“Feet on the Floor” with Diana Tikasz

This is a sample chapter from our Staying Grounded in Stressful Work online course.  

This online training course consists of 15 videos/chapters lead by Diana Tikasz. The course comes with a digital Resource Guide with chapter overviews and exercises.  Total course time = 3.5 Hours

Chapter 1. Introduction

Chapter 2. Visualization: A Social Stress Test

Chapter 3.  The Threat Response

Chapter 4. Running on Adrenaline and Numbing Out

Chapter 5. Is All Stress Bad?

Chapter 6. Resilience

Chapter 7. Polyvagal Theory and WTF Debriefing Strategy

Chapter 8. Tree Exercise (and the Green Zone)

Chapter 9. Grounding Technique: Feet on the Floor

Chapter 10. Grounding Technique: Centering

Chapter 11. Strategy: Stress Inoculation

Chapter 12: 3 Mindfulness Strategies

Chapter 13: Strategies to Use During a Stressful Situation

Chapter 14: Strategies for Resetting After Stress

Chapter 15: Taking Care of YOU

 

To learn more about accessing this online training for yourself or for your entire organization, visit our product page or contact our Client Manager, Tasha Van Vlack by email or by scheduling a call.

Here at TEND, we are committed to providing support for organizations of all sizes and look forward to hearing from you.

Conversations on Compassion Fatigue with a Minister & Police Chaplain

 

Conversations on Compassion Fatigue is a series where we interview professionals from high-stress and trauma-exposed environments to discuss issues around compassion fatigue, organizational health, vicarious trauma, moral distress and self-care.

We sat down with a Minister and volunteer Police Chaplain to discuss his personal experience with compassion fatigue, how it helped him connect with police and first responders, and his strategies to manage stress and burnout. 


Can you tell us a bit about your work as a Minister & Police Chaplain? 

“I’ve been a minister since 1998. I am currently based in Western Ontario serving in a Presbyterian church but have served in several different churches throughout Ontario. I also serve as a volunteer chaplain for our local police service.

In addition to my ministry work, I teach courses on maintaining healthy boundaries, managing multi-staff teams, formal mediation skills and coaching skills at a local college. I am passionate about engaging with my community and have been involved with organizations that support poverty elimination and affordable housing.

What has been your experience with compassion fatigue?

There was a time earlier in my career when I truly thought: “I can’t do this anymore.”

One thing that was really getting to me was the amount of people telling me that they had been diagnosed with an illness. In speaking to a counsellor at the time, I remember telling them that I just couldn’t handle one more person with bad news from the doctor’s office.

I was also starting to get déjà vu moments when visiting someone in hospice or the hospital. I would be in a room visiting – and have the eerie realization that I had been in this exact same room just last week visiting a different person.

I remember thinking: “I don’t want to be compassionate anymore. I’m fatigued. I think I got that thing.” I am a voracious learner, so I had heard the term compassion fatigue before and kind of understood what was happening. 

What did you learn from your experience with compassion fatigue?

One thing that has been particularly helpful in working as a volunteer police chaplain is learning that there are many parallels between the work of ministers and of first responders. 

Not everyone is a Christian – so, when you’re a person of faith working in public service, you need to approach it in a way that resonates with others and in a way that is useful to them. I’m not there to proselytize and I don’t show up with a ‘Team Jesus’ t-shirt. It’s all about building rapport. 

One parallel between my work and that of first responders is this funny shift in perception that can happen when someone finds out what you do for a living. People start to act a little weird and change how they behave – they might censor their language or immediately start telling you all of their problems.

There is also a professionalism piece that is similar. Whether it’s to speak to a witness or to offer words or a prayer, you’re in a situation where people are mourning and people are hurt. But you have to maintain your professionalism and do your job – that can be difficult.

For those who work with trauma, we might be impacted by trauma every week – sometimes every day.  We need to learn to be aware of our own baggage. If we’re carrying a lot of shame or anger, those things can start to impact us and our ability to do our jobs.

It can be difficult to talk about these things with first responders. One tool that has been helpful when I talk to them is the idea of ‘seepage’. I might say to an officer who is struggling: “I think your bucket is full – and its seeping out in weird ways.”

