Craving Food and Late-night Snacking: How to Counter Mindless Eating

Unlike Halloween and special events that come yearly, every 24 hours brings with it nighttime… and an opportunity to struggle with craving food and nighttime snacking. A daily cycle can develop where people wake up, relieved that it’s a new day, determined to eat differently. But as soon as dinner is over, and there is time to sit on the couch to relax, the desire for late-night snacking kicks in. Add on fatigue to make managing food cravings and mindless eating feel impossible to overcome. Nighttime can be so hard!

 

**This post is the 6th in a series written by Dr. Lynn Stiff and Dr. Melissa Welby aimed at giving people healthy tools to improve their overall health: both for their body and their mind**

 



Managing food cravings: A common pattern

  • Wake up in the morning relieved it’s a new day determined to do it differently.
  • Restrict intake to “make-up” for the “extra” calories eaten the prior night. Attempt to only eat healthy foods.
  • Cravings kick in as soon as dinner is over, chores are done, and there is down time to relax.

Is craving food hunger or emotionally driven nighttime snacking? Get tools for managing food cravings causing late-night snacking and mindless eating

Here is where it gets tricky when craving food:

“Is what I’m feeling actually hunger, or is it something else?”

1. Are you craving food because your body is hungry? Sometimes, hunger finally catches up after a day of restricted food intake. 

 

2. Other times, the food craving isn’t hunger but a coping strategy to guard against boredom, loneliness, and pretty much any other feeling that may surface when there is quiet time. 

 

How the nighttime snacking battle often plays out: 

You feel ashamed that you are hungry. You want to stick to the damn diet and know you can’t eat a snack right now. You feel hungrier by the minute and horrible that you can’t eat. You swing back and forth – one minute you are feeling empowered and confident that you can stick to this diet and have willpower. The next minute you are feeling ashamed and weak because the hunger might overtake you. You may “cave” and go to the kitchen, eating way more than you needed. Or you may sit and suffer.

 

Either way, you end up feeling worse about yourself. 

Is craving food hunger or emotionally driven nighttime snacking? Get tools for managing food cravings causing late-night snacking and mindless eating

As much as possible, it is important to recognize the source of the craving and then make your OWN choice about how you’ll proceed. When you do this you are the one in control.

 

  • Am I thirsty or hungry?
  • Or am I tired, bored, and stressed?
  • How am I feeling right now?



Part of the goal is to be mindful instead of reacting to habit or negative coping strategies. If you decide you are hungry and want to eat, then go for it! But, if at any point in the process above you realize you are eating for a reason besides hunger, try to set the snack aside and think if eating is what you want to do at that moment. This is a good time to re-visit Dr. Welby’s worksheet on alternative coping strategies!

 

If the shame can be managed, it may be easier to stop mid-cycle instead of saying: “Well, I’m already this far, I’ll just keep going.” If shame is prevented from taking over, it can’t drive the angry, punishing cycle of over-eating.

How to incorporate mindfulness into late-night snacking:

Is craving food hunger or emotionally driven nighttime snacking? Get tools for managing food cravings causing late-night snacking and mindless eating

 

1. Grab some water (because let’s be honest, we’re all not drinking enough water) but tell yourself that if you are hungry, it is OK. Your body knows better than you how much you need to eat in a day.

2. Think about a healthful snack you could prepare if you are hungry. Try to give yourself 15 minutes to better assess if the hunger is real.

3. If it’s real, go to the kitchen (without shame or self-judgment) and prepare your snack.

4. Turn off all distractions and sit with yourself. Eat your snack without distractions while sitting at a table and ENJOY it.



Practice the tools that will help you. Download Dr. Stiff’s (free) Mindful and Intuitive Eating Workbook

Access the entire series of posts here.

Do you find yourself in this situation each night?

How do you manage food cravings when they come up?

What steps can you take today to move towards more mindful eating?

What is your biggest pain point with mindful eating?

 

Leave your thoughts and comments below!

 

Lynn Stiff, MD, RD, MS is a board-certified family medicine physician and registered dietitian focused on helping others proactively achieve health and wellness. Through her years of practice, she has come to realize that nutrition is not just "calories in equal calories out" and that many simplistic weight-loss strategies cause more harm than good. She is passionate about helping women reject diet culture and learn to love themselves in their own skin, empowering women to dig deep inside and reframe the way they see food, exercise, themselves, and the world in which they live. She is an advocate for intuitive, mindful eating and helping women focus on their value and purpose without regard to the numbers on the scale. Her company is Nutrition Health Life, LLC.

Food Cravings and Shame: A Perfect Storm of Emotional Eating and Discomfort

Do you “sneak” a piece or two (or many more) of candy at Halloween? Or a slice of cake at a birthday party? Does the desire for a late-night snack turn into a spiral of emotional eating and overeating? Guilt and shame around eating something we feel we shouldn’t prevents us from actually enjoying the item we desire. To make matters worse, guilt and shame can then drive additional food cravings. These “secondary cravings” are no longer about the original simple desire to eat the food, but instead use food to numb the uncomfortable feelings. This pattern of an adversarial relationship with food can be a hard to break!

There doesn’t need to be shame around eating a treat!

 

Instead of “sneaking” the food, could you decide you wanted to have it? Can you imagine taking a piece of candy, sitting down at the table, eating it over 2-3 bites, and enjoying each bite?



 

Today’s post in the series co-wrote by Dr. Lynn Stiff and Dr. Melissa Welby, will focus on a common struggle many people face on their healthy eating and body positivity journey: managing food cravings and shame.

 

Food Cravings meet Shame

Shift away from an adversarial relationship with food: Mixing food cravings and shame can drive emotional eating and using food for comfort.

Craving: 

 

People crave food for all sorts of reasons. When we practice intuitive eating our bodies can let us know what it needs and ask us to give it something it may feel short on. Obviously, people crave food simply because they are hungry, but as we know, food is also used to avoid emotions.

Shame:

 

Shame is an awful feeling and it’s understandable why people will want to make it go away as fast as possible. It is a feeling that often gets mixed in with a side of low self-worth and plenty of self-hatred.

Shame around eating + food used for coping = the perfect storm

 

If food is used as a coping strategy for discomfort, shame can lead to emotional eating or binge eating. Shame can be the glue keeping people stuck in the adversarial relationship with food. 



 

Cravings are cravings until shame kicks in

 

Self-compassion is lost when someone is stuck in the cycle of shame and eating for comfort. Instead, it can feel like an all-out cycle of war full of self-hatred and self-punishment. If either shame or using food for coping is eliminated, the storm will dissipate and healing can begin. Cravings will simply be cravings. 

 

When shame is removed, the negative coping strategies that attempt to drown out shame aren’t needed. Binge eating, mindless eating, and emotional eating can be eliminated and self-loathing can stop. If shame is felt, but the coping strategies are shifted to healthier outlets, the power of the storm is reduced. 

 

Without shame clouding thoughts, a person can be in tune with their bodies and mindfully enjoy the treat they crave.

Shame and coping mechanisms

Shift away from an adversarial relationship with food: Mixing food cravings and shame can drive emotional eating and using food for comfort.

 

 

Imagine eating a particular food you want but think you “shouldn’t” eat. Shame might quickly set in. BUT instead of reacting to the shame and using food for comfort, positive coping strategies are tried.

Instead of reacting to shame, you could choose a positive coping strategy instead



 

Positive coping strategies can be anything that helps you process emotion in a way that doesn’t avoid, stuff it, or cause you harm. What works in a situation will be different for each person.  

What if you dealt with that hard emotion head-on? 

 

To learn more about coping strategies, Dr. Welby made an informational worksheet that will help you take a look at your own go-to reactions and identify triggers for them. Included is a list of 28 additional coping strategies that you can try!

 

How do you manage food cravings when they come up?

 

Leave your thoughts and comments below!

