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Friday, November 16, 2012

Mal-adaptive coping skills-OR-Eating crap makes you feel like crap

Okay,  so....

the past week or so, I have not been eating "the good stuff", and i do not feel good...
hmm... correlation?!?!

--instead of green smoothies packed with vegetable micro-nutrients and hard boiled eggs laid by happy, cage free chickens, I have been eating gas station grab and go breakfast sandwiches for breakfast.
--instead of tuna fish with mayo and pickles on Kale leaves, I have been snagging "tornados" (little tortilla roll-ups stuffed with things like "steak and cheese" or "sausage and peppers") for lunch
--instead of making a kale, red cabbage, broccoli and shrimp stir fry with brown rice for dinner, I have tossed a frozen pizza in the oven and served it with canned peaches one night; another night was frozen chicken nuggets and frozen french fries with canned spinach, instead of the a turkey and spinach pie.

So, not only do I feel extra tired this week, as I also have not done ANY walking this week, I also feel irritable, grumpy, and just plain out of sorts.

While some of those feelings have to do with some life challenges that are creating friction in my spirit and with little annoyances of ongoing themes that I just have to find a way to either change my attitude about or change the system that causes the annoyances (if you can't change it, you need to find a way to just accept it), some of those feelings are caused (or at least amplified) by the poorer health choices I have been making this week.

I had not realized how much my diet and basic lifestyle habits had been changing, or the effect it had, as things changed slowly over the past couple of months since I had started exercising regularly and eating more health consciously.  With just a few days of crap eating and lack of intentionally focused movement, I have found that my general emotional character is on the downward slope and my ability to focus on what I need to do to deal with the challenges before me is diminished.  So it becomes a cycle--some additional pressures of life added to the normal day to day stress of life prompts me to seek out "comfort" foods and reduced my motivation to get my body moving.  In turn the lack of exercise and the poor nutritional quality of the food compounded with the chemical components of processed foods leads to me feeling more tires and burdened, and thus increases the desire to just return to old methods of feeling secure--like being a couch potato and eating crappy foods (odd how those things are associated with "comfort" when they really bring anything BUT comfort in the long run).

It boils down to mal-adaptive coping skills.  Those things we learned through trial and error during the sad, scary, or traumatic times in our lives that in those specific instances alleviated some of the overwhelming anxiety and emotions of that time, which became habits for us even past those extreme experiences.  When you first stuffed your mouth with potato chips or a doughnut while being overwhelmed with fear or anger and knew that expressing it in that moment would have been detrimental to you, it was a moment of survival--you NEEDED to find a way to dissipate those feelings.  Or that terror you felt as a small child and you cried out and your parents gave you sweets to help you feel better while they were grappling with things you could not understand.

The endorphin rush that came with begin so full to bursting that made the pain and anguish not feel so strongly; the serotonin rush that came after downing a cake while despairing from a great loss; the numb, protected feeling that the buzz from an alcoholic drink gave you making you feel less of an painful emotion; the way you could escape from the hard realities of your life by getting lost in a TV program or movie; the distraction from your emotional turmoil that happened when you accidentally shut your finger in a drawer making the physical pain a focus and lessening the emotional pain; the release of various brain chemicals that you got from winning $50 on a scratch off ticket when you were so extremely stressed out about how you were going to have gas to get your baby to the doctors office...all of these experiences are natural things that we have happened upon that momentarily help us feel better from the pain, stress, and fears we have experienced in our lives.

And when they happen once in a while, are not a problem.  But when we begin to use (usually in an unconscious or sub-conscious way) these as a way to cope with the trials in our lives, a way to disappear from the pain and stress that life often brings, that is when these "momentary" and often unplanned experiences went from being a way to survive a momentary physical, mental or emotional overwhelming to a mal-adaptive practice that gets in the way of solving the problems that are creating the overwhelming situations in life.  Yes, they are a type of coping with life, and may in the past have been the only one a particular person could do at a particular time to make it through a particular trauma or period of life. But when they become the default coping mechanism, they end up getting in the way.  Instead of leading to survival and thriving, they lead to self-destruction.

So, reminding myself that eating crappy food and NOT exercising, are, for me, mal-adaptive coping skills, because when the additional stress of certain things gets stronger, I find myself choosing (sub-consciously for the most part, as I had planned out my meals for the week and they did NOT include crap, but just gravitated towards the crap in a less than decisive and more "autopilot"manner) those things which I had chosen in the past that bring momentary reduction of stress.  It solves no problem, in fact, it creates problems because now the same stressors are still there and have not been dealt with, AND I am MORE tired, have less motivation, and on top of the grumpiness I was already feeling, are the feelings of "Duh!!  I know not to eat that and I know exercise makes me feel better".

So, right now, for the rest of this day and for tomorrow too, I commit to eating food that actually makes my body and mind function better, which overall will make me feel more capable and less stressed, so that I can figure out a way to strike a balance with a particular situation.  

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