Maybe It’s Time to Break Up

Mirror Fasting - Dare 2 Hope Blog

Last week we talked about the importance of paying attention to and guarding against things that work against eating disorder recovery (or recovery from anything for that matter!). Today I want to talk specifically about our time in front of the mirror.

Ah, the mirror. So many have a love-hate relationship with it. We often dislike what we see, but we can’t seem to go without it either. Many people with eating disorders and body image issues spend a lot of time body checking in the mirror. There is nothing about standing in front of a mirror for long periods of time or multiple times a day and inspecting your appearance that is helpful. If you spend a significant amount of energy focusing on the things about your body that you wish you could change, you will inevitably feel bad about yourself.

One of the sad things about that is that no one is perfect, and each one of us could find flaws to obsess over. I read an article a while back in which Jillian  Michaels admitted that she has cellulite on her rear, and there’s nothing she can do to change that. Considering that 100% of the human population is physically imperfect, how sad is it that we can become convinced that our individual flaws mean we’re not beautiful? And even worse… our self-perception is often spoiled by flaws that aren’t even there.

See, that’s the problem with mirrors. They are not accurate reflections because it’s all about how our eye, and ultimately our brain, perceive an image. And that is highly subjective. Ever met someone that you thought was plain looking but after you got to like them, found them attractive? Or on the flip side, met someone attractive and then after discovering an atrocious personality, didn’t find them so physically appealing anymore? Our perceptions—even the ones that seem trustworthy, like our eyesight—can be very skewed based on our emotions and attitudes.

Body checking in the mirror is about more than just seeing if you look okay. You’re wondering on a deeper level if you’re okay. But a mirror can’t tell you that. If it can’t give you an accurate reflection of your physical self, it certainly can’t give you a reflection of your inner self worth.

So I’m throwing out a challenge to stop believing what the mirror tells you. Commit to reducing the time you spend body checking, and no matter how strong the urge to, definitely don’t stand there and pick apart your appearance. Decide there are more important things that you’d rather spend your time and energy on. How about doing something fun instead? What about doing something kind for someone else who needs it?

And here’s an even bigger challenge…consider getting rid of your body checking mirror altogether. You don’t necessarily need to fast from all mirrors, but I’m guessing you might have a full-length one that you use for body checking and not just doing your makeup and hair. It sounds impossible, I know. I did it when I was in recovery, and I thought I wouldn’t make it. My anxiety was sky-high at first because I’d become addicted to the mirror. But after a week or two, I adjusted…and actually felt freer than I’d felt in a long time. I also realized how much more time I had because I wasn’t wasting it searching for answers that a piece of glass could never really give me anyway.

Go for it! Break up with your body checking mirror, even for just a month, and see what a difference it makes in how you feel! I know you can do it.

much love,

Cherie_signature

Feelings – Fact or Fiction?

Feelings are like waves...

Emotions—particularly intense ones like depression, anxiety, and anger—can be so powerful that our judgment is sometimes clouded by them if we’re not careful. We can even find ourselves in a habit of being ruled by them, which is not fun for us or the people around us.

It’s an easy trap to fall into because feelings feel so real. I mean, when we look in the mirror and see certain flaws, we feel ugly, so we believe we must be. When our boyfriend doesn’t call, it feels like he doesn’t care, so we assume he doesn’t. While it’s hard to believe something other than what our emotions are screaming at us from the inside, we need to remember that feelings aren’t facts. Everyone has flaws and they don’t mean we aren’t beautiful. Our boyfriend didn’t call because his cell phone died, and he hasn’t gotten home to charge it yet. Assumptions and generalizations will get us in all kinds of trouble if we don’t watch out for how they play with our emotions!

And yet, feelings aren’t fiction either. We can struggle just as much and stay just as stuck when we tell ourselves that our feelings aren’t valid as we do when we believe they are the end-all-be-all. Peace finally starts to come when we stop struggling against our feelings from either angle and just accept them for what they are—feelings! In their own right, they are neither fact nor fiction, good or bad.

Instead, view feelings as red flags that something needs to be paid attention to. Learning to recognize and analyze these signals in a healthy way is whole other topic, but at least being able to remind yourself that feelings are okay but they aren’t facts is a place to start.

