a closet or drawer because when you organize your outer world you organize your inner world. Talk with a trusted friend to help put things in perspective.
Boredom is Not a Feeling
If you eat when bored the problem isn’t simply the lack of an interesting activity to occupy your time. Unless you’re trapped in an unrelentingly dull routine, chronic boredom signifies an underlying lethargy and lack of interest often associated with depression. If you often “feel bored” ask yourself what you are truly feeling and then use an appropriate strategy, instead of food, to cope.
The suggestions above are not a substitute for professional counseling to deal with chronic states of sadness, depression, anger, rage, anxiety and panic. If you struggle with these feelings on a consistent basis give yourself the gift of support and seek out a therapist or life coach to assist you.
What strategies can you add to the list?
Diane Petrella, MSW is a psychotherapist and life coach. She offers her clients a spiritual approach to weight loss and helps them develop a loving, respectful relationship with their bodies. Receive a free copy of Diane’s Seven Easy & Effortless Weight Loss Secrets by signing up for her monthly e-newsletter, Living Lightly, for spiritual insights and tips to release weight with confidence and love. To contact Diane directly visit her website at www.dianepetrella.com