 

Lynn Stiff, MD, RD, MS is a board-certified family medicine physician and registered dietitian focused on helping others proactively achieve health and wellness. Through her years of practice, she has come to realize that nutrition is not just "calories in equal calories out" and that many simplistic weight-loss strategies cause more harm than good. She is passionate about helping women reject diet culture and learn to love themselves in their own skin, empowering women to dig deep inside and reframe the way they see food, exercise, themselves, and the world in which they live. She is an advocate for intuitive, mindful eating and helping women focus on their value and purpose without regard to the numbers on the scale. Her company is Nutrition Health Life, LLC.

Shifting the focus from diet and weight loss towards improving overall health

If you starve yourself to be thin will this make you healthier? Can a number on the scale determine an individual’s health status? Health and weight are related concepts that can directly affect each other, but it’s overly simplistic to think that weight decides an individual’s health. Studies often site “weight” as the culprit for many of the world’s health problems but given the multitude of variables that are difficult to control, it’s hard to prove a particular number on the scale is the key factor. Yes, unhealthy behaviors will lead to weight gain, and there are many people who have weight-related health problems. But not everyone with extra weight is unhealthy.

The standard views on weight and the determination of health can be overly simplistic and unhelpful for the individual.



 

This post is part of a series co-written by Dr. Stiff and Dr. Welby, focused on how to eat mindfully and intuitively and substitute self-critical messages with more positive ones. Today’s post will discuss shifting focus from weight and towards ones that support overall health. Access the series here.

Improving overall health: Let’s think more about health and weight loss

Diet and weight loss: The fight against nature

Improving overall health through diet and weight loss is overly simplistic. Health and weight can be related but health isn't a number

Our bodies are programmed for survival. When a person has been at a consistent weight for years, losing it can trigger the body to try to get back to the weight it equates with stability. This can make weight loss nearly impossible for most people to maintain.

 

Obviously, there are exceptions to the rule, but as a culture, we often only notice the exceptions. When people’s weight fluctuates they often feel like a failure instead of the expected norm.

 

Yes, weight loss can happen even when bodies are comfortable at their set point, but it often takes extreme measures to get there. Instead of assuming these measures are worth doing if they equate to weight loss, it’s important to understand the reason for doing it.

 

  • Is the purpose to get to a lower number?
  • Is weight loss required to address a health issue?

 

Based on the answer, it may be more important to put the energy into:

 

  • Eating a balanced diet that provides adequate nutrition
  • Being free of shame and self-loathing

 

If you are stuck in a cycle of weight loss and body-shaming, it may be critical to first stop and begin to lovingly look at ways to optimize your overall health.

 

To understand this better let’s look at an example. Which woman do you think is healthier?

Woman #1:

A 50 year old woman who weighs 150lb with a BMI of 25 who does not exercise. She eats keto most days and restricts her calories when her weight changes. She fluctuates between 145lb and 170lb. She doesn’t like her body but is happy her weight is finally stable. She avoids parties due to the food. Her friends and family are slightly alienated by her obsession with keto. She often drinks at night and feels significant stress in her life. Her goal is to maintain her weight this year.

 

Woman #2:

A 50 year old woman who weighs 190lb with a BMI of 30. She walks 45 minutes a day and does classes at the local gym 2 days a week. She doesn’t restrict her calories or binge eat. Her weight has been steady for the past 15 years. She focuses on the positives in her diet, including fruits, vegetables and lean protein. She manages her stress with yoga and meditation. She has a supportive friend network and attends many parties and gatherings. Her goal is to do a 10K run/walk this year. 



 

Woman #2 may be heavier than #1, but she has life-long healthier habits that give her resilience and tools to manage any chronic disease she might encounter. It is estimated that 80% of chronic disease is preventable, and she already has the diet and lifestyle habits to help. She’s also happier and leads a fuller life, both of which have been found to be associated with improved health and longer life. Despite being 40 pounds heavier than woman #1, she seems much healthier.

 

Which would you want to be?

Improving overall health through diet and weight loss is overly simplistic. Health and weight can be related but health isn't a number

Is the goal actually weight loss? Or is it to be healthy and able to do what we want?

Often people say weight loss is their goal without thinking deeper about the reasoning. Our society has trained people to think this is the goal. But if we stop and think about our WHY, what is your answer? Is it to actually be healthy enough to play with grandkids? To run a 5K and raise money for a coworker with cancer? Or climb a mountain for the first time? 

When we think deeply we can find our “why” and usually that isn’t actually a number on the scale. Clarifying these reasons will keep us motivated when life gets tough (because it always does) in a way that a number will never do. 

Weekly Challenge: Find your why

Ask yourself why you want to make a health change? Keep asking until you get to the deeper reason. What is the “why” that is really driving you? This will be the reason you motivate yourself to keep working at your goal even when life tries to steer you away. 

What are you doing to support your health?

Are you:

  • Moving your body in a meaningful way each day?
  • Sleeping enough?
  • Practicing mindful and intuitive eating?
  • Addressing your mental health?
  • Managing medical issues that need follow-up?

 



Read more on the topic of improving overall health and happiness:

Improving overall health through diet and weight loss is overly simplistic. Health and weight can be related but health isn't a number
Basing health decisions around what number the scale shows is very different than focusing on what you need to be healthy. By ridding yourself of the shame that can come from a number, negative self-talk related to food and weight, and practicing mindful and intuitive eating, you will experience health benefits regardless of what is shown on the scale.

Access the entire series and download Dr. Stiff’s free Mindful and Intuitive Eating Workbook 

 

Lynn Stiff, MD, RD, MS is a board-certified family medicine physician and registered dietitian focused on helping others proactively achieve health and wellness. Through her years of practice, she has come to realize that nutrition is not just "calories in equal calories out" and that many simplistic weight-loss strategies cause more harm than good. She is passionate about helping women reject diet culture and learn to love themselves in their own skin, empowering women to dig deep inside and reframe the way they see food, exercise, themselves, and the world in which they live. She is an advocate for intuitive, mindful eating and helping women focus on their value and purpose without regard to the numbers on the scale. Her company is Nutrition Health Life, LLC.

5 Steps to Body-Positivity and Self-Love: Changing the Negative Self-Talk

In a society enthralled with selfies, surrounded by images portraying what appears to be the “ideal” body size and shape, it’s easy to feel negative about the parts of our appearance that fall outside this cookie-cutter standard. Instead of celebrating differences, body-positivity, and focusing on health; the number on the scale can become the deciding factor for mood and self-worth. Negative self-talk and self-loathing don’t help. Food ends up being viewed as an adversary instead of a life-sustaining and nurturing gift to be enjoyed. Instead of being amazed at the way our body works and how nourishment helps it function, a complicated pattern develops that can include food restriction, mindless eating, cravings, shame, self-loathing, and overeating. No one wins in this trap and stress only makes it that much more tricky. Positive self-talk and self-love are possible!

It’s easy to see how this cycle of body rejection starts, but not as easy to stop the negative self-talk.



 

If you haven’t already, be sure to start by reading the first two posts in this series written by Dr. Lynn Stiff and Dr. Melissa Welby to learn the tools to break the pattern of disconnection with one’s body and shift the focus from weight to health using mindful and intuitive eating. The next posts will discuss how to shift away from self-loathing surrounding body image towards empowerment, contentment and overall improved health. 

 

Self-talk: How to shift from self-loathing to body-positivity

Self-worth is eroded by negative self-talk and ends in self-loathing. How can you shift to body-positivity and self-love? Positive self-talk can help.

Words matter. The way we talk to ourselves has a huge impact on how we view ourselves, interact with others, and present ourselves in the world. Self-talk makes a difference, reinforcing patterns of self-love or self-hate. The more a particular path of thinking is followed, the stronger that belief is

 

The following quotes are responses to a question posed on Reddit.  These responses are refreshingly real and are a great way to frame the discussion of self-talk. Colorful language and all, they paint a picture of the struggles people (mainly, but not exclusively women) face to achieve body-positivity in a culture fixated on weight.