What do think is the hardest thing about dealing with feelings?

much love,

Cherie_signature

 

How to Stop Dwelling on Things – Part 2

Ruminating - Part 2 - Dare 2 Hope Blog

Last week in How to Step Dwelling on Things – Part 1, I talked about what rumination is and the negative effects it has on our mental and emotional well-being. This week I want to talk about what to do about it. After all, we might know a behavior isn’t the best, but if we don’t know how to change it, we’re stuck!

In addition to the problem solving approach I already talked about, here are some ideas of things to try next time you find yourself obsessing about a situation.

Distract Yourself. Sometimes you just need to get your mind on something else. Try doing something enjoyable like reading a book, writing a thank you to someone, doing something active, going outside, or some other hobby you like doing. It can be helpful to make a list ahead of time so that you have already ideas when you need to distract yourself.

Schedule a worry break. Dr. Lauren Feiner recommends actually scheduling 20 to 30 minutes a day to ruminate to help contain it to a specific period of time. At other times of the day, remind yourself that you will have time later to worry and contemplate.

Let go. Once you’ve done your problem-solving on the situation and you’ve figured out what you can control and what you’re doing to do about it…acknowledge what you can’t control and work on letting go of that. No doubt, this is incredibly hard to do, but start by making a choice to let it go—and then keep making that choice every time your mind wanders back to it. If you’re honest with yourself, you’d probably have to admit that you increase and extend your misery by hanging on to things you can’t control.

The good news is that rumination is a thought and behavior pattern that can be changed. It’s a habit, and like any other habit, it takes effort and time to change. But the improvement in your health, happiness and relationships will be worth it!

Do any of these work for you or sound interesting enough to try? What has helped you get over ruminating?

much love,

Cherie_signature

 

How to Stop Dwelling on Things – Part 1

 

Ruminating - Part 1 // Dare 2 Hope Blog

Do you ever get stuck for hours or even days on something that went wrong or upset you? Maybe it was a fight with someone, or making a mistake at school or work, or something not working out the way you hoped it would. Whatever it might be, your mind plays it over and over like a song on repeat.

It’s called rumination, and it means that we over-think or obsess about situations… and it’s incredibly destructive. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, Ph.D, a psychologist and professor at Yale University found that “when people ruminate while they are in depressed mood, they remember more negative things that happened to them in the past, they interpret situations in their current lives more negatively, and they are more hopeless about the future.”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? While you’re replaying the event over and over, you’ve also replayed a ton of other unpleasant memories in your mind, not to mention gone down the list of everything currently wrong in your life. No wonder you feel worse than you did after the original event!

Everyone does it occasionally, but people who frequently ruminate are much more likely to struggle with depression and anxiety, and those problems are hard to overcome without changing ruminative thought patterns. Sometimes, people try to deal with rumination with eating disorders, addictions, and other unhealthy coping mechanisms, but these just create their own problems.

Or sometimes, people keep ruminating because they believe they’re gaining insight from it. They believe if they analyze the situation thoroughly enough, they’ll figure out a way to fix it. While it’s true that thinking it through should lead to coming up with solutions or making improvements, most of the time our problem-solving abilities get shut down because we are too caught up in how upsetting the situation is. We end up feeling helpless, frustrated, or depressed.

Denying or avoiding our feelings is one unhealthy end of the spectrum, and rumination is on the other. The goal is what Nolen-Hoeksema calls adaptive self-reflection. This involves processing your emotions so that you don’t ignore or get stuck in them, and also focusing on the concrete parts of the situation and the improvements that can be made. Effective problem-solving asks answerable questions that lead to a useful decision or plan.

Do ask concrete, helpful questions such as:

  • What can I control in the situation?
  • How can I respond in a way that honors myself and others?
  • How can I grow from this?
  • What are the potential positives of this?

Don’t ask abstract, self-defeating questions such as:

  • Why do things like this always happen to me?
  • Why are things so unfair?
  • Why can’t I handle things better?

Next week I’ll talk about the next step in overcoming the rumination habit. (Update: Check out How to Stop Dwelling on Things – Part 2.)

What was the last thing you ruminated about? Did ruminating make you feel better or help the situation, or make things worse?

much love,

Cherie_signature