That kind of language seems to resonate with them and has been useful to open the way for conversations on compassion fatigue and other difficult things.

In your field, what do you think could be done to mitigate the effects of compassion fatigue?

Self-care isn’t really part of our training in the ministry. As a population, we don’t look after ourselves very well.

I think one of the biggest challenges in the world of ministry is around boundaries. As ministers or chaplains, we often get embedded into people’s lives – and that can easily spill over and blur the lines. Social media is a great example. 

I’m not on social media and I don’t do pastoral care on Facebook, but some of my colleagues do. With social media, you’re always working and you’re always on, and its easy to inadvertently disappoint people. If someone posts something about a difficult situation and you don’t comment or don’t see it, that person can be disappointed or even angry. And that’s a lot of extra stress and pressure.

Another challenge that I see in my work is related to this idea that, if you are suffering, you must be doing your job well.  Some ministers or chaplains don’t appreciate their limits and and are constantly burning the candle from both ends.

We all know that trite saying about oxygen masks – but its true. In order to do this work well, we must recognize our limits and learn how to take care of ourselves. 

What does your self-care practice look like?

I am very intentional about my time off – when I’m off, I’m off. Being firm with your boundaries isn’t something that makes you very popular, but it is important for myself and for the people I serve. 

Each year I take a silent retreat in a monastery in the States. During this time, I don’t talk to anyone or use any technology. The first year, it was difficult to disconnect from work since people have expectations about what you should or should not be doing.

But if you’re firm, people will eventually acknowledge the boundaries that you set.

One year when I was away, our church steeple got struck by lightning – and no one from the church contacted me about it. I found out about it in a funny way. I was talking to someone in the police service and as they were hanging up, they said: “Oh, and sorry about your steeple getting scorched.”

I didn’t rush back to help with the situation. One of my mantras is: “I serve a role and I’m important – but I’m not irreplaceable.”  I knew that there were capable people who were handling it and I would do my part when I returned to work. You need to have faith that others can figure things out in your absence. 

One of my mantras is: “I serve a role and I'm important – but I'm not irreplaceable.”  You need to have faith that others can figure things out in your absence.  Click To Tweet

What do you find challenging about your work?

One of the biggest challenges of working in ministry is when our values as an organization don’t match up with our actions. As a church community, we express things like “loving our neighbours” – but then, we don’t act very lovingly to our neighbours.

This has big implications, but I’ll give you a small example. A few years ago, our congregation wanted to purchase fair trade coffee for our events to support ethically sourced products. However, it turns out that fair trade coffee is a heck of a lot more expensive than a can of Folgers. Plus, we were still using disposable Styrofoam cups and offering bottled water because it was convenient and cheap. 

We preach concepts like caring for the environment and supporting others – but then sometimes decisions are made that are based on self-interest. It can be heartbreaking and difficult, especially when you are in a leadership position. 

What do you find rewarding about your work?

I love having the opportunity to talk to people about stuff that is meaningful to them. I really enjoy talking with people and having in-depth discussions about this crazy life of ours. It really jazzes me up. 

I have the privilege of being with people and supporting them during the most challenging situations that we encounter as human beings. It’s incredibly challenging but I think it’s part of how I’m wired – I love what I do and it’s an incredible gift.

Do you have any favourite resources or books that have helped you in you work?  

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk and anything by Brené Brown.” 

Coming Home to Secondary Traumatic Stress

Someone looking into car rear view mirror with sunset in background

I recently had a challenging week managing my secondary traumatic stress reactions.

What happened felt long past and yet familiar – I had not experienced symptoms this strong since leaving full-time clinical work. It kind of caught me by surprise, although, in hindsight, it shouldn’t have, and I think I know why it happened:

I had been working long hours in the office and sleeping less than I needed  – because summer is short in Canada, and the sun was shining, and the nights were balmy, and there was live street music to be enjoyed, and late-night conversations with dear friends to be had, and BBQs to be cooked and shared with my wonderful children and their friends.

I had also been reading a beautiful, but deeply disturbing, fiction book before bed (I know, I know) and had spent six hours on a drive listening to a podcast about a con artist who ruins people’s lives. (I KNOW – “What the heck?!” right?)