 

Question about self-love and acceptance: How do you love and accept your body when we are all set against such high standards to look perfect?

 

“My SIL is one of my favorite people for talking about body stuff with because she has such a practical, functional, realistic view on it. I am fat. I know I’m fat and I really don’t care. I was chatting with her about how my doctor was trying to push this weight loss appetite suppressant med thing on me and the first thing she asked was “do you even need to lose weight though?” and that was like one of the best things I’d ever heard because not once in my life has anyone ever asked me that.

Everyone always just assumes that of course I should lose weight. All women always want to lose weight and especially me since I’m fat! And like sure my health will be better in the long run if I eat healthy and exercise more but losing weight isn’t the end goal. My baseline body size is big. It’s always been big. I’m not on someone downward spiral of constantly getting fatter and fatter. I have T shirts I wore in middle school that still fit! This is my size! I will never be what society says the ideal body should be. So fuck it. I don’t need to lose weight.”



It starts with how we talk to ourselves. Positive self-talk vs. Negative self-talk 

Self-worth is eroded by negative self-talk and ends in self-loathing. How can you shift to body-positivity and self-love? Positive self-talk can help.

Some people have been putting themselves down for as long as they can remember. It may be so natural, they aren’t even aware they are doing it. Calling themselves stupid may roll off their tongue as easily as “hello” or “thank-you”. Once the path of self-contempt is established, no area is off-limits: everything from body to one’s personality and brain can fall prey to this criticism.

 

Most people wouldn’t say the things they say to themselves to an enemy, no less a friend. So how is it that it seems okay to treat yourself like this? Undoing this pattern can take a huge effort and often professional assistance is needed for help identifying the harmful messages. Without changing the soundtrack it is hard to move forward.

 

Evaluating your soundtrack:

Think about your self talk over the past few months. Do you find yourself seeing others “thrive” and find yourself wondering why you can’t seem to take a shower before noon? Do you see people post about reaching fitness or health goals and wonder why you can’t just get outside and exercise? During these times, do you encourage yourself? Shame yourself? It’s one thing to be able to manage self-talk when life is going smoothly. It’s a whole different experience to manage it when life is hard and filled with stressors. The statements we tell ourselves matter.

 

 

Write down 10 messages you frequently say to yourself. When you are done, circle the ones that are positive. Are you due for an upgrade?

 

Body-positivity and self-love win:

 

“I began to wonder, even though I found people of many different shapes, sizes, and physical characteristics, physically beautiful, why I couldn’t love the way I looked. I felt I needed to achieve the conventionally attractive society standards in order to find myself physically attractive, and therefore, accept and love my body. It didn’t make sense to me and I felt guilty/hypocritical for caring about achieving those attributes, especially since I believed that other achievements and internal characteristics were so much more valuable.”

 

Replacing the over-played critical tapes with positive messages will help reinforce a different way of thinking. The goal is to strengthen the other pathway that has been neglected over the years: the path of self-love and body positivity. As this is practiced, feelings begin to shift, and eventually, you will believe these new messages. It won’t happen overnight, but the efforts will pay off down the road.

5 Steps to shifting the focus:

Self-worth is eroded by negative self-talk and ends in self-loathing. How can you shift to body-positivity and self-love? Positive self-talk can help.

Because the standards aren’t what define us. Our physical attributes are as diverse as our minds and thoughts, people won’t love and care for you because of how you look. They won’t remember you for it either, but I can ensure you that your actions, words (good and bad), merits, values etc. That is things people may remember you by. I don’t say it’s unimportant to take care of yourself, but it must be because you want to, not feel pressured to”.

 

Many people find it awkward and uncomfortable to replace critical messages with positive ones. It’s amazing how hard it is to be kind to ourselves! It’s not easy to stay body-positive when faced with the pressures of society. 

Follow these 5 steps to get started on body- positivity:

 

  1. What is something you want to believe about yourself but don’t yet? Write it down.
  2. Write it as “I am right just the way I am” not as “I want to believe I’m okay” or “I will be perfect if XYZ happens”
  3. Say it to yourself in the mirror. Write it on the mirror. Leave sticky notes with this message all over your house, office, or car.
  4. Get up the courage to tell someone close to you. “I’ve been working on improving my self-image and could use some support. If you hear me slip into negative self-talk please remind me that’s not the path I want to go down”
  5. What can you do for your body that supports these positive messages? Some people find regular physical activity and strength training to be great ways to celebrate their bodies. It also can be as simple as appreciating the role of your body in everyday life: walking, lifting, laughing, etc.

 

Practice, Practice, Practice Positive Self-Talk

 

While you are working to shift these messages from negative to positive, continue to practice mindful and intuitive eating. (Need assistance? Download Dr. Stiff’s free Mindful and Intuitive Eating Workbook). These tools provide the essential foundation to help hasten your escape from the body-shaming cycle. Remember, this is not something that is going to change in a day. When you find yourself off-track, remind yourself that these are long-time habits but that you deserve more and will continue to work to change them. 

 



The next post in the series will focus on how and why the attention needs to shift away from weight and instead to one’s overall health.

 

At war with ourselves: Tools to improve your health and stop fighting the weight-loss battle

Why go to a war that is being fought for the wrong reasons with an outcome that is outside of our control? How did the world start believing the complexities of health can simply be boiled down to a number on the scale? Not only are we missing the tools we need to actually make a difference in the weight loss struggle and improve health, but we are measuring success with unrealistic, and often unattainable, expectations. There isn’t any diet that will fix this problem. Intuitive and mindful eating can.

 

It is possible to enjoy food again and achieve health… REAL health. The solution to the weight loss struggle isn’t dependent on willpower or control and it doesn’t require extreme measures. Through intuitive and mindful eating, we can be confident in our bodies, understand when they need nourishment, and love them for how amazing they are.



This post is the 2nd in a series written by Dr. Lynn Stiff and Dr. Melissa Welby aimed at giving people healthy tools to improve their overall health: both for their body and their mind. At the end of this post, there is a challenge given to us by Dr. Stiff. I hope you join me in participating! 

How many of you have sacrificed your mental health in the name of weight-loss?  

Lest anyone forget, our “mental” health is critically entwined with our “physical” health. These two can’t be separated. Most people stuck in the dead-end cycle of “self-worth determined by weight” have sacrificed their mental well-being, and instead, prioritize the harmful culture of body-shaming.

 

Improve your health by ending the weight loss battle through eating mindfully. Mindful eating will help you break away from the weight loss struggle

 

There is a way out. Let’s end the war with our bodies and shift the focus away from weight, to make changes that support how we want to feel … regardless of the number on the scale

Intuitive and mindful eating are overlooked, important pieces necessary in this quest for mental and physical health. 

 

You can: 

 

  • Stop fighting the weight loss battle. There doesn’t need to be a war!
  • Reconnect with your body
  • Free yourself from the cycle of shame and “failure”
  • Re-establish hunger and satiety cues that will guide your body in what it needs 
  • Begin to enjoy the food you are consuming
  • Stop numbing yourself with food
  • Be more present in life…. with our food, our bodies, and all the things in life that are more important than weight 

 

At peace with your body: Improving your health and ending the weight loss battle

Improve your health by ending the weight loss battle through eating mindfully. Mindful eating will help you break away from the weight loss struggle

Intuitive eating:

Eating intuitively requires paying attention to when you are hungry and when you are full. This sounds so simple but for many, this has long been lost. It involves getting in tune with your body’s natural drive for energy. When we are in alignment (i.e. managing stress, getting regular physical activity, and adequate sleep) our hunger and satiety cues (the way our body tells us we are full) accurately determine how much and what we should be eating.

