There is a theme in my practice this week. All of my clients came in telling me that one of their biggest problems in healing from binge eating is that they feel like they NEED food to just…shut…down. Sheila, an extremely busy attorney explained to me that in the evenings, after working a 12-14 hour day, she looks forward to coming home, sitting in front of the television and being able to eat, it’s the way she shuts down after a crazy day. Lindsey, a mom of twin 3 year olds told me that at night, after she gets the kids to sleep, but before her husband comes home, she just NEEDS to sit down with a pint of ice cream and Netflix to shake off the day, that the thought of it is the only thing that keeps her going throughout her evening. This is not new, I’ve been hearing this from my clients fo decades. Food serves a very important purpose- it is soothing, it’s calming and it helps signal the end of the day. It gives you that much coveted self time that you were missing all day.
IT IS SOOOOOOOO important to soothe yourself after a long day of work and kids and stress and everything that you do. You need to be calmed, you need to be soothed, you need a separation between you and the day. Food is what has been doing that for you. But there are some other things that you can do at end of the day that are not binge eating and will help you shut down.
And, I’ve compiled a list of my favorites for you:
Take a hot bath with Epsom Salts. Hot water is good medicine. And the magnesium in Epsom salts will relax your muscles and allow you to get the peace you need between work and sleep. It will also lull you into a deep and lovely sleep.
Read a book that has nothing thought provoking in it. Remember, this is about shutting down. Really turning your mind off, so get into bed with a book that is fun, engrossing and captivating. No books on tape. You need to be using your hands to hold the book- this integrates your tactile senses and satisfies your sensory needs to eat.
Play online games with friends. This one is especially good if you live alone and you need some human contact to feel like you’ve had a good day. Sometimes, spending all day in your own thoughts can get a bit overwhelming, so playing a game online with your friends can give you the chance to chat whilst doing something you enjoy. You’ll go to bed feeling like you’ve had some productive social interaction, which is not only fulfilling but rewarding too.
Meditate or do a guided visualization. No need to silence your mind or take too much effort. Close your eyes, lay down and breath in through your nose for 10 seconds, hold it and breath out through your nose for 10 seconds. You can also check out wellness hypnotherapy to find specific guided meditations for different subjects (binge eating, relaxation, anxiety, etc.)
Do a Savasana- the most relaxing yoga pose (also called corpse pose) usually done at the end of a yoga class to help you take space between your yoga practice and getting back to your day. It’s so easy. The Savasna pose is really lovely because it just relaxes your whole body. You can use a bolster or a lavender scented eye pillow as shown here- or if you don’t have those things, you can bunch up some towels to put under your knees and heat a wet wash cloth in microwave to put over your eyes. But you really don’t even need all of that, you can just lay on the floor with your arms out, your legs separated, relax your jaw, relax your forehead, just let your body find peace. Make sure that the lights are dimmed, your eyes are closed and even have some quiet music on. I do however, highly recommend the eye pillow. I use this with all my hypnotherapy clients and I find it helps them to relax very, very deeply. (Photo credit to Suza Francina)
Take a restorative yoga class or do some restorative yoga. Restorative yoga is ecstasy grade relaxation. It’s not power yoga, it’s not about fitness, it’s about really relaxing your body and releasing very, very deep tension both in your muscles and in your mind. You don’t have to be a yoga guru to do it either. It’s for every level, even someone who has never done yoga before. When I was in graduate school, I took a one-credit weekend long class on how to relax with restorative yoga poses. A French Psychologist yoga teacher flew in to teach the class- which was about six of us in a big studio in Mill Valley. We each had a big collection of bolsters and pillows and some rope around us that we used to drape ourselves over and around. After getting into each pose, we’d meditate for about 45 minutes to an hour. This was for 9 hours each day. When the weekend ended I felt like my body was jelly and there was no way any worry could ever get into my mind or body. I felt like I was levitating. I don’t even know how I drove home- I think I might have floated. If you can dim the lights and light some candles and have some nice smelling aromatherapy around you- even better. In San Francisco they offer some evening restorative yoga classes and I’m sure they do in other parts of the country and in certain parts of Europe- but if that’s not an option, definitely check out YouTube and see if you can find some good classes.
Get Body work. I know you can’t go get a massage every day before bed, but you can every once in a while- and if not, try some self massage.
Watching television can be rough because lots of people binge in front of the TV- however, if you can do something else while you’re watching tv, like give yourself a manicure, pedicure, hot oil treatment, face mask- something loving and self nurturing that occupies your hands and mouth.
Adult coloring books – can be more relaxing than meditation. It calms your mind and gives you a very similar effect that you’re looking for with food- it gives you another way to shut down after a long day.
Make jewelry. Seriously, making beaded necklaces or bracelets is an extraordinary way to occupy your hands, relax your mind, and feel that high that you get from your reward centers lighting up when you accomplish a goal or task. It’s easy to do, just have your beading kits right there so you can grab them, sit down on the floor, put on some relaxing music and make some pretty jewelry. Give it as gifts, wear it, or sell it on Etsy.
Knit. Knitting is actually used by occupational therapists to help people alleviate stress, relax, and focus their brains.
So what about you? Can you add to this list? What are some positive ways you shut down without going to food?
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