Basically, I was doing all the things that I tell other people not to do – lack of sleep, extraneous trauma exposure, poor pacing…and my fatigue and vulnerability sort of crept up on me.

Then, in rapid succession during that same week, I heard a series of terrible trauma stories at work. If you work in this field, you know the ones that I mean: those that bring up another case that you thought you had long forgotten and had stored far in the recesses of your brain; or an image that sends a chill right up your spine; or stories that make you stop breathing for just a second as you lean towards the pain and suffering of the person in front of you, in a state of deep empathy.

To top it all – and this is important – one of these stories wasn’t something that I heard at work: I was visiting with a friend, having a lovely catch-up, sitting in the garden, and forty minutes into our chat, she shared, without warning, a terrible story that had just happened to someone in her life on this very same day. She shared all of the sounds and images of the accident as people do when they are processing trauma. I don’t blame her for doing that, she was traumatized and needed my support and that is absolutely fine, but because we were chatting casually and I didn’t know the story was coming, it caught me off guard and hitched a ride with me for a few hours. 

 

Coming Home

 

When there is a lot of secondary traumatic stress (STS) in me, I tend to withdraw from my family or steer all conversations towards hard topics related to my work. I still “show up” and cook and clean and do groceries and hug my kids, but I have very little mental energy left to engage in non-trauma conversation – especially if the topics are “civilian” concerns (the latest Congressional hearing? Blah) or one of my family’s three favourite topics (politics, gender politics, college basketball – someone save me). I normally enjoy a good smart debate about all of these topics, but when I’m full of STS, I just wish everyone would talk about cute puppies OR trauma.

This, in and of itself, is a solid warning sign for me, and I noted it as it occurred.

At the end of that week, my partner and I went on a lovely drive to visit some friends who live upstate New York – lush rolling hills and great music playing in the car.

I was quiet and reflective for the first hour. Finally, I told him – “This was a hard week for me. I heard a lot of difficult things, and although I won’t slime you with the content, it made me reflect on how it used to be for you when I did front-line trauma work full-time.”

He looked far off into the distance, took a deep breath, and replied: “Those times were really hard.” 

Ok, so he’s a man of few words, but I knew what he was saying because we have been together for 30 years, and he has been a witness to my entire journey as a trauma clinician. We have discussed, in the past, my sometimes difficult transitions back into our home life, my irritability and lack of engagement in things that he is passionate or interested in. The way I sometimes withdraw to bed at 8pm because I am completely maxed out.

What is it like to be in a relationship with us? What is it like to be our friend when we don’t return calls for weeks or show up at birthday parties and tell a trauma story we think is hilarious but no one else does?

 

Resetting our Foundation

 

So yes, I hear a lot of hard things in my job – and I am sure you do too – and it’s normally fine because I have a whole arsenal of tools to pace and reset myself, but that week, because of my “summer 2019 extravaganza” behaviours, I wasn’t as prepared and grounded as I usually am. I was working with a shakier foundation.

Since I teach and write about secondary trauma for a living, I also watch myself very carefully and take mental notes:

  • “Feeling very anxious for no reason”

  • “Decreased appetite”

  • “Hmm, interesting choice of night-time reading…”

  • “Check me out picking a fight with my son before I even put my briefcase down –  even though I had told myself ALL THE WAY HOME not to talk about this immediately as I walked in the door.” (Awesome parent of the year award…)

By Friday midday, I was feeling completely out of sorts. However, because I know my STS symptoms so well, I didn’t let these things go on for very long.

I decided to call it a day and took myself offline for a bit. I went to do some non-trauma related stuff for myself (insert your favourite self-care activity here) which, on that day, involved a pedicure and buying a tool at the plumbing supply store.

(And, yes, both things can co-exist in a person – a pedi and some bad-ass DIY.)

Yet during this mini-break, I noted my persistent level of hyperarousal. Throughout the afternoon, I was unable to shut off the overactive thinking and the list making. 

So, I took a deep breath, went home, put the terribly sad fiction book away, watched an episode of Queer Eye (I LOVE THEM) and went to bed early for a proper night’s sleep.