 

Mastering intuitive eating can be quite challenging. After all, it has been silenced for decades. Think about a young child who will skip dinner on some days, and on others, they can’t stop eating. This is because they are deeply in tune with their hunger and satiety cues. They listen to their body.

Imagine what the health of our country would look like if we all ate like this.

Mindful eating:

Mindful eating is more about being present in the experience of eating. This means no distractions. When you put something in your mouth, you are aware of how much and what you put in your mouth. You savor each bite and pay attention to the textures and flavors.

 

Mindful eating allows you to legitimately enjoy the food that you’re consuming. If we can give ourselves this pleasure, it can reduce the cravings we feel later.

5 Steps to master intuitive and mindful eating:

Improve your health by ending the weight loss battle through eating mindfully. Mindful eating will help you break away from the weight loss struggle

 

 

 

Unlike what this picture may suggest, you don’t need to climb to the top of a mountain and pack beautiful food in order to mindfully and intuitively eat. It takes practice, but it’s possible to incorporate into everyday busy lives. Food stops being the enemy or an annoyance that interferes with getting things done. By taking the steps to learn mindful and intuitive eating, people get to slow down, reconnect with their bodies, and don’t need to suffer while doing it!



 

  1. Learn about the hunger scale.

The hunger scale is a way to numerically identify hunger and satiety cues (Access the hunger scale here). The range goes from 1 = starving, 5 = neutral, 10 = uncomfortably stuffed. The goal is to stay between 4-7 as much of the time as possible. 

  1. Keep a hunger and satiety journal.

In the free Mindful and Intuitive Eating Workbook there are forms that can make it easy to keep track of hunger and satiety. You can also keep a little notebook or note on your phone. Figure out what system will work best for you. Keep it simple: date the top and list out each meal with a letter (B for breakfast, L for lunch, D for dinner, and S for a snack). Next to each letter put the number from the hunger scale to rate your hunger before eating. Then rate your hunger after eating. Example:  B 3/8

  1. Turn off all distractions

It is hard to be mindful when phone notifications are dinging and the tv is going in the background. We don’t want to make it any harder for ourselves to stay in the moment by having to compete with everything else trying to capture our attention.

  1. Use your senses while you’re eating. 

In addition to flavor, pay attention to the texture. Notice the nuances of the flavors. Smell the aroma of the food. Visually notice the differences in the various items within the dish. Really be present while eating.

  1. Plan in advance! 

When we have a plan for what we will eat during the day it’s easier to stay mindful. Without a plan, we may fall back into rushing and grabbing foods that aren’t in alignment with how we’d like to eat. 

Challenge: One week of mindful and intuitive eating

Here’s my challenge for you – are you ready for it? I want you to commit to 1 week of mindful and intuitive eating. By the end of the week, it still may not feel natural and effortless, but I am confident you’ll notice a difference in how you feel and approach food.

 

There’s no downside to trying and if you don’t like it, your old habits will be ready and waiting for you. It’s not going to be easy but the end result of ending the weight loss battle is worth it!

 

Improve your health by ending the weight loss battle through eating mindfully. Mindful eating will help you break away from the weight loss struggle

 

Dr. Stiff has several resources to support you on the journey to improve your health:

 

  • Intuitive Eating Worksheet: This is a free download that can be downloaded here.
  • Mindful and Intuitive Eating Workbook: Another free download that can be downloaded here

 

This was the 2nd post in a series aimed at giving people healthy tools focused on improving overall health: both for their body and their mind.

The next post will teach you to change the messages you give yourself to end the weight loss and body-shaming cycle. 

 



Series:

The keys to ending the weight loss and body-shaming cycle: Mindful and Intuitive eating

5 Steps to Body-Positivity and Self-Love: Changing the Negative Self-talk

Shifting the focus from diet and weight-loss towards improving overall health

Food cravings and shame: A perfect storm of emotional eating and discomfort

Craving Food and late-night snacking: How to counter mindless eating

 

 

Lynn Stiff, MD, RD, MS is a board-certified family medicine physician, registered dietitian and the founder of Nutrition Health Life, LLC. She is focused on helping others proactively achieve health and wellness. Through her years of practice, she has come to realize that nutrition is not just "calories in equal calories out" and that many simplistic weight-loss strategies cause more harm than good. She is passionate about helping women reject diet culture and learn to love themselves in their own skin, empowering women to dig deep inside and reframe the way they see food, exercise, themselves, and the world in which they live. She is an advocate for intuitive, mindful eating and helping women focus on their value and purpose without regard to the numbers on the scale. 
 

 

 

The Keys to Ending the Weight Loss and Body-Shaming Struggle: Mindful and Intuitive Eating

Consuming food on the run is a skill I have mastered. Never one to sit for long, fitting eating around other priorities is a pattern “perfected” while in medical residency when the choice was to consume a granola bar while fast-walking or lose my chance to eat at all. Intuitive eating was definitely not a concept I considered. This pattern of mindless food consumption is a recipe for trouble, yet many of us fall into it to accommodate the daily, frantic lives we lead.  Without mindful eating, we aren’t in-tune with our body enough to provide it with the nourishment it needs and wants. In a world that is too focused on the numbers on the scale rather than overall health, this disconnect from the body can pave the way for extreme dieting, eating disorders, and body shaming.

 

Mindful and intuitive eating are often overlooked as important pieces in the quest for health. They help rebuild the foundation that has been cracked from years of neglect. Weight-loss strategies often propagate the harmful idea that body health is simply a matter of willpower and control and miss the issues that prevent real change. There is nothing simple about weight loss or body health, and many people struggle because they don’t have the proper tools.



Tools to improve your overall health

Have you attempted every diet known, are painfully aware of what foods are “healthy”, yet still feel you are fighting a battle you can’t win? This series is written for youIn these articles, Dr. Lynn Stiff and Dr. Melissa Welby will give you tools to improve your overall health: both for your body and your mind.

 

I am grateful to Dr. Lynn Stiff for sharing her expertise and wisdom to help produce this series. As BOTH a dietician and physician, she is a true expert on nutrition and health. Her goal is to help people shift their focus away from weight, empowering them to make changes that support how they want to feel … regardless of the number on the scale

 

With the proper strategies you can:

 

  • Stop being ruled by the numbers on the scale.
  • Reconnect with your body.
  • Learn how to eat mindfully and intuitively.
  • Be empowered to make changes that support how you want to feel.
  • Free yourself from the dead-end trap of body-shaming.
  • No longer determine self-worth by your weight.

 

Take Back the Meal

by Lynn Stiff, MD, RD, MS

 

It’s 1:00 in the afternoon and I haven’t eaten since 6 AM. I’ve been running around all day. Waves of hunger have come and gone and I’ve been too busy to stop. Finally, I have a break and realize how famished I am. I grab my lunch and sit down in front of a computer mindlessly inhaling my food while I do other tasks at the same time. 

Eating intuitively helps shift the focus from weight to improving your health. Minimize body shaming by mindful and intuitive eating.

At the moment, I am numb, stressed, emotionally drained, and overworked. The hustle is real and exhausting.

 

Instead of eating a peaceful lunch at a table, I shovel my lunch into my mouth between clicks. I don’t enjoy the food and I barely accomplish anything on the computer. I shrug off this ineffective multitasking and am grateful to not have to eat again for a few hours. Now I can get my work done and maybe get home at a reasonable time.

But what is the cost to this harried, mindless eating?

Old habits die hard

Instead of celebrating food as the nourishment that allows our bodies and minds to take on the challenges of the day, eating is often thought of as a task that has to be checked off the list and done in the fastest way possible. To keep up with our busy schedules, we eat what is necessary so we have the stamina to complete the next task (whether that food is nutritious is a whole different discussion). We don’t take the time to experience the food we’re eating and although we may long for a nice quiet meal, we don’t make it happen. 

The stress of life bubbles up and old habits take hold again. 

 

When people talk about healthy eating, the focus is usually on consuming whole foods and eating a moderate amount. But where are we addressing the deeper issues? The numbing and lack of presence with our food and bodies. 

