One of the top three stressful beliefs people shared when I asked what bothers them the most on a regular basis was “I drink or eat too much.”
I sure do know the pain of these. Not fun.
Now, this doesn’t have to be huge over-use, alcoholism, disordered eating, crazed bingeing, or very extreme behavior (like I myself experienced)….to be stressful.
Simply consuming when we said we didn’t want to, or wouldn’t, can start setting up a cycle of regret, frustration, and self-talk that says “I’m not good enough” or “I made a mistake”.
Usually, I’ve found there’s something very compelling, something I’m looking for or seeking, something I’m trying to avoid (or so the mind thinks) that becomes worth the act of consuming.
You know what the substance does.
At first, just for a moment, it offers some relief, it tastes so good, it’s pleasurable, the body relaxes. Yum. Ahhhh. Relief from tension.
Then, it wears off. The moment of pleasure moves to the next phase. Difficult digestion, bloating, restless sleep, dehydrated.
We’re so upset, we wonder “Why did I drink that again? Why did I eat that again? There must be something wrong with me!”
But instead of jumping to the conclusion that you are flawed, you can study the process and wonder to yourself “What is happening before I decide to consume this thing, that I would ditch feeling good physically and use this thing to get some pleasure, or relief?”
What’s going on in my day, in my week, in my mind, in my thinking….that says “eat, drink, smoke, TV, internet” or whatever your thing is?
What am I worried about?
What’s the worst that could happen if I stop consuming this thing, substance, activity altogether in this moment?
Often people reach for their favorite relaxers when they have unscheduled time, at the end of the work day, at night, when they’re alone without obligations.
Just last night, my back was a little achy, I had a wonderful day with clients and projects and exercise midday….but I remained at the table with the laptop, working on something. My husband was waiting to take a walk. The clock passed 8:30 pm, then 9:00 pm, then at 9:25 pm I looked up and called out to him in the other room “I’m almost ready” (he is very patient).
Ten more minutes before I stood up and put on my jacket.
It appears in my evenings (this is not the first time) I’m unable again to pause, stop, relax, switch gears and end the work day.
What’s going on?
If you’re wondering about yourself, you can answer the question…what’s the worst that could happen in your mind and thoughts, if you stop?
If you stop eating, working, drinking, smoking….what is terrible about this mentally? What would you experience?
Now don’t just go and say “Nothing would be terrible about it! I’d love it! I’d finally be happy! I’d be doing something right!”
Now, now. This is the way we often think that covers up the underlying fear about what could happen if we stop.
You’re not crazy. There is actually a reason or thought process underway that repeatedly thinks if you stop enacting your compulsive behavior, consuming, watching, eating, busy-ing, there will be hell to pay.
So in my case, what’s the worst that could happen in my thinking if I stopped working?
I’d feel anxious. I’d want those tasks done. I wouldn’t be able to sit still with unfinished projects half completed. I’d think the empty space should be filled with something. I should accomplish something.
This can be a huge source of stress, and even a sense of profound powerlessness for people, the thought “I should be doing something productive.”
The mental judgment that what you should be doing ought to be productive, and sitting still isn’t productive, relaxing isn’t of benefit, doing nothing isn’t good.
Is it true that doing nothing is bad or wrong? Is it true you should be doing something?
Can you absolutely know you should be doing something productive?
No. It wouldn’t make sense to be producing 24/7. It’s not possible. It’s not balanced.
What happens when you think this thought?
I press on, push myself, think, make lists, check them off. If I sit still or do something different, I can’t stop thinking about doing something.
I battle with the desire to rest. In the past, I would begin to eat, and eat more. I’d watch a movie in the dark. Anything to avoid doing the things I thought I should be doing. I’d rebel! Anger would arise! I’ll do whatever I want! (Consume).
Who would you be without this thought that you should be doing something productive and acting like a good citizen?
Oh. Huh. Never thought of that before.
Let go of believing I should be accomplishing something? Is that OK?
I once had a friend who couldn’t stop cleaning, scrubbing, doing dishes, polishing even if I came over for dinner. She appeared unable to sit at the table with me and enjoy a conversation. When she stopped, she stepped out onto the balcony for a cigarette. The only way to pause.
Who would we be without the belief we should be Doing?
Part of my mind moves to imagining I’d get depressed. You mean nothing is required, and there’s nothing to do? But. Don’t I matter? Isn’t this all about making a difference? I feel so good when I complete a major project, or do something cool. Isn’t that what all the great successful people are doing? Constantly accomplishing things?
Without the thought I should be accomplishing, I might fizzle into nothing and die!
Haha! (It’s true! We will all fizzle and die, at least this body will.)
Who would you really, really be without worrying about what your mind has to say if you unplug, rest, relax, stop?
I’d notice we get tired, go to sleep, shut down AND we “do” every single day. I’d be moved to work when I wanted to work, without forcing, being rigid. I’d be more caring for this body. I would have no urgency.
Turning this thought around: I should NOT be accomplishing something. I should be accomplishing nothing.
Yes. My greatest desire is to be with everything, open to all that is in this world, and to experience the joy of being here for this temporary time. One thing I always wanted was being comfortable doing nothing.
Not contending with anything, not fighting anything (including this mind), not believing things will be better, later, once I finish the task…but to enjoy the laundry, the writing, each client, sweeping the floor, taking out the garbage, sitting on my couch, walking, sleeping…without expectation. Noticing.
Loving What Is.
Including empty unscheduled time, rest, slowing down, the space of stillness. No need to consume something or reach for pleasure, but allowing the quiet to be here now, even in the midst of a mind screaming that you need to do something.
Do you have to believe everything you think?
Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. ~ Lao Tsu