Coming home to STS is an ongoing process – we need to remain self-aware, take notes of shifts in our behaviours, pace ourselves and listen to our loved one’s feedback when they say “you are not yourself today” (without biting their heads off). We also need to rest and restore our bodies and our brains, so that we can continue being present to all aspects of our lives. 

Coming home to secondary traumatic stress is an ongoing process. We need to remain self-aware, take notes of shifts in our behaviours, pace ourselves, and listen to our loved one’s feedback. Click To Tweet

This leads me to asking you the following questions:

  1. If you are a trauma-exposed professional, have you asked your loved ones/friends what it’s like to live/hang out with you when you are in the Yellow zone?

  2. What would they say about how you transition from work to home?

  3. What would they say about the impact hard stories and cases have on you? On them?

  4. Have you developed a keen self-awareness about your warning signs and when it’s time to take stock and reset yourself?

As I finish writing this post, I am sitting in my garden on a cool Sunday morning. There is a light breeze blowing and my daisies are gently bending in the wind. The raccoons that live under my shed just came home from their night of carousing and gave me a nod as they crawled back in their den (we have an understanding – they don’t bother me, I don’t bother them).

I feel strong and rested, but I am also keeping a close watch on my thoughts, behaviours and choices that I make about taking care of myself. I love trauma work, but it can’t dominate every aspect of our lives if we are to continue providing high quality, ethical care.

There are so many things that we have no control over in our work – but how we take care of our bodies and our brains must remain at the top of the list.


Recommended Resources:

[Online course] Window of Tolerance Framework (WTF) – Strategies to keep helping professionals grounded and centered

[Online Course] – Compassion Fatigue 101 

Mental Health and the Classroom – with Dr. Mike Condra

 

“Mental Health and the Classroom” with Dr. Mike Condra

 

 

Presented as part of a panel discussion on mental health in Kingston, ON, April 11, 2015. 


TEND Associate Dr. Mike Condra is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Queen’s University and has taught in the undergraduate and graduate programs in the Department of Psychology and in the faculties of Education and Law. 

If you’re interested in having Dr. Condra speak at your organization, contact us at info@tendacademy.ca.

Learn more about Dr. Condra’s live training.

Mental Health: Awareness, Anti-stigma and Helping Skills

Compassion Fatigue and Secondary Trauma – Essentials

Contact us for a customized training for your workshop.

Hot Walk and Talk Protocol

Protocol for the Hot Walk and Talk

©2012 Patricia Fisher, Ph.D.

This protocol applies when there has been no physical injury and the person is stable enough in the aftermath to proceed. In the event that the individual has been physically injured or is in shock you would need to follow emergency procedures and get the appropriate immediate medical resources.

This protocol is designed to provide helpful first aid immediately after a team member experiences a particularly distressing or disturbing incident and is undergoing a completely normal stress reaction. This is something either supervisors or peers can offer each other and you will consider what would work best for you in your particular circumstances.

Remember that when we are experiencing a high stress response our body is in the flight, fight or freeze state and we are flooding with stress hormones and all the physical, emotional and cognitive responses that go with that. So, our first response introduces safety and containment for the person.

The following steps in the process are typically helpful:

  1. Go to the individual, ensure that they are physically out of danger, and ask them to come walk with you.
  2. Walk away from the area where the incident occurred and toward a neutral or safe area (if you can get outside that can be even more grounding).
  3. Walk beside them and set a pace that is brisk enough to engage the individual and help them discharge some of the distress… as the walk proceeds you may find that they naturally slow the pace – let them progressively have more control over the pace as the debriefing proceeds.
  4. Bring a bottle of water and have them drink the water as you walk
  5. Let them know that they are safe now and you are here to support them as they move through this absolutely normal response to high stress.
  6. Ask them to tell you what happened in their own words, if they seem stuck in the incident, prompt them to move on with the narrative by asking “and then what happened”. You want to help them move through the whole narrative from beginning to the end – until they get to the present where they are walking with you in safety and are no longer at risk.
  7. After you have gone through this initial debrief you may work in an environment where you are required to complete an incident report. If this is the case, go with the individual and ask them how you can help in completing the report. They may want you to type in the information as they dictate it, or they may simply appreciate your presence while they complete the report.
  8. Remember to remind them to focus on their breathing and open posture to help them deescalate from the stress response – especially after you have stopped walking and may be standing or sitting.
  9. After the initial debrief and report (if required), ask the person what they would find helpful now? Do they want to phone a family member, get a sandwich, take a break, go back to work? They need to have control over their choices while attending to their needs.
  10. Let the individual know that you will remain available to them and encourage them to access addition supports that may be available if they would find them helpful (e.g., Employee Assistance Programs, counselling, other community resources)