 

After 15 years of working in healthcare, first as a dietitian and then as a physician with a special interest in weight management, I’ve come to realize that there isn’t any diet that will fix our problem

 



Mindful and intuitive eating: the missing pieces to end the body-shaming struggle and shift the focus to health (not weight).

Eating intuitively helps shift the focus from weight to improving your health. Minimize body shaming by mindful and intuitive eating.

Intuitive and mindful eating can transform the way you see food and your body!

It’s true, it can. When you begin to eat mindfully, you re-establish hunger and satiety cues that will guide your body in what it needs. You begin to enjoy the food you are consuming. 

 

Many people are skeptical when I suggest that this is the missing piece of the puzzle. They have already attempted every diet, are painfully aware of what foods are “healthy” and which aren’t, yet they still feel they are fighting a battle they can’t win. And I come along and suggest this simple (yet very challenging) solution? It sounds almost laughable. They want to know: “Are you sure I don’t also need to eat a liquid diet at the same time?”

 

Their struggles with weight, body shaming, and self-loathing have continued because their approach to dealing with it is a set-up for failure. There may be a time and place for liquid diets and intermittent fasting, but what really needs to happen is a reconnection with their body. This can happen by learning intuitive and mindful eating.

Changing your approach to eating matters.

Are you ready to learn how to break the unhelpful patterns of yo-yo dieting, shame, and disconnection? 

Follow along with this series of articles aimed at giving people healthy tools to improve their overall health!



Upcoming posts:

At war with ourselves: Tools to improve your health and stop fighting the weight-loss battle

5 Steps to Body-Positivity and Self-Love: Changing the negative self-talk

Shifting the focus from diet and weight loss towards improving overall health

Food Cravings and Shame: A Perfect Storm of Emotional Eating and Discomfort

Craving Food and late-night snacking: How to Counter Mindless Eating

 

 

Lynn Stiff, MD, RD, MS is a board-certified family medicine physician, registered dietitian, and the founder of Nutrition Health Life, LLC. Through her years of practice, she has come to realize that nutrition is not just “calories in equal calories out” and that many simplistic weight-loss strategies cause more harm than good. She is passionate about helping women reject diet culture and focus on their value without regard to the numbers on the scale. She helps women learn to love themselves in their own skin and reframe how they see food, exercise, and the world in which they live.

 

How to Stay Positive During Quarantine: Fun Distractions to Lift You Up

If eliminating self-care could cure or prevent COVID19 infections, I wouldn’t be writing this post. Running ourselves into the ground won’t end the tragedies resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. Quite the contrary, prioritizing our health, taking part in enjoyable activities to help us stay positive during quarantine, and making time for meaningful connections will minimize the emotional destruction. Many of us are feeling short on ideas of things to do during quarantine that will assist us in staying positive. Or we lack the extra energy required to figure out how to stay positive. Here is the list for you!

 

Lighthearted fun can help balance the weight of the news and the emotional toll from COVID19. It’s not selfish to give yourself a break. It’s essential.

 

This is the 4th post in a series about resilience and coping strategies to help manage the stress and worries surrounding COVID19.

 

Fun (and free) things to do during quarantine:

How to stay positive during quarantine? Thanks to the pandemic, there’s been an explosion of free online resources. Many of the usual distractions aren’t feasible during this time, so it’s a great time to try something new.

 

There are SO many creative ways to take a break. Make a new recipe (or learn how to cook), attempt a craft, master a skill, and, most importantly, laugh while doing it. Despite the limitations that come with stay-at-home orders, the range of possibilities for entertaining and enjoyable distractions are vast. Although life balance is always important, it is now essential in order to maintain our mental health during and after the pandemic. Let’s have some fun while trying to stay positive during quarantine.

Staying positive during quarantine with these temptingly enjoyable options:

Staying positive during quarantine can be challenging. How to stay positive despite the stress? Here is a free list of fun things to do during quarantine.

I’ve included a variety of options for distraction and entertainment so that regardless of the time of day or one’s mood, there will be something that fits. Not every distraction on the list is related to mindless fun because other outlets are also key: relaxation, exercise, engaging your mind in education, future planning, etc. Staying positive during quarantine takes a bit more creativity but there are wonderfully fun and enhancing options available.

 

Give yourself the time to try out these options, and I’d love to hear how it went. Include others you recommend in the comments so we can all enjoy them.

Creative Fun:

1. Learn how to make art … or art-like items

This entertaining Utube channel explores creativity and art around the world. He includes art challenges that teach how to create “masterpieces” out of trash. This quarantine creativity challenge shows people how to make a pizza box sculpture. Who doesn’t need one of those? Even if you don’t make one yourself, he is entertaining to watch!

2. Do a great job pretending you’re a graphic designer

Try your hand at graphic design with Canva. You can design documents, logos, resumes, flyers, business cards, etc., using their templates as a starting point. Now is a great time to let people know you are thinking of them with a one-of-a-kind card that has your special message artistically entwined. Because… why not?

 

3. Record your family history or favorite stories

Use StoryCorps to record a loved one telling their history, document a conversation, or get lost in amazing stories from others. You could easily spend hours listening to these stories.

 

4. Who doesn’t need to know how to write calligraphy?

Learn how to write calligraphy, so by the time we emerge from isolation, you can send out gorgeous dinner invites (learn how to cook this meal below!). Here’s a Utube video talking about the basics of hand lettering:

 

Mindless Fun:

1. Movies to entertain:

Looking for things to watch? You can work your way through this list of the best 90’s movies. Hopefully, you won’t kill too many brain cells watching … and if you do, balance it out with resources listed in the “Enhance Yourself” section.

2. Virtual tours:

Take a tour around 12 famous museums from the comfort of your couch.

 

The National Archaeological Museum is the largest museum in Greece. It includes “a panorama of ancient Greek culture from the prehistory to the late antiquity” with “works of art, dating from the pre-emptive period (5000 BC) to the times of the Roman conquest.”

 

Always wanted to go to Paris and visit the Louvre? Maybe it can happen someday, but for now, enjoy a virtual tour of the museum’s exhibition rooms and galleries.

 

Not into museums? What about a tour of a zoo or aquarium?

3. Operas?

Ever wanted to hear a bird song opera? It is hard to listen to this and not smile. Cute, simple fun.

 

4. Recreate museum masterpieces

How to stay positive during quarantine? Who says it needs to be boring? The Getty museum’s challenged people to recreate works of famous art with household objects. It’s amazing how creative these people are (and reminds me of how truly uncreative I am at the same time)!

Enhance-Yourself-And-Your-Life Fun:Staying positive during quarantine can be challenging. How to stay positive despite the stress? Here is a free list of fun things to do during quarantine.

1. Take a course or watch educational videos

What about taking a free online Ivy League course? What’s there to lose if it doesn’t cost you anything to try? Here’s a list of 450 courses that range in topics from health and medicine, computer engineering, history, art, etc. Most of these are self-paced and can be done when it’s convenient.

 

Enjoy Rotten Tomato’s list of the 100 best documentaries of all time. Good documentaries are the perfect combination of entertainment and history, so it always feels like a valuable way to spend time.

 

2. Learn about women who have created our history

Ok, so I’m biased because the creator of this website, Women Creating History, happens to be my daughter. However, I was blown away when I saw what she did. Not only because she was in 7th grade (at that age, I spent my time passing notes and trying not to get caught), but because I couldn’t believe how many of these incredible women I had never heard of!

 

Please do me a favor and leave a comment with suggestions of other women around the world who need to be highlighted. Let’s keep her busy researching them, so she stays off her phone!

3. Explore Google Arts and Culture

Although I imagine this resource has long existed, I am excited to have found it! I could spend the day looking at all the different areas it covers. Enjoy digestible snippets (with beautiful pictures) about historical figures or go on a hunt for the Jadeite Cabbage at the National Palace Museum, Taiwan. Have you seen this cabbage?

