Enlivening Ourselves

Dear Dr. Norquist: I have food cravings all the time – for chocolate, for burgers at my favorite restaurant, for chips, for wine – the list goes on and on. It happens mostly in the evening, after a full day at work. My job is very stressful and my days are long. Work is rewarding but it takes all my time. I really need my weekends for relaxing. The food cravings worry me though, because I’m starting to put on weight and the cravings seem to have a mind of their own! What do you suggest?

Dr. Norquist responds:
It sounds like you need a means of settling yourself after a long stressful day. Your way of meeting this need has been through food. There is an imbalance during your work week – too much “doing” and not enough relaxation to counterbalance it. This is fertile ground for cravings and addictions.
When you feel the cravings, try turning your awareness inside and asking yourself, with an attitude of curiosity and receptiveness, “What am I really feeling and needing right now?” Take some time to really “sense” into this. Just noticing and acknowledging whatever it is will be very healing for you. It will also allow you to meet your needs without resorting to the cravings.
It is likely that your mind/body system needs a way to slow itself down after such a long stressful day. Health requires balance and your work day is inherently imbalanced. There are many healthy ways to meet these rebalancing needs. What is important is that you discover (or create) what works for you. It could be something physical (like dancing to your favorite song), or something tactile (like consciously taking the time to cuddle and connect with a loved one or pet). It could even be laughing (perhaps along with your favorite sitcom or a humorous book or a friend with a great sense of humor).
Yoga has several efficient and effective techniques that could be helpful to you. Breathing techniques are wonderful tools for managing your mood and calming your nervous system after a busy day. “Alternate nostril breathing” (look for it on YouTube or www.wikihealth.com/Alternate_nostril_breath) is a simple but effective means of rebalancing. Eight rounds of this breathing technique (5 to 7 minutes) can ready you for a relaxing evening. Another very effective means of rebalancing your mind is Yoga Nidra. This is a particularly mindful and restorative relaxation experience that you can lie down and listen to for 15 – 20 minutes to rejuvenate yourself for the evening (see CDs by Amy Weintraub or Richard Miller)
I hope you will find these suggestions to be helpful for you. Please write again and let me know.

(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.)Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at drnorquist@chaitanya.com, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2011 Chaitanya Counseling Services

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