Part of our journey when we are working through recovery is to find ways to distract and/or soothe ourselves when we are being triggered emotionally. For example, with emotional eaters one of the most common times to turn to food is in the evening when they are at home and there is room for the emotions to bubble up. Restrictors on the other hand can often find it difficult to eat when they are experiencing challenging emotions. Learning to feel your emotions and get in touch with what is going on if you have been disconnected for a long time is difficult and overwhelming. Sometimes we aren’t even sure what the feeling is except that we feel something in our body. As with all stages in recovery we may not be able to jump straight from one stage to the next (in this case not feeling to feeling) so finding a middle ground can be a healthier option that will allow you to move forward in a way that will hopefully keep your anxiety at a manageable level.
I recommend that people find outlets for themselves that allow them to express what they are feeling in a healthier manner than by turning towards or away from food, and then reflect on it later when the emotion doesn’t seem so present. What these outlets are is up to you but some of the ones I most commonly hear about are:
Photography: Going out and capturing moments, scenes, objects, colors etc. that seem to speak to you and how you are feeling. You don’t have to be a photographer to go take pictures. Even if you don’t have a camera most will have a smart phone that will have a camera on it or you can always grab a disposable camera.
Dancing: The art of moving your body (whether you are a dancer or not) in a way that expresses and/or releases the emotion. You might be surprised at the movements your body chooses to do when it’s given the freedom to do so.
Painting/Drawing: Similar to dancing this does not have to be a work of art. I had a client who I assigned this to as homework on a regular basis and her biggest release was finger painting. Another option is going to a place like Raw Canvas (for you Vancouverites out there!) or buying supplies at a craft store and doing splatter paint. The intent is not to create a picture necessarily (unless you want to!) but rather to use art as a form of expressing what you are feeling.
Build Something: Some people express themselves through building things. Whether this be furniture, sand castles, rock work, jewelry etc.
Scrapbooking: Finding or creating pieces that reflect how you are feeling and putting them in a book or on a piece of paper.
The purpose is to have a place to put your emotion that is healthier than eating/ restricting and that allows you to connect with your emotion on some level. After some time, take a moment to really connect with what you did. The biggest thing to challenge yourself to is being nonjudgmental while reflecting. The purpose of the assignment is simply to treat yourself in a kinder way, not to create a masterpiece. If you can, give yourself 5-10 minutes to reflect openly and curiously. Go through and look at the theme that is woven through all your pictures, notice the colors of the paints you chose or the piece that you built. What emotion are you seeing in your piece now? Be curious about why you chose what you chose and see if you notice something within.
What are some outlets that you have found help you experience your emotions? Share them below in the comment section. Perhaps what helps you may help others!