4. Learn to cook

Balance stress with fun. Here's some great options to try.

Not gifted with the natural ability to make delicious food? Take these free virtual cooking classes and learn from the masters. Start working on the menu for the post-COVID dinner party you will host.

 

5. Plan out your future

There’s no better time like the present to think about how you want to shape your future. This powerful yet invisible virus has forced us to re-evaluate our priorities. Take advantage of this momentum, and spend time looking ahead. Download my free guide for the 10-steps that will walk you through this process.

 

 

5. Learn to dance (or laugh while massacring the moves)

I am not sure this is the right category for this video; however, if I could dance like this, I’m sure my life would be enhanced! Unfortunately, I don’t have any faith that I could recreate these moves even if I watched the video 100 times on 1/2 speed. Either way, I’m up for laughing at myself! Maybe you are naturally gifted with the ability to dance but need some new moves? Apparently, all we need to do is look at our kitchen tools for inspiration. I guarantee this will be a fun, life-enhancing, distraction that will help you stay positive during quarantine!

 

Relaxation fun:

1. This seems like a good time to take a long bath and read an inspirational book

If you need extra inspiration and new books, Goodreads has a list of the best inspirational books.

2. Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation

If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, give progressive muscle relaxation a try. It’s a great way to settle your mind and body. This document walks you through it step-by-step.

3. Relaxation apps and resources

How to stay positive despite the stress?  Relax and have some fun with this list of options during quarantine.

Breathe2Relax is a stress management tool that helps decrease the body’s ‘fight-or-flight’ (stress) response. Almost all of us could use assistance turning down the dial on the intensity of our stress lately.

 

The UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center has recordings of mindfulness and guided meditations specific to COVID19. Save this site for the future because this website is always a great resource for mindfulness.

 

Listen to recorded meditations on Insight Timer. This guided meditation app can help reduce anxiety, manage stress, and improve sleep. This app effectively eliminates the excuse “I didn’t have time” because meditations can be chosen based upon the amount of time you have available.

 

Although not precisely a relaxation app, I would argue that sleep is pretty relaxing (when you sleep) and pretty un-relaxing when you are lying in bed staring at the clock. The CBT-i Coach is a cognitive behavioral therapy app made by the Veterans Administration that helps target sleep-interrupting thoughts and behaviors. This is a structured program that teaches sleep-improvement strategies to alleviate insomnia.

 

Fitness Fun:

1. The newest fitness craze

COVID19 has brought with it several new fitness crazes. Here is one of the latest and a great example of staying positive during quarantine:

 

2. Exercises delivered to you

Try out Orange Theory without paying the dues. They have launched Orange Theory At Home to help burn off the excess energy caused by sitting at a desk teleconferencing all day.

 

Currently, Peloton has a free trial offering a variety of classes, including strength training, meditation, and stretching. No bike required!

 

This selection of free online yoga classes will be there after the pandemic passes. They have an extensive listing of videos with enough variation that everyone, except the guy pictured below, should be able to find an appropriate level class.

Staying positive during quarantine can be challenging but taking a break to have fun will help. Balance is essential

4. Get outside

Dr. Nerissa Bauer, a behavioral pediatrician, and child advocate, encourages us to get outside for a change in scenery as long as we can do it safely and continue to practice social distancing.

 

Sometimes a change of scenery helps, especially if everyone is going stir crazy. So get those shoes on, sunscreen and sunglasses and get outside. Bring out your portable chairs and arrange on the driveway or porch. Listen to the birds chirping. Get out for a walk with your dog. Go solo while listening to your favorite podcast or music. Get out for a hike (check local listings to see if places are still open) but ALWAYS practice social distancing.

How to stay positive during quarantine

Staying positive during quarantine can be challenging. How to stay positive despite the stress? Here is a free list of fun things to do during quarantine.
Feeling the weight of the world

Remember, self-care is not selfish but an essential way to sustain one’s mental health while we are immersed in a world filled with immense worries about COVID-19. The ripple effects will be felt for years to come, so continuing to build resiliency is critical. Life as we know it has changed with people experiencing diminished financial stability, unthinkable tragedies, and healthcare workers being sent to the front lines without proper protective equipment. However, this pandemic will pass, and life will resume, albeit differently for some. Focusing on things to do during quarantine that balance the weight of the world will improve our mental health during and post-COVID19.

 

I encourage you to read this Slate article about “people who lived through other major viral outbreaks—from SARS to Ebola to the 1918 flu pandemic—on what it felt like when life started returning to normal.” It’s a wonderful way to visualize the “other side,” our life after this pandemic.

 

In the meantime, while we wait for a vaccine and cure, take time away from stress to have fun and stay positive during quarantine. Invest in your future by strengthening the other parts of your life unrelated to the virus.

 

Share with us what you tried from the list and how it went. Did you learn something new? Let us know what it is! Tell us about other enjoyable diversions you’ve found during quarantine so we can all benefit. The more options, the better!

 

Here are my other posts related to COVID-19: 

Resilience During COVID 19: Managing the Stress of Coronavirus and Finding Inspiration in a Time of Crises

Gifts Brought by the COVID-19 Virus: Connecting with Others, Resilient Reminders, Recovery, and Hope

Building Resilience to Balance our Fears and Anxiety about COVID19

How to talk to children about COVID-19 and help them feel less anxious

 

Building Resilience to Balance our Fears and Anxiety about COVID19

Beyond handwashing, wearing a mask, and keeping a physical distance from others to minimize the risk of COVID19 infection, building resilience can help us manage the stress and carry us forward to the time when life eventually returns to “normal.” Anxiety about COVID19 can become all-encompassing and overwhelming without intentional efforts to balance our fears. Bonus: Increasing resiliency can be fun and doesn’t result in dry, cracked hands!

 

Stress and fear are normal reactions to a scary situation. Tragedies are happening, and it’s important to acknowledge this. But at the same time, we must remind ourselves of our resiliency and ability to recover from adversity. Improving resilience doesn’t have to be complicated or even require vast amounts of time. Self-care, a critical ingredient in resilience, can be incorporated and integrated into the moments we have throughout our day.

 

This post is the 3rd in a series about building resilience and finding inspiration written to help navigate the uncharted waters brought by COVID-19. In the last post, we discussed a few surprise gifts delivered by the pandemic. The next post is full of fun distractions to brighten your day.

An important reminder about increasing resiliency: 

Taking time for oneself is not selfish; it’s essential. We are not making anything better in this world by depleting ourselves. We cannot prevent the tragedies that are happening by depriving ourselves of nurturing or compassion. Self-care doesn’t change the facts related to COVID-19, but it can certainly change how we manage it and move forward.

 

We need to permit ourselves to claim moments during the day to take care of ourselves. We also need to kick fear out of the driver’s seat and put ourselves back in it. Fear may be part of our journey right now, but it doesn’t need to be the navigator.

Prioritizing self-care

 

Child Psychiatrist, Dr. Dana Reid, addresses the importance of prioritizing self-care to help balance our fears in her post: Taking Care of your mental health during COVID

 

…we are ALL grieving. We may be grieving the loss of a loved one, the loss of our sense of stability and security, the loss of our freedom to do what we want when we want, the loss of our jobs or businesses, the loss of big celebrations like graduations, weddings, planned trips, playing in a state championship game or the loss of time spent with our dear loved ones.

 

Even as we are feeling uncertain or even lost, it is imperative that we prioritize self care and our mental health. Stress can substantially compromise our health and immune systems, and the spiral of anxiety will exacerbate our fear. Although we might be tempted to numb out these uncomfortable emotions, it is necessary to allow ourselves to feel them. It is important that we try to maintain a strong sense of normalcy as best as we can. We need to focus on what we can control if we are to find any stability in these trying times.

