Saturday, June 26, 2010

Healing Your Hunger: Addressing Emotional Eating

Most of us have had times when we ate not because we were actually hungry but because we had unmet emotional needs. We sometimes eat when we are sad, anxious, bored, lonely, or even happy. Eating for any reason other than physical hunger is called emotional eating. We often turn to comfort foods such as ice cream, chocolate, cookies, pizza, steak, or chips. An occasional chocolate bar does not harm us but many of us eat high calorie diets and do not exercise. This results in us being overweight or even obese. There are some important strategies, from a mental health perspective, to empower you to have a healthier relationship with food and your body temple.

1. Recognize when you are experiencing emotional hunger versus physical hunger. Emotional hunger is often sudden instead of gradual. It results in a craving for a specific food as opposed to simply the need to eat in general. Additionally emotional eating continues even after your body is physically full and afterward we often feel guilty for what we have eaten.

2. Educate yourself on the negative consequences of being overweight or obese. The consequences include but are not limited to increased depression, eating disorders, body image dissatisfaction, heart disease, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, heart failure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and low self esteem. In America, being overweight cuts off our lives by approximately five years.

3. It is next important to recognize your eating triggers. What are the situations that result in you engaging in emotional eating? Examples include eating socially to cover feelings of inadequacy, eating to fill the void when one is stressed, bored, angry, tired, or depressed, eating simply because the food is there, eating after a series of negative thoughts about yourself, or excessive eating after you have denied yourself food by skipping meals. These are just a few examples. Each person has to determine for themselves the circumstances, thoughts, and feelings that often precede emotional eating.

4. It is the important to practice using other strategies to handle your issues. One strategy is distraction such as reading, going for a walk, taking a bubble bath, exercising, playing a game, talking to a friend, doing housework, or other pleasurable activities to pass the time. Besides distraction, you may want to also consider meditation, problem solving, and talking about the issue with a counselor or other trusted person.

5. Eliminate or reduce your consumption of high fat foods, highly processed foods, and fast foods. Eat more fruits and vegetables and drink more water.

6. Engage in regular exercise. Over 60% of Americans don’t get sufficient physical exercise. Walk more, go to the gym, exercise in your home, and engage in outdoor physical activity. It is recommended that you exercise 3 – 5 times a week for 30 to 60 minutes. Cut back on sedentary activities such as hours of television, movies, video games, and sitting at a desk all day without any physical activity.

7. Get in environments and around people that are motivating not discouraging or sabotaging.

8. If and when you have a set-back, don’t surrender. Falling off of your program is not a reason to give up totally. Each day is a new opportunity to take care of you: mind, body, and spirit.

Your body temple is sacred. Heal the wounds of the past and present. Take responsibility for your eating and exercise. Choose self care over shame and freedom over food bondage. Yes you can!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Dealing with Anger

Anger is a healthy emotion that can sometimes be expressed in unhealthy ways. Some of us are consumed with anger and we have aggressive outbursts while others of us swallow our anger and it eats us up on the inside. Anger is a feeling that can range from mild irritation to intense rage. It is a natural response to situations where we feel threatened, harmed, wronged, or disrespected. We may also become angry when we feel another person is being threatened or harmed. Sometimes we may become angry with ourselves or with issues that we feel are blocking our desires or goals.

While some of us have been taught from family, cultural, or religious teachings that anger is unacceptable, it is important to know that anger is healthy when it is expressed in a healthy way. When something unjust has occurred it is natural to become angry about it. We just have to make sure that we use the outrage to motivate us in a positive way and not in a way that does harm to ourselves or to others.

Many of us have only seen violent anger so we avoid anger at all costs. The price for this is hefty and weighs us down emotionally. From a mental health perspective it is important that we learn to express our anger instead of either denying it or allowing it to lead to explosive outbursts.

1. Seek to avoid destructive anger. Destructive expressions of anger are abusive, out of control, shame inducing, or violent. Examples of this can include hitting a person, destroying their property, stalking, seeking revenge, and verbal assaults in person or on-line. Destructive expressions of anger can lead to loss of relationships, loss of employment, loss of self respect, and loss of perspective.

2. Acknowledge and understand your anger. Denial is not healthy. When we don’t allow ourselves to be aware of and express our anger, if it finally comes out it is often intense and out of control. This is demonstrated when we sit on issues for years and then when the person does one additional small thing we blow up with the rage that has been mounting for a long time. This is not a healthy or effective strategy for handling difficulties. You need to be honest with yourself about the fact that you are angry and then determine the real source of your anger. Is the anger in part masking fear, disappointment, sadness, or insecurity? Is the anger truly at the person you are directing it toward or is it really about something else? To heal it you have to face it. To address it you have to acknowledge it.

