8 ways to self-soothe without food

Eight Ways to Self-Soothe Without Food

Hi, this is Shelley Treacher from the Stress and Anxiety Podcast. Today I’m going to be talking about how you can help yourself to feel better, instead of using food.

Part 1. Q&A: How can I feel better about how I look?

But first I’m going to answer the question that’s come in. I’m quite excited about it because it is something that I think you’re going to relate to.

The question is, how can I feel better about how I look?

When working with Body-Shame, one of the things that I do is to teach you to refocus on what your body does for you, rather than how your body looks. One of my group members responded to this by stating that it’s one thing to appreciate what your body does, but quite another thing to hate how it looks.

So here I’m going to address the latter part of that specifically, but I also talked about body esteem and body shame in a previous podcast so you might want to check that out too.

Often people use the word ‘hatred’ when describing how they feel about how they look. So many of you come to my groups saying.

“I hate my body”

and everybody usually nods in agreement.

Having a bad day with how you feel about the way you look can make you feel depressed in milliseconds about your life. We can escalate very quickly from feeling we don’t look right, to tears and not going out at all.

Hatred is a really strong word though. It’s a passionate emotional experience, and it belies an emotional insecurity underneath, at least in this case.

Body hatred is all about hatred of the self. It’s very common for us to take how we feel, out on our bodies, both in our thoughts and behaviour. It’s the outward visible sign of inner self-hatred, even if it doesn’t feel like it is. So you’ve got to dig a little bit deeper to understand what  he real problem is here.

So ask yourself questions like:

  • How is it that you can’t accept these things about you?
  • What do you imagine will happen if you’re kind and accepting of how you look? Is it a shame issue?
  • Do you fear a lack of acceptance by others?
  • What are you comparing yourself to?
  • Is it the photogenic face of your colleague on Facebook who you only ever see looking like that?

One thing to know about this is that by focusing on how you look, you’re objectifying yourself in some way.

I don’t particularly want to get too much into political rights stance here, but women specifically have learned from society to value how we look above everything else.

So the real question here, rather than worrying what society may have done to you, is to be curious about who or what you’re doing this for.

  • Who is this self hatred of how you look for?

It’s also going to be valuable to wonder where this focus came from for you, and why you’re so focused on it.

  • If you look back into your history, can you see how influential people treated how you looked, and whether they valued looks over who you actually are?
  • Were you bullied at school for how you looked?
  • Did your parents pick on a part of you, or themselves?

So, the healing is really about self-acceptance.

I’m not saying that you have to accept being unhealthily overweight. But one way to explore this is by thinking about who you would be if you loved your body. This may help you to explore the reason why you can’t actually accept a part of yourself.

You could try exploring by saying things to yourself like,

“How I look is perfectly acceptable.”

This should also start to help you see what the insecurities are underneath it.

When words like this come up,

“No, I’m ugly, no one would like me,”

challenge the shame.


Part 2. How to comfort yourself emotionally 04:27

This leads us straight into the next part of this podcast, which is all about uncovering your inner resources so that you can start self-soothing , when you feel this kind of shame or difficult feeling.

So let’s talk. about self-regulation. Self-regulation is all about the ability to manage how you feel with a toolbox of skills rather than eating. Once you’ve learned that your eating is caused by the desire to squash difficult feelings and emotional experiences, you need to know how to manage or tolerate that feeling differently.

Luckily, this can be learned. Some techniques that people use to regulate emotion are popular, and some are lesser known.

1. Mindfulness

The first one, probably the most popular and better known, is mindfulness. Mindfulness is a pause or a timeout during which you simply observe your experience in some way.

The easiest way to start is by focusing on your breath. Often, just doing this will calm your nervous system down from an activated emotional state. The brainwaves change when you do this. The more you practice this, the less reactive you will be in everyday life.

The good news is that you can access lots of free meditations (from one minute to hours) online.

2. Baby Eyes

The following two techniques I use for insomnia, but they could work just as well for helping you to feel safe.

Just as a baby would try to keep itself awake, try to keep your eyes open, then let them close just a little bit, then keep them open again.

Close your eyes just a tiny bit, a third of the way maybe or a quarter of the way, or even an eighth of the way, and then you sharply open them again.

And then the next time you close them, they go a little bit further, so they go a quarter of the way, or half the way, and then you open them again.

And then you close them three quarters of the way, and then you open them again.

Somehow, this way of behaving as a baby would, can trick your brain into falling asleep.

3. Imaginary Massage

The second of these techniques is to imagine that you’re receiving a really safe full-body massage from somebody who you know would be kind to you, Imagine them stroking or touching you in a really safe, kind and gentle way.

4. Breathing

The fourth technique is breathing.

Breathing is amazing! It affects every single system in our bodies, from the physical to the emotional.

Most of us are shallow breathing in our upper chests. Check how you’re breathing right now. We’re not really supposed to be breathing into our upper chests. That’s really reserved for fight or flight.

We’re actually supposed to be breathing from our diaphragms and our bellies and our lower parts in our chest, maybe even into our sides and into our backs. The lungs are huge, but so many of us are stuck up in our chests.

Being able to breathe into the rest of our torso is where the relaxation and satisfaction is.

Last podcast, I suggested humming through your out-breath. But you can also speak more slowly, extending the time it takes to say words. This can be ever so calming.

5. Creative expression

And the fifth technique is creative expression of some kind. Doing something with your hands, physical movement, listening to music, reading, learning poetry, or going into nature.

These are all ways that you can help yourself to self-regulate.

6. Feed your soul

The sixth thing that I want to mention is attending to a healthy lifestyle. I’m not just talking about exercise and food here. But making sure that you have pleasures in your life, that you attend to your relationships and your social life, and that you do things that feed your soul or your higher self.

7. Care for someone or something

The seventh thing I want to mention is to have something or someone to care for, especially if your kids have left home, or you live alone now. This can be another person, a pet, or even a plant.

It might sound really strange, but during the first days of lockdown, I took the greatest pleasure from growing kefir. I don’t know if you know what that is, but you grow these bacteria in a jar and you feed them and you, and you strain them every day. To me that felt life-giving. It was a form of life that helped me feel connected.

But you don’t have to grow kefir to feel connected! There are plenty of opportunities to find something or someone else to care for.

As long as you don’t make this too much like hard work.

8. Visualise feeling safe

The eighth thing that I want to mention, I have also talked about in a previous podcast, is evoking a state of mind where you feel safe, happy, or comfortable with another person, in a certain place, or with a certain phrase. Something that you can remember that makes you feel good and makes you feel safe.

Call that up again when you’re not feeling safe, to remember that experience and to allow your body to experience that again.

These are all techniques that you can put in your toolbox and try when you recognise feeling in a stressed or a low state.

Next time, I’ll be going into a little bit more depth and talking about how to self-soothe when feeling anxious and self-regulate through your body and through understanding what’s going on for you.

But that’s it for today, so thank you for listening. I will be back next week. I’m still loving your questions because they’re so relevant for so many people, even  if you think it’s a small question that nobody wants answered, I guarantee that that’s not true. So please send me your questions. Everything you tell me is completely confidential.

If you need any help with self-regulation please be in touch.  I’d love to help you.

8 ways to self-soothe without food