From Despair to Deliciousness
How can you be happy when you feel like the world is falling apart?
Sometimes the weight of our lives can feel like more than we are able to handle or have any control over. Whether the source of the heaviness is associated with our relationships, the environment, losses, transitions, current events, tragedies, or even health challenges, the sense of overwhelming feelings of fear and despair can sometimes leave us feeling incapable of facing the day. During my own journey, I’ve also had times like these.
While in the throes of despair, something else happens that most people do not know about, the blood flow patterns in the brain actually change!
In the case of feeling overwhelmed and despairing, the body knows to send the lion’s share of blood-flow to the hindbrain (the survival part of the brain) and to the midbrain (the emotional part), and less blood flow makes it to the cortex (the thinking part). It does this for several reasons. Most importantly, this redistribution of blood flow helps us fight or flee whatever we experience that we feel is threatening, real or imagined, in physical or emotional in form. Another reason the body makes such adjustments is to also help protect us from difficult emotions that we may not know how to cope with.
Because our cortex is receiving less blood flow when we are feeling strong emotional activation, we don’t have as much access to the parts of our brain that help us problem solve and cope. Since the language centre of the brain is also blood-starved during those times, we may not have the ability to find words to express the barrage of feelings that we are experiencing.
So, without our rational cognitive functions as accessible to us, what are we left with? Well, emotional dysregulation and poor coping strategies, at best! This is one of the reasons many people find themselves drawn to using other coping methods. Alcohol, drugs and junk food can feel like they have our name on them during those difficult times. Unfortunately, while these substances can seem “comforting” in the moment, these resources do not bode well in the long term for most of us.
4 Tips to Help You When You Feel Despair:
These 4 tips can help you shift from that dark place of despair into feelings of greater joy and delicious living.
Be Kind to Yourself.
When you realize that you are not doing so well, instead of berating yourself for your dysregulation or unhealthy coping strategies and behaviours, be gentle with yourself and realize that you temporarily don’t have access to your regular arsenal of healthy coping strategies to handle your emotions as optimally as you would like.
Whether from friends or professionals, having people who care about you there to listen to you can make a world of difference. Know that you do not have to go through this alone.
Often when we feel overwhelmed and despairing, our thoughts can start to loop and grow tentacles. Rumination is a nasty dragon that we do not want to feed. Get out. Change your scenery. Get around others who make you forget about your own ruminative thoughts (kids and pets are great for this!), even if just for moments at a time. Any respite from the storm is welcome and allows you some breathing space away from the feelings of overwhelm or “doom and gloom.”
Allow yourself to enjoy “Comfort Foods.”
Choose options that are healthier versions of the toxic “junk foods” that you normally reach for.
If you want help coming up with suggestions, I have written an entire book filled with delicious ideas for how you can enjoy even your most vicious of food vices, without the guilt and discomfort of betraying your body while you do so.