Following, and sometimes parallel to, this immediate first aid response, there may be additional steps needed from an institutional perspective. These may include:

  • 􏰃  The debriefer stays with the affected person, and asks a colleague to notify the supervisor about the incident. The debriefer can provide updates to the supervisor as needed.
  • 􏰃  The supervisor speaks with the affected person(s) and assesses whether the person should remain at work following the incident. The debriefer or supervisor assists with making travel arrangements if the affected person is not in a condition to drive home. If the affected person goes home early, the supervisor phones the affected person to ensure that they arrived home safely.
  • 􏰃  The debriefer emails a summary of the incident to the supervisor, based on the information gathered from the affected person. The supervisor may also be responsible for submitting paperwork.
  • 􏰃  The supervisor updates other staff in the office about the incident, as needed.
  • 􏰃  The supervisor works with the affected person(s) to discuss any case management or other relevant

    decisions in relation to the incident.

  • 􏰃  The supervisor will check-in periodically with the affected person and continue to offer support in the weeks that follow.

Unspoken Impact of Trauma on First Responders by Michael V. Genovese

unspoken-trauma-first-responders-michael-genovese

Michael V. Genovese, M.D., J.D., is the chief medical officer of Acadia Healthcare which operates a network of 585 behavioral health facilities with approximately 17,900 beds in 40 States, the United Kingdom and Puerto Rico. As well, he is the Medical Director of the Officer Safety and Wellness Committee of the FBI National Academy Associates. Dr. Genovese is also an advocate for attorneys and first responders seeking treatment for addiction and co-occurring disorders.

Dr. Genovese writes, speaks, teaches and consults widely in the disciplines of pharmacology, neuromodulation and pharmacogenomics. He has kindly agreed to allow us to share his article on the impact of trauma on first responders. 


Bravery is one act, but courage is consistent. And our nation’s first responders are the very definition of courage. Each day, they make the difficult choice to run towards the danger that we run from. In doing so, these officers experience significant trauma, yet rarely have the opportunity to process those experiences before speeding off to the next emergency. 

Science shows that repeated trauma alters the neural pathways and injures the brain. These Post-Traumatic Stress Injuries are linked to startling, yet often unreported, rates of mental health illness, which can manifest into substance abuse or worse. In fact, first responders are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty. 

So why are our heroes not receiving the help they need? In my role as medical director of the Officer Safety and Wellness Committee of the FBI National Academy Associates, I’ve met countless officers who have struggled to overcome the trauma experienced in their line of work. Many say they’re expected to be mentally and physically tough, and the stigma around mental health treatment prevails. Admitting they have a problem may cost them their badge – and their identity. 

This is quickly becoming a national crisis, but too many departments are reluctant to admit this crisis exists, much less implement programs to address it. Here are four ways we can change that:

 

Acknowledge mental health injury

Post-traumatic stress is an injury, not a weakness. If a first responder broke his or her leg in the line of duty, treatment would be a no-brainer. We must recognize and treat brain injuries in the same way. 

 

Build resiliency through training

It is not enough to wait until officers are injured. We need to proactively provide training to help officers build resiliency. Resiliency can be learned and can help officers manage the extreme pressure and trauma inherent in the job. 

 

Shift the culture, from the top

Law enforcement agencies must normalize mental health care by proactively offering support services and treatment. This requires a shift in culture which must be led from the top. Support systems can include employee assistance programs, peer support policies and confidential resources, to name just a few.

I am proud to be a part of Treatment Placement Specialists, which provides treatment guidance that reflects the individualized needs of officers. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also provides excellent resources for mental health treatment.

