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Self-soothing Is the Most Crucial Skill for Dysregulated Eaters

We all get emotionally dysregulated at times—I certainly do—and you’re less likely to perceive food as comfort if you have effective skills for re-regulating yourself. Read on to discover what these skills are and how can you acquire them. For more on emotional eating, read my books, The Food and Feelings Workbook and Outsmarting Overeating.

First off, do you recognize when you’re dysregulated? Or, are you like some folks who raise their voices or get teary, but when asked if they’re upset, insist they’re not? The truth is that many people are totally disconnected from their emotions and/or ignore them as if they didn’t feel them. Think for a moment how you know you are emotionally dysregulated, that is, in an emotional state. Make sure you can identify the specific mental and physical reactions that signal upset.

  • Your body tenses
  • Your heart rate escalates
  • You continuously ruminate about a distressing occurrence
  • You are unable to focus on anything but the thing/s that upset you
  • You want to cry, scream, run away, or shut down
  • Your solar plexus feels like it just took a hard hit

To calm down, be mindful of the words you use and the tone you choose. Be sure to:

  • Speak softly and slowly to yourself with the intent of self-soothing
  • Use kind wording such as, “It’s okay. You’re fine. Everything will be all right.”
  • Give yourself a hug
  • Rock back and forth if it helps
  • Sit or lie down
  • Cry to release tension

    Do the above until you’re calmer. Make sure to remain in the present. Look closely at your surroundings—experience them through all your senses. Get out of your head, especially if it’s replaying the swirling thoughts which dysregulated you in the first place. Imagine a room you can enter any time and be safe in. Visualize entering your safe room and the door gently locking behind you. The moment you enter, you feel soothed, so let yourself relax into the mental image of it. Most importantly, clear your mind because thinking about what upset you will only generate more distress. Concentrate on feeling calm and soothed, and you soon will be because emotions follow thoughts. You can learn self-soothing, a must if you are to end emotional eating.