Staying resilient amid anxiety about COVID19

Buiding resilience will help us balance our fears and anxiety about COVID19. Prioritizing self-care and increasing resiliency can be fun and help us recover

Each of us has ways we typically manage stress (some healthy, some not), but these are not usual times. We can’t automatically go about our routines or utilize all our standard coping strategies. Many of the ways we typically de-stress are now unavailable: going to the gym, out to dinner with friends, to the movies, etc. Unfortunately, some of the less healthy coping strategies are more accessible: alcohol, eating for comfort, isolation, avoidance.

Self-care options to balance our fears and build resilience:

Here are a few options for integrating self-care and coping skills into the current pandemic-life realities. Self-care, and the following coping strategies, will help facilitate building resilience and minimize the amount of time we are distressed and overwhelmed with anxiety about COVID19. Be sure to also look at the previous post, which covered a key component for increasing resiliency: connecting with others.

1. Be informed but not immersed in the news:

 

Completely cutting oneself off from the news is not practical for most people. However, spending too much time watching it can leave people feeling depleted, scared, and overwhelmed with anxiety about COVID19. Try sticking to one reputable source that provides updates without sensationalizing them.

 

When speaking with others, try not to let talk of news about the pandemic dominate the whole conversation. Although supporting each other through this shared stress provides comfort, it is also essential to have a break from it and remember that other parts of life still exist.

Time on social media

 

Read what this physician anesthesiologist writes on BeThree regarding her recommendations about spending time on social media during this coronavirus pandemic. Find her additional self-care suggestions here: How to Stay Positive in Times of Stress

 

It’s important to stay up to date on the news and arm yourself with the facts and recommendations on how to handle the Coronavirus crisis. However, it’s not good to read social media posts on anecdote after anecdote of all the bad outcomes and issues plaguing healthcare and our society at this time. Being constantly surrounded by bad news can make you more stressed and make it more difficult to stay positive.

 

While yes, it’s important to know what’s wrong, when you surround yourself constantly with bad news, it can perpetuate negative feelings and negative thoughts, which can have a huge effect on your mental health. So, take breaks from social media and take a breather from all the news out there. Acknowledge that we are in a crazy negative situation and create positive moments for yourself to help you get through it and cope.

2. Increasing resiliency is fun:

Buiding resilience will help us balance our fears and anxiety about COVID19. Prioritizing self-care and increasing resiliency can be fun and help us recover

Mindless, simple fun can give us the enjoyable downtime we need and give our brains a break. Escaping from the seriousness and weight of the world’s worries helps us to rejuvenate. Unfortunately, this is a marathon and not a sprint, so pacing will be essential.

 

  • Do you have a hobby that has always intrigued you but you never tried?
  • Is there a fun project that has been sitting at the back of your closet (or in your attic) that you put aside because of lack of time?

 

Downtime can be as simple as watching cute cat videos online, rereading your favorite book for the 100th time, or that funny movie you’ve meant to see. You can read a riveting or inspirational book, or even explore museums and zoos virtually!

 

Because incorporating fun and relaxation to your day is essential, the next post is dedicated to providing you with lots of options to explore. Because they are all free you can’t go wrong with trying them!

3. Gratitude will help with building resilience

When looking for more information on gratitude and its protective effects on stress, I came across a post written by Jeannie Lawrence, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist. She does such a good job explaining the benefits of incorporating gratitude to balance the stress of the pandemic that I decided I would link to her post instead of re-explaining it. She includes recommendations on how to incorporate gratitude into your day that are applicable all the time, not only during the stress caused by COVID-19.

 

In How a Gratitude Practice Helps Us Feel Better Despite Life’s Circumstances she says:

 

Being grateful focuses our thoughts on what we already have, and the positive emotions that are already available to us right now. It extinguishes our human tendency to wish for what we do not have, which only leads to feelings of deprivation, sadness and worry. I find that it is impossible for grateful thoughts and negative emotions to exist in the same moment. If you want to feel greater contentment and satisfaction in your life despite what is going on around you, intentionally focus on what you have to be grateful for, and watch your mood improve.

Make time for self-care

 

Without the normal structure of the day in place, many people (especially those that are new to working from home) are struggling with how to start and stop their day. Work time is bleeding into downtime making less time for self-care and relaxation. Ideas for how to create a framework around your day will be discussed in an upcoming post.

 

Ready to try out some fun (and free) distractions to help get you through this time? It’s ok (and necessary) to give yourself a break! Check out the next post for these creative and uplifting options.

What are you doing to balance your worry and stress about Coronavirus?

 

 

Gifts Brought by the COVID-19 Virus: Connecting with Others, Resilient Reminders, Recovery, and Hope

This crisis has painfully peeled away some of life’s superficial layers, helping us see what matters. People feel vulnerable, and life seems more fragile…because it is. Surprisingly, the coronavirus pandemic that has changed our world, bringing fear and devastation to many communities, has also delivered a few gifts. How ironic that the COVID19 virus that drives people apart, scattering people into their homes, and keeping them standing 6 feet away with faces covered by a mask, has also been the conduit for bringing people together. Connecting with others reminds people they are resilient, supporting recovery and hope.

 

This is the 2nd post in this series about building resilience and finding inspiration written to help navigate these uncharted waters brought by COVID-19.

The gifts: Connecting with others, recovery, and hope

The stories of connection and healing are the silver lining framing the fallout from this virus. People are reconnecting with old friends and family members, and rekindling relationships not nurtured for years. Heck- talking on the telephone is no longer taboo!

 

  • Families are holding virtual reunions, spending time with distant relatives they only knew as kids
  • Old friends are gathering online to catch up
  • People are sharing more of their lives with their current friends
  • As the private parts of people’s lives seep into view, colleagues are seen as more than their role at work. While teleconferencing, we get glimpses of homes, kids, and animals in the background. Everyone seems a bit more human.

 

The vulnerabilities brought by the virus have allowed people to notice… truly notice…each other.

Do you see how people smile with their eyes?

 

Thanks to the masks, we aren’t distracted by smiles that hide sadness or worry. People’s eyes are windows into the truth. The signs were always there, but we were too busy to look. Instead, we saw what was convenient or what people wanted us to believe. We focused on what people said and ignored the lack of eye sparkle to back it up.

The coronavirus pandemic brought immense tragedy, yet the COVID19 virus also delivered gifts: connecting with others, resilient reminders, recovery and hope

Thank you COVID19 virus: Finding the words. And listening.

People seem willing to listen to each other and less hurried to get on to the next thing. Many are taking the time to connect when they wouldn’t have seized the opportunity before. Conversations that were generally superficial and rushed, devoid of details about the important emotional pieces of lives, now include vulnerability. People are finding the words they previously struggled to say.

 

Words carry the power to heal. And now that people are talking more, I have heard many stories of healing. These include opportunities to process past events with family, support received related to the COVID19 virus, and acceptance felt after sharing personal details of one’s life. Conversations are occurring that never seemed possible.

Healing amidst the coronavirus pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic brought immense tragedy, yet the COVID19 virus also delivered gifts: connecting with others, resilient reminders, recovery and hope

There has been a forced re-evaluation and re-setting of priorities lately. Although we are affected by the coronavirus pandemic differently, there’s a feeling of togetherness. Nobody is immune (literally and figuratively) or safely out of reach of the virus’s ugly tentacles. The collective sharing of this experience brings comfort, especially to those who feel alone. Connecting with others helps people feel more resilient.

 

Loneliness and fear didn’t start with this virus but now it is openly talked about. Financial devastation, insecurities about the future, trauma, anxiety, and depression have existed since the beginning of time. Yet, previously, many felt alone, walking through these experiences in a silo filled with shame and self-judgment. Now, thanks to the pandemic, struggling and being vulnerable feels a little bit easier to share.

 

Physical distancing and staying at home do not have to equate to social isolation. Positive connections help us remain grounded, nourish us, and keep us resilient. They will enable us to recover from all the ways the virus touches our lives.

