So, what does it meant to emotionally self-regulate? And why do I need to know what this is? In short, emotional self-regulation is a way of managing unsettling or uncomfortable emotions or impulses. When we manage this in a positive way, we are able to engage in behaviours that are considered, mindful and not harmful to ourselves or others. But what happens when we use food or other substances to manage our uncomfortable emotions? When food becomes the substance of choice to aid that emotional self-regulation? When we don’t have adequate strategies to cope with our emotions, food becomes that source of nurturing, nourishing and pleasure. Food becomes a way of helping us to feel less overwhelmed and less controlled by our emotions. When we feel that we need something outside of ourselves to either numb out, calm, or somehow change our emotional state we are giving ourselves the message that we do not have the internal resources to cope.
So, learning to regulate them (our feelings), feel them and manage them in way that is not too confronting or overwhelming may sound daunting, but is ultimately a better option.
Food, unlike alcohol or drugs, is essential for survival. We cannot go without it. Abstinence is not an option. And neither is over-indulgence really a healthy coping mechanism. Just like food, emotions are here to stay too. Like it or not, we cannot not feel. Feelings and emotions are important, useful and vital to our survival. So, learning to regulate them, feel them and manage them in way that is not too confronting or overwhelming may sound daunting, but is ultimately a better option.
When you fight your emotions, you fight yourself and you wage a war against your most reliable, loyal and faithful friend – yourself
Especially in this really scary changing world of today, with so much unknown, and lots of fearmongering in the media, it is so important to notice and become in tune with your emotions. To learn to befriend your emotions and not see them as the enemy. When you fight your emotions, you fight yourself and you wage a war against your most reliable, loyal and faithful friend – yourself. Learning and developing skills to notice and regulate your emotions such that you don’t fear them, but rather work with them allows you to not be the victim to your emotions. Moving into your emotions, noticing, gives the opportunity for responding and allowing for choices. Choices are empowering. You might not always make the right, or healthy or better choice but that is ok. This is a journey, and a journey begins with the first step. Just taking that first step is making a choice to become aware, to start to think different and potentially act different and so create different habits.
Remember, your feelings are a symptom or a message. They mean something. Just like a temperature or a rash on your body. Don’t ignore your feelings. Breathe into them. Notice where you are feeling them. Label your feelings. Acknowledge your feelings. In this moment what can you do with this feeling? How can you manage this feeling? Breathe? Call a friend? Go for a walk? Cuddle a pet? Watch tv? Have a swim? Meditate?