Comfort Other Than Food

It’s so easy to reach for food to comfort yourself. Most of us learn this coping technique early in life and use it frequently. But what comfort other than food would make you feel relaxed, calm and forget the stressors of the day.

You might be surprised that at 59, I have taken up coloring. I am a twin and my sister has always been the creative half. She is very artistic, musical and natural interior decorator. I never even like art in school. I briefly did crocheting in my 20’s and may restart but never art.

Psychologists recommend it as a relaxation technique because you focus on the activity, not your problems. It also brings us back to childhood with coloring books and crayons and fun times.

Although meditation is my main stress relief and feel-good technique, I thought I’d try this coloring thing. Much to my surprise, I found it not only relaxing, but fun! I printed several online coloring sheets, mostly mandalas because I think they are beautiful. Add colored pencils and I forget everthing, including time.

I also downloaded an app for my iPhone for those times I have to sit and wait, especially in doctors’ offices. It’s called Colorfy and it’s free. At the end of the post is my first attempt at a Colorfy picture. Again, very relaxing and enjoyable.

Coloring is just one comfort other than food. But it’s a new one for me, so I wanted to share. They even sell coloring books for adults if you don’t want to print them from the internet. Enjoy your coloring!coloring mandala

Crave Sugar When in Pain

Here I sit with my left foot in a not very comfortable CAM boot. According to the doctor, I have a tendon or ligament injury. He’s not sure which one but I need to be immobile for at least 4 weeks. It is painful and the one thing I know with certainty is that I crave sugar when in pain.

Having Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, the genetic connective tissue disease, means multiple joint dislocations and non-stop muscle spasms. And apparently it also causes tendon and ligament damage. There is a physiological reason why we crave sweets when we hurt.

Sugar releases neurotransmitters from the reward center in our brain that do actually numb the pain for a brief time. Notice brief. This is the same reward center that responds to pain medication. But due to my Mast Cell Disease, I cannot tolerate any pain meds except Tylenol, so pain is my constant companion.

Do you unconsiously reach for sugar or some type of sweets when you are in pain? When your head is pounding? Or your backache is unrelenting? If so, there is a physiological reason. But, instead of going for the sugar to gain very short-term relief, become aware of that response and choose an alternative.

I now consiously tell myself that I’m in pain and will crave sugar, so I need plan B. Because I cannot take medication, my go-to is meditation. I do not feel the pain during my meditation and it is less after. I also use the other typical treatments too: ice, moist heat, TENS unit, muscle strengthening exercises.

Sometimes I succumb to the sugar craving. But it is with total awareness and with a plan for the continued pain when the brief response wears off. So what sends you to sugar?CAM boot

No Good Foods or Bad Foods

One of the most difficult concepts to really grasp is that there really are no good foods or bad foods. Many of you have most likely learned (probably at a young age) that sweets are “bad” foods and vegetables are “good” foods.

If you tell your children that they have to eat their vegetables before they can have dessert, you are teaching them that vegetables are “good” and dessert is “bad”. By assigning such a value to food, you unknowingly start this good-bad relationship with food.

Rather than good or bad foods, what if you saw them as nutritious foods and non-nutritious foods that still can be fun to eat. Depending on whether you prefer to maintain your weight or lose some extra weight, you can follow the 80/20 or 90/10 guidelines. 80% of the time eat nutritious food and 20% eat non-nutritious food. Or 90% of the time eat nutritious and 10% non-nutritious. These are just loose guidelines for you if you get anxious about only following your internal cues.

It does take a bit of practice and relearning to listen to your body’s needs of hunger, fullness and what food it needs. And before you say cookies, maybe you do need cookies, but that that would be to comfort yourself and that would be okay… if done only occasionally and not in excess.

The most important way to eat any food is mindfully, savoring each bite and appreciating the taste. If you scarf down a food mindlessly, quickly and barely tasting it, you will likely eat much more and without the enjoyment.

So don’t deprive yourself of any food. Nourish your body so you feel energized and indulge occasionally because food is meant to be enjoyed.woman appreciating cake

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Don’t Wait For Retirement to Relax

Because stress and anxiety directly relate to cravings, overating and binge eating, I often write about stress/relaxation.

It’s a familiar story to everyone. The boss keeps heaping more and more work on your desk, giving you tighter deadlines, more responsibilities and longer hours. You’re fearful to say anything, despite a rising stress level, increasing exhaustion and less time with your family because there is always someone else waiting in line to replace you.

If you’re an entrepreneur, you worry about a steady stream of customers who will buy your products or clients who are interested to purchase your services. You must constantly juggle marketing, networking, customer service and accounting. You may end up working more hours each day than when you worked for someone else.

What is your main goal in working so hard? Did you say money? Many do work just to pay bills, but what motivates some people to work such long hours and so hard that they are losing precious moments right here and now with the people they love the most? Is fear motivating you to regularly clock in more than 40 hours a week… fear of losing your job, fear of not being the best, fear of__________? You fill in the blank because our fears are as plentiful as the number of people.

I’d like you to think about a few things if you are waiting for retirement to slow down and relax:

  • Research has shown that regularly working longer than a 40-hour workweek makes us less productive and just very tired.
  • So often we hear about friends or acquaintances that recently retired, only to have a heart attack, stroke or other fatal or debilitating disease. So much for enjoying retirement. Now that I’m 59, I see so many of my peers dying just at a time they should be enjoying life the most.
  • While we are so busy working, our children grow up. We not only miss some important events, but we miss the opportunity to really connect when it’s the most important and we never get that time back.
  • According to WebMD, 75-90% of all physician office visits are stress-related. Chronic illnesses and multiple disease processes are directly correlated to stress; that in turn is increased when working so many hours. Better health depends on less stress.
  • Working so many hours is future living. It assumes that if you work hard now and make money, you’ll reap the rewards in the future. The problem with this thinking is that you are missing all of the fun, beauty, peace and relaxation right here and now.

If you are in a job that expects this amount of work, start looking for one that will not ruin your health, or at least have a discussion with your boss. Any boss that is demanding this kind of workload is either also unhealthy or not doing the same thing. If you are doing it to yourself, stop now. It’s not worth it, my friend. I’ve been in salaried positions that the expectation was to stay until the work was done or take it home to complete it and I left, realizing it was “becoming my life”. No salary, no matter how big, is worth your health.

Take time to enjoy those you love. If you don’t have a hobby because you’ve never had the time, choose one and have fun. Live life to its fullest each and every day. We do not know how long we are here on this earthly plane.Young business man under stress with headache

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