We are resilient: Recovery and Hope

Amidst the tragedy and negative fallout from the COVID19 virus lies a few bright spots. For those, I am grateful. As this virus passes, I hope our enhanced ability to reach out, support, and connect doesn’t leave with it. Let’s take advantage of these gifts without needing a pandemic to remind us to engage with others, prioritize what we value and need, and that often, the risks we take to share our true selves pay off.

What has been your silver lining to the COVID19 virus?

 

The next post in this series discusses building resilience to balance stress and recover from the adversity caused by this virus. Getting sick of doing the same things? I put together a fun list of options: How to Stay Positive During Quarantine: Fun Distractions to Lift You Up

 

Looking for additional reminders of how resilient we are?

Physician, Dr. Stacia Dearmin, writes about post-traumatic growth and how this, rather than post-traumatic stress disorder, can be the end result of traumatic and stressful events. She uses her experience of the trauma of an unexpected patient death to explain the growth that can arise from adversity. Dr. Dearmin dedicates her time to supporting other physicians struggling with the emotional toll of adverse patient outcomes or malpractice litigation.

 

From her post Can Setbacks Really Set Us Up for Comebacks?

 

…We who work in healthcare see post-traumatic growth all around us every day. Patients and families give us the extraordinary privilege of seeing ordinary people confront terrible circumstances with love and dignity, often wresting from them something beautiful for themselves, others, or generations yet to come.  They use their “setbacks as opportunities to … positively affect the world…

The gift of adversity

Another great option to read about recovery and hope is a book called The Gift of Adversity: The Unexpected Benefits of Life’s Difficulties, Setbacks, and Imperfections written by a psychiatrist, Norman E Rosenthal MD

 

Using stories from his own life—including his childhood in apartheid-era South Africa, his years after suffering a violent attack from a stranger, and his career as a psychiatrist—as well as case studies and discussions with well-known figures like Viktor Frankl and David Lynch, Rosenthal shows that true innovation, emotional resilience, wisdom, and dignity can only come from confronting and understanding the adversity we have experienced. Even when life is hardest, there are meanings to be found, riches to be harvested, and gifts that can last a lifetime.

 

Resilience During COVID 19: Managing the Stress of Coronavirus and Finding Inspiration in a Time of Crises

COVID 19 has brought with it an enormous amount of uncertainty, and our world seems to have changed overnight. Previously familiar parts of life now seem strange and even disorienting (like driving through downtown on a gorgeous Saturday and seeing stores shuttered and no people). Reports of tragedy and sickness surround us, and fear can take over if left unchecked. Managing the stress of coronavirus is made easier by finding inspiration and sources of hope which help us build resilience during COVID 19. When this is over, I wonder how long it will take for hugging friends and standing next to strangers to seem normal and devoid of thoughts about social distancing and virus transmission.

 



Resilience during COVID 19: Managing the fear of the unknown

Because unknowns are unsettling, it’s comforting to draw comparisons to previous experiences. These help to put a familiar framework around the unfamiliar and make it feel more predictable. But there aren’t many of us who have any experiences to compare with this coronavirus pandemic. Besides the unsettling graphs predicting the time until peak infections in each location, there are no familiar formulas to understand what’s going to happen. Because we can’t use our past experiences of “how it turned out last time,” it’s harder to minimize one’s fears or reassure ourselves that everything will be okay.

 

Although we may not personally have experienced anything similar, some people have. Finding inspiration in other’s stories of recovery and healing can help make managing the stress of coronavirus easier. Even if the details vary, the essential take away is the same: we are resilient.

We are resilient: Finding inspiration in others and resilience during coronavirus

In this time of crisis, fear can take over. Managing the stress of coronavirus and finding inspiration will build resilience during covid-19

Two extraordinary women, ages 101 and 95, are the epitome of strength and resilience. Their story, beautifully captured by the New York Times, was written about how they are handling the current pandemic. Both women have lived through some of the worst of times (think Holocaust, Spanish Flu, Polio, lack of antibiotics, Great Depression, and family tragedies…), yet their words are like a breath of fresh air. They are truly inspirational. The only sadness I felt reading about them was that the article came to an end.

 

I highly recommend taking a moment to immerse yourself in their story and use it to think about examples of resilience in your life, those around you, and in the world.

 

In these times, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the negative things happening around us. But it is crucial to take time to recognize the other side: positive stories of healing and connection, acts of kindness, and, most importantly, reminders of our resilience.

 



Managing the stress of coronavirus: The antidote to fear

The best antidote to fear of the unknown is the belief in one’s own ability to deal with, figure out, handle, and heal from adversity. If you have faith in your ability to care for yourself and recover, you can reassure yourself when you are feeling overwhelmed and immersed in catastrophic predictions. Strengthening resilience during coronavirus is an essential part of stress management.

 

From the New York Times article:

 

“When catastrophe is sequential, it eventually trains its survivors to greet terror with the serenity of the enlightened.”

 

Remember, it’s normal to be worried about what is happening in a time of crisis. By managing the stress of coronavirus, we can prevent being consumed by fear and having it take over your life.

 

If you are struggling:

 

  • Write down examples of adversity you have faced and got through.
  • Write reminders of your resilience so you can refer back to them when needed.
  • Read about other people’s resilience and recovery and use them as inspiration.
  • And if you are stuck, this is a great time to reach out for support.

 

Tip: In moments of high stress or overwhelm try Box Breathing

Dr. Harry Karydes is an Emergency Room Physician and wrote 5 Ways to Ease Stress Amid Crisis. He shares what he has found helpful when faced with moments of incredible stress working in the ER. He suggests an effective way to calm oneself is with box breathing, a technique developed by US Navy Seal, Mark Divine.

 

Here are the steps for Boxed Breathing shared in his post:

 

  • Close your eyes and exhale all the air from your lungs to a count of 4 seconds
  • Retain and hold for 4 seconds
  • Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose for a count of 4 seconds
  • Retain the air in your lungs and hold for 4 seconds
  • Exhale slowly through your nose

Don’t underestimate the depths of resilience: Finding inspiration

In this time of crisis, fear can take over. Managing the stress of coronavirus and finding inspiration will build resilience during covid-19

I wrote an article, published in Psychiatric Times, about my experiences working with a patient 20+ years ago, the valuable gifts she gave me, and how she made me a better psychiatrist. Although I changed the identifying details to protect her identity, my sentiment, and the depths of her resilience are real.

 

If I was to ever wonder about a person’s ability to recover from extraordinary adversity, all I have to do is remember her. Although her life was overflowing with hardship, she found words amidst her years of silence. She had the ability to grow, the capacity to love, and a gentle spirit that was never destroyed.

 



In a situation where things feel impossible, let her story be a reminder of how incredibly resilient we are.

Share with us examples of resilience during COVID 19, enjoyable distractions you have discovered. What are your strategies for coping during this pandemic?

 

This series will continue to focus on resilience and ways to make these stressful times a bit easier. Here are the next posts:

The Gifts Brought by the COVID-19 Virus: Connecting with Others, Resilient Reminders, Recovery, and Hope

Building Resilience to Balance our Fears and Anxiety about COVID19

How to Stay Positive During Quarantine: Fun Distractions to Lift You Up

How to talk to children about COVID-19 and help them feel less anxious

Looking for additional ways to inspire yourself? 

For thoughts on the meaning of life and finding joy, read:

Life in Search of Meaning: Finding Your Meaning and Purpose of Life

Is joy possible? Finding your purpose through active living  (not all the suggested activities in this post are feasible during this time of quarantine, but there are still options that are).

Take this time of reflection and reevaluation as an opportunity to set goals. Spend time thinking about how to live a life you love:

Achieve Your Dreams! A Series on the Importance of Setting Goals

Feeling stuck in life? Instructions from a psychiatrist on how to live the life you love