3. Express your anger in constructive ways. Constructive outlets for anger include but are not limited to writing, talking, exercise, spiritual practice, and safe confrontation/mediation. Other constructive activities are seeking justice, promoting practical solutions, and working to prevent the circumstance from happening to others. Some final strategies people use are reducing or eliminating time with the person who provokes the anger in your life, focusing on the positive aspects to one’s current circumstance, praying, going to counseling, reading self help books, and finding the humor (not mean-spirited sarcasm) in the midst of the storm.

Get a handle on your anger. People who learn to successfully manage their anger have better communication skills, increased energy levels, strengthened relationships, improved physical and mental health, increased self esteem, more effective coping skills, and are able to see things from different perspectives. Don’t’ allow yourself to get stuck in anger. Work through it, on your own or with a counselor. By honestly dealing with your anger you can avoid emotional self sabotage. Exhale.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Positive Parenting

Positive Parenting
Parenting is a lifelong commitment that transforms lives and shapes future generations. It is very challenging to be an effective parent. There are so many ways that we can fall short of the goal. The key is to learn from the past and be intentional about the way we go forward. Here are a few pointers from a mental health perspective.

1. To raise a confident child, you need to build your confidence. Children pay attention to not only what we say but we do. We are important role models in our child’s lives. We often pass on our habits to our children. This includes our approach to relationships, eating, television, education, finances, coping, substances, and spirituality. Children are thinkers and will not duplicate us exactly but the way we live does have an impact. Heal your issues so you don’t pass on unhealthy habits to the next generation. Along with teaching our children important values with our words, we need to also demonstrate our values in the way we live.

2. Express your love and respect for your child with your words and actions. Tell them that you love them, that you are proud of them, and that you believe in them. Then follow up your words with actions. Spend quality time with them and let them know that you enjoy being with them. When your children feel like a burden or feel unloved they will start looking for attention in negative ways or from negative people. A child who knows what love and respect feel like will go into the world knowing they have value instead of constantly feeling defeated or unworthy.

3. Set your children up for success. Develop their talents and skills by teaching them what you know and getting them involved in programs that build on their abilities. When we leave our children’s development up to other adults like teachers, we miss an important opportunity to invest in the success of our children. It is also important that you not burden your children with the belief that they have to fulfill your dreams. Empower them to explore, recognize, and pursue their gifts, potential, and passion.

4. Be careful about who you give access to your children. Negative peer groups or abusive people are often those who have had free unmonitored access to our children. Pay attention to warning signs and honor your children by making their safety a priority. There may be things that you miss initially but you have a responsibility to take action as soon as you become aware of the situation. With your response you communicate to your child that they deserve respect and safety. This also applies to our behavior. If you are engaging in unhealthy behaviors this also can put your child at risk. Consider the changes you need to make in your habits, conversation, and relationships for your child to be protected and empowered.

5. Give them responsibilities. It is not appropriate to make your children into little adults or to make them the parent. However it is a good idea to give your children responsibilities or chores that are appropriate to their age. This can teach them a sense of confidence in their abilities and their role as a part of the family team.

6. Have expectations, rewards, and consequences for your child. People often perform at the level of expectation. Let your child know your expectation for their academic success, for their behavior and manners, as well as for their hygiene and self-care. Make a point of catching your child doing the right thing instead of waiting to point out their mistakes. Praise them for the good they do so they don’t equate attention with negativity. However when they do not meet expectations there should be appropriate consequences. We have to make sure the consequences are appropriate for their age and for the level of their misbehavior. When we yell about everything the child will no longer take it seriously. They will assume they can’t win. Simultaneously if you tell a child what the rules of the house are and when the rules are broken there is no response, they will also not take you seriously. Let me say clearly that there is no excuse for abuse. Hurting a child, punching a child, calling a child a derogatory name, and locking a child in a closet are not acceptable consequences regardless of their behavior. Consequences are necessary but make sure the child knows that you have not stopped loving them. Children may behave badly at times but we want to make sure they know they are not bad people.

7. Empower them to survive the storms of life. The reality is all people no matter how well they were raised will face difficulty. The key is to not allow the difficulties to define you or destroy you. Let children see how you make it through difficult times. Teach them faith, hope, and perseverance.

Keep growing and working to be the best parent you can be. Learn from what your parents or guardians did well and also remember the things you wish had been different. You can make the difference in the life of your children. Remember to also take care of your health, spiritually, mentally, and physically. When you feel good you will be better able to encourage positivity in your child. Be encouraged. Parenting is a challenge but it is also a beautiful gift.