The end of the day, weekends, evenings, and before bed: these are all times when people tell me that their relationship with food – or other self soothing behaviors – is the hardest to bear.
These times have a few things in common: they’re liminal or transition times when there’s more outer quiet and rest, when the busyness and activity of the day has quieted.
They’re often times when we’re at home or at a place of ‘let down,’ and so our brain’s natural defenses have come down.
And they’re also times when we face subtle feelings of separation, distance, or aloneness.
These are natural times when we feel more, when we feel more vulnerable feelings, and when we feel more vulnerable as a whole.
For many of us, this is the time of the day when the feelings, stirrings, and events of the day come calling, seeking to find a ‘home’ in us, a place where they can be felt, digested, integrated, and cared for.
So if you had an argument with a loved one, or you got a text from a child that put you on edge, or you felt anxious about an email exchange with your boss, when you get home at night and settle down, this may be when your feelings and your body begin to ‘speak.’
In modern culture, much of our day is spent in a left brain mode, where our energies are focused on tasks or getting things done – running errands, crossing items off our daily to do list, completing important tasks or projects, and going to appointments and other obligations.
When we’re in this mode, the brain numbs us a bit in order to focus on the task at hand.
But during times of transition and times of rest or quiet, the focus of the day gives way to spaces of openness. What is within us may become more felt, pronounced, or present.
And so this is the time of day when we may turn to self soothing behaviors, like eating, drinking, working, shopping, and media and online seeking. In my own life, I’ve brought books with me to errands, meals, and even in the car so that I have something – or someone – to accompany me during these quiet times.
Like many of you, food is another place where I’ve sought safety. For many people, food is a place of grounding, containment, and holding when we feel overwhelmed, flooded or alarmed.
Daily life brings so much up to the surface of our bodies, hearts and minds. We feel and ‘take in’ the events of the day – both in our own lives, and the collective, what we feel in the living world around us. This yearns to be digested.
And if we’re caring for trauma or the wounds of being human, there’s another level of sensation and sensory stimulation that we’re feeling and that’s asking for care. Sometimes, the impact of trauma feels like quite a load, such a burden to care for each day.
Many of us learned to cope on our own as young ones when we were frightened or overwhelmed. And the modern world, with its frantic pace and stress, asks us – implicitly and explicitly – to ‘get it together’ and to ‘pull ourselves up by our boostraps.’ Our families, communities, schools, and cultures were all embedded in this painful expectation.
This expectation has hurt all of us.
If evenings, the end of the day, and weekends are a difficult time for you, and you find yourself turning to self soothing behaviors in ways that frighten, frustrate, or anger you, you’re not alone. The behavior makes sense, and has probably accompanied you for a long time.
I hope that this newsletter helps you feel more compassion and understanding for these times, and how hard it can be, and how much you’ve longed for a place to come ‘home.’ And you may also feel some grief or anger for the ways modern culture can be so demanding, harsh, and misattuned.
Many of you yearn for a more connected and compassionate world, one where there’s space, tenderness, and acknowledgement for the ways we feel and our touched by life.
There are things we can do in service to this yearning – things that can help nurture the more connected and compassionate embrace that we’re all so hungry for – and things we can do when we find ourselves turning inwards or to substances to try to self soothe.
Here are a couple ideas to explore:
Empty your cup – hands down, the most helpful practice, tool, or support I’ve found for sensitive beings who overeat is to have a regular place to ’empty:’ a trusted, safe place where you can let down and share what’s on your heart and mind.
There is so much we get ‘filled up’ with each day. And the more sensitive we are, the more we process and feel. We all need this daily care – places of warmth to be seen, heard and held – and we’re all better for it.
Have a way to physically move what you’re carrying – I talked about this in my last article about caring for alarm, how helpful it is to have outlets for emotion to flow.
Give yourself support instead of relying on will power – I can think of so many times, when after a binge or overeating, I’d vow to ‘do better’ the next day, only to fall into the same patterns all over again. This can be so disheartening, especially when we’re trying so hard!
It’s easy to feel like we’ll never change, or that there’s something wrong with us. Good intentions are worthy of reverence: they’re sincere, sacred, and full of life.
And they’re often not enough on their own – they need scaffolding to support them, so they can become something enfleshed, tangible and ‘real’ in our daily lives.
So rather than relying on will power and trying to muscle through times of difficulty, or hoping your good intentions will carry you through, plan for these difficult times and build the scaffolding that helps carry you.
You can ask yourself: what support do I need that helps me move away from hurtful patterns? It could be setting a reminder on your phone when you typically binge, and using the reminder to call a friend.
Maybe you need someone at your side or you need a ‘holding container’ that ends a meal. One example of a holding container is brushing your teeth – this helps many people feel the ‘end’ of a meal.
You probably have your own ideas, and ways you’re already intuitively supporting yourself, moving emotion, and emptying your cup.
Bless every way that you support yourself and offer compassion to the ways you get stuck. It’s not easy to feel so deeply, and to be aware and awake to all that lives within us. Being fully alive and honoring the vulnerability of being human is a path of courage, and dignity.
Each act of care you offer for yourself, and for others, helps build the more tender world we all yearn for and create a more understanding and humane culture.
It gives us all more room to exist, and a place to come home.