This week a familiar struggle raised its ugly head again. I had a lot going on the last few weeks and the pressure has been mounting. I think that I could have taken it all in stride had it not been for one area. And that area is school. I am nearing the end of my second to last semester of nursing school. Yup, next May I will graduate and be eligible to sit for my boards. Woo-hoo, right?! Except that I am doubting how much I have learned. I am filled with doubts- I feel like I could have learned more, studied more, did more, did better, studied better, learned better...and to make matters worse, I still don't know what field I want to work in when I graduate. I'm feeling uninspired. I feel like I am rapidly approaching the end and yet I don't know what the next step is. That is definitely anxiety-inducing alone, but then when I add to it my doubts and self-critical thoughts, it becomes overwhelming. And when I get too overwhelmed, I grasp for control wherever I can reach it, which for me is food. It makes me feel so much better when I control and limit my food. But I know that is a lie; I have learned that it only makes me feel better for a little while and the consequences and price for doing so is very heavy.
I have put in a lot of hard work in the last year and a half to deal with my food control issues. I am not willing to give up the ground that I have gained for some temporary stress relief! I know how this works and the tricks of this insidious little voice. So I know that when I feel like this I can't trust how I feel about what I ate, how I feel about my body or even how I see my body. I know from experience that I cannot trust my thoughts and feelings or even my sight when this controlling and perfectionist voice is speaking loudly. I hear this voice getting louder and louder this week and I start to despair. I start to feel like I am not going to be able to fight it off, like all my hard work will have been for nothing, I even start to think "maybe just for a few days, just until I feel calmer."
But then I STOP! I remember something that my therapist told me. This voice is sneaky and I can't control when it sneaks in, but I can chose how I am going to react to it. I remember that I should be gentle with myself and not beat myself up for having those thoughts. Instead, I should recognize that those thoughts are there, acknowledge how I am feeling, and then decide how I want to act. A big part of the struggle is all-or-nothing thinking. And that comes into play when I get down on myself for having these thoughts. In the all-or-nothing mentality, I think "I can't believe that I am feeling this way again. All my hard work as been for nothing. I'm failing because I'm having these thought." But all-or-nothing thinking is rarely an accurate view. When I chose to reject the all-or-nothing mentality, then I think "There are those thoughts again. I know where they led. That is not what I want. I am choosing to to not listen. I know that having those thoughts does not make me a failure and neither does slipping up and repeating old habits. The moment that I become aware of these thoughts or negative actions, I can make a different choice."
Our emotions and feelings respond quicker than our cognitive thoughts. That quick response is actually what keeps us safe and alive. When you pick up something hot, you don't take the time to think about it being hot and what you should do about it. No, you feel pain and react. The same is with how we respond to emotional stressors. Sometimes our feelings are the quickest at driving our actions. But then when our cognitive thoughts have a chance to catch up and assess the situation, we can look at our reaction and decide if we want to continue that action or chose a different one.
I caught myself judging myself for how I was feeling. When I realized what I was doing, I stopped and decided to chose how I wanted to react. That was when I realized that I need to think small for a while until the voice is quieted again. I decided to spend less time thinking ahead and thinking back; and spend more time thinking about now, this day, this moment. I also took action. The groceries were getting low in the house and there weren't a lot of food options. That makes it way too easy to just skip. So I went to the store and restocked our groceries, consciously getting healthy foods that would easy to grab and eat. No more excuses to not eat!
I took action a day ago and it has already made a big difference. I feel proud of myself for recognizing what I was feeling and for taking steps to stop it and not give in. It would have been so much easier to just give in, but I know that is not what I want for myself or my family. And in the long run, that "easier" choice would have led me back down a very hard road.
So today, I continue to think small. I will make my realistic to do list for today. I will eat when my kids eat so that I don't have a chance to skip. I will think about what I want to accomplish with the this day, the day that I have been given, and will have faith that the future will be revealed when I get to it.