I can’t think of a single person I have come into contact with or know that isn’t feeling a pervasive sense of dread and tension about the outcome of the US elections this week or how they are going to manage themselves on the day of.
It will be near impossible to stay away from continuously refreshing feeds or TV coverage of second by second changes in the vote count as the day moves on, and this kind of anticipation and build up does nothing for our health or mental state.
Already, many of you that I have spoken to have noticed a lot of comfort eating at the refrigerator, or mindless noshing at the desk. We need comfort and the most common way to do that is mindlessly medicate and numb out by filling ourselves with food.
The Pitfalls Of Numbing With Food
When we eat to numb or to comfort ourselves when things are stressful or upsetting a few things happening in the body.
In the simplest terms, when we are stressed and the body is in a chemical stress response, your body slows down the digestive and absorption process so you take in less nutrition from your food. On top of that, digestion slows down so you are more prone to bloating, gas and discomfort after eating.
The bigger issue is that when we mindset food to numb out and find comfort, we bypass the full eating experience that the brain requires so that when you’re done, your brain senses that you didn’t get the full nourishment you should have and will ask for more food. This is by far one of the biggest reasons we seem to want more and gain weight. Because even though you ate, you end up craving more.
Bottom line, you mindlessly nosh to comfort, or numb stress or boredom, but utterly rob yourself of authentic relief in the form of mind and body nourishment when you need it the most.
Election Week In Particular
This is a hard week for the world. The stakes are high, emotions are high, there is a rampant fear of loss of control and anger. So much anger over the path we have all gone down with this election. Everyone’s body is in a stress response.
So not only are we all in a constant stress response this week, but we are being depleted by this. Stress exhausts. it leaks out minerals and nutrients out of our body at a fast rate. And of course it leaves us less equipped to deal with the challenges of life as well as the emotional rollercoaster it can lead us on.
The key then, is to really comfort yourself, really nourish yourself in the week that follows in order to maneuver your way through it with the utmost caliber of self care.
Because the urge to comfort isn’t a bad one. We are all strung out on this election stress and binge eating a bag of potato chips alone in the kitchen isn’t necessarily a bad instinct. The stress depletes us. We just need to wake up, get present and be full available to receive that comfort and nourishment we need to get through this.
5 Things To Help You Get Present, Mindful And Hopefully Fully Nourished
- Shut It Down – As in, turn off the TV, put away the phone, iPad, computer and political chatter while you eat. Stop the noise at least for those 3 moments in a day when you sit down to take in nourishment. This is critical, especially on election day. Tuning into live feeds every 5 minutes isn’t going to make the final outcome any different. I literally propose that we not tune in until the end, and rather, spend the day shoring up necessary energy to weather the outcome in the days to come by eating under peaceful and relaxing conditions.
- Don’t Judge The Cravings – Listen, if you want to eat a bag of chips, or cookies, or a slice of cake, acknowledge that is what you want and let it rest there. Don’t add to the state of stress and discomfort by heaping on judgement or beating yourself up over it. Just take it as information and acknowledge it. My recommendation is to take a breath. Actually… take 5. Take 5 long slow deep breaths. Inhale and exhale. Then sit with what you’re craving. Is that what you really want? Is there a healthier alternative? You can decide what you’re going to eat, and if the chips are the only thing that will make you feel better, have the chips. Because here’s the thing: When you’re wanting to mindlessly reach for food when you’re feeling stressed or upset, it’s your body and soul’s way of telling you that you need something. It sounds simple and it is. You need something. It’s an opportunity for you to take a beat and inquire within: What am I needing right now? The impulse to grab for food to comfort yourself is a fantastic opportunity to practice deeper dialogue with yourself that could lead to deeper nourishment as time passes.
- Stock Up – This is important this week as well as all weeks. When you are out buying groceries, really think about what you’re going to need to nourish all parts of yourself. It’s about eating well and nutritiously as well as for pleasure. Don’t ignore this part of the equation. The other important part of the equation is that if you know that you are going to have a hard week, one that might deplete you more than others, stock up on the things that will really nourish your body. Stress depletes every part of you. Bone stocks, superfoods, hearty vegetables, greens… kicking up this content can give your body the extra boost it needs to manage through a hard week.
- Be Mindful Of Those You Are Feeding – This tension is trickling down. We are all feeling it because it’s the water in which we are swimming right now. If you are the cook in the family and manage the day to day eating, you hold the responsibility of making sure good quality nourishment is available for them as well. Juicing is really good for making sure the little ones are getting an extra punch of nutrition, as well as opting to stay in rather than going out to eat. Soups, stews, chilis… these are all great things to make that are easy if you’re busy but super packed with nutrients.
- Breathe – This more than anything insures that you remain present when you it. Breathing insures that your body is more relaxed and able to receive when you eat. Breathing slows you down, focuses you and gifts you with a prolonged moment of nourishment that counteracts the stressors you are feeling right now. I would also encourage you to share the following exercise with those you eat as well so that together you are partaking in a practice that brings in a collective exhale, a collective moment of tuning out the world and tuning into what you are sharing in that moment of sitting at the meal table.
Breathing Food Practice
When you have sat down at the table to eat your food (do this is you are alone or with others and encourage others to join you in this exercise) take a pause and closing your eyes, take in 3 long and slow inhales and exhales. If you really want to shoot for being a rockstar, go to 10 breaths. In fact, if you are alone, I encourage you to try the 10 breaths. You will find that everything in your body shifts. Your body relaxes, your thoughts slow down, or the racing thoughts you have without really noticing start to reveal themselves. I find that when this happens, I become so much more aware of the stress I’m carrying that i’m inspired to take more breaths until those thoughts subside and slow down even more.
Start eating after you have felt that noticeable shift. It’s as if the breathing helps you arrive at this place in time and now you can pick up your fork and start eating. Pay attention to the difference this creates in you.
Then, every few bites, check back in and take another long deep inhale and exhale. Doing this through your meal continues to recalibrate you back to what you are doing, what you are eating and receiving the fullest nourishment and pleasure you can from the meal you are eating.
Don’t underestimate the powerful value in doing this. It helps your digestion, it increases the amount of nutrients and pleasure you receive from your food and it helps replenish your mental energy in the middle of a day that has been draining.
Be gentle with yourself. The steps listed above are good for us all the time, but this week more than any other, we are all feeling a collective stress that is unprecedented in our time. Go slow. Go gentle. Be loving.