 

Build pathways back to work

In most professions, overcoming personal challenges, such as depression or substance abuse, is supported and celebrated. But for first responders, the result is often the loss of their job. This severe punishment is unnecessary and leads to further trauma and depression. We need to formalize a pathway back to service, so individuals aren’t penalized for seeking help. 

These are not just academic suggestions. These are practical measures that progressive departments are already taking – and they are working. 

We all know the saying, “To whom much is given, much is required.” When we consider all that is asked of our first responders, we should consider a new phrase:

From whom much is required, much should be given.

We must support those who serve by acknowledging the trauma they experience and providing treatment to address the very real impacts on their health. Will you join me? 

References: 

Genovese, M. (2018, October). How Trauma Causes Alternate Pathways in the BrainRebuilding Officer Resiliency: A Treatment Guide, 4-6.

Heyman, M., Dill, J., & Douglas, R. (2018). Mental Health and Suicide of First Responders [White Paper].

 

Ten Tips for Less Evening Over-Eating with Dr. Deb Thompson

ten-tips-for-less-evening-overeating-deb-thompson

Dr. Deb Thompson is a registered psychologist, certified Integral Master Coach™ and longtime colleague of Françoise’s. They met over 23 years ago while working as clinicians at a University Student Counselling Service and subsequently shared a private practice office for many years.

In this guest blog post, Dr. Thompson share’s tips gained from her many years working with clients in the field of body wellness. You can find out more about Deb on her website or follow her on Facebook. 


As a psychologist/coach and course facilitator specializing in weight wellness, I’ve noticed time and time again how over-eating in the evening is such a common and maddening challenge. I also know this terrain personally, as someone who struggled mightily with food, self-care and weight from my teens to late 30’s.

Are you frustrated by the wheels falling off your wellness bus after work and/or at night despite nourishing yourself fairly well during the day?  

Our Inner Critics can attribute this to weakness, but I encourage your Inner Mentor to get more grounded in knowing that our evening over-eating arises from the perfect storm of being hungry, depleted and/or churning with emotions.  

Here are ten tips for circumventing these vulnerabilities with some new or renewed habits, practices and mindset moves:

 

1. Don’t arrive home ravenous!

Plan and pack or buy a snack for late afternoon because high, high hunger is high, high risk! When our blood sugar is dropping and our bellies are growling, our primal brains direct us to mow down, which can make for chunks of cheddar or handfuls of trail mix that not only derail our dinners, but also our wellness over the long run.

Snacks with some protein, such as whole grain crackers with hummus, a hard-boiled egg or cheese string, almonds with an apple, Greek yogurt or a decaf latte, will stick to your ribs and see you through your commute and transition to home. Higher fiber foods like apples or popcorn can be filling too.

See if eating in a planful way during the late afternoon helps you eat less in the evenings, and thereby, helps you to eat less overall. It almost always does!

 

2. Prep a snack

Alternatively, prepare a snack to be ready for you when you get home — a kindly gift from earlier-more-energetic-you to later-whipped-you!  If you have kids, this can also help you get through what I used to call the “Arsenic Hour” when everyone is hangry.

Cut up veggies or fruits with different healthy dips are handy, as well as helpful for getting in our seven or more recommended daily servings of produce.

 

3. Disrupt your pathway

Aside from a planned snack, don’t mindlessly head to the kitchen as soon as you get in the door or you are off duty for the night. Go to a different room, do something different — even a few minutes of belly breathing, getting into comfies, or washing your face can break the auto-pilot pattern of cruising the cupboards or fridge.

As Viktor Frankl said, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.creating the gap is key!

 

4. Take a few minutes to transition

In this space, take a few minutes to transition — after work, change your clothes, put on upbeat or chill music, bring in nice scents with lotions or essential oils, create your own shifting gears ritual…

You may have to train other people to leave you alone for a few minutes, especially if those people are wee ones, but it can be done. You can also create a non-food ritual for exhaling at the end of your second shift… once you are off duty for the evening (more on this in Tip #8).

5. Meal planning for success

A little meal planning and preparation can go a long way to ensure faster and easier healthy suppers on busy work nights… you don’t have to be Martha Stewart, but having veggies ready to stir fry or roast, planned-overs to warm up, a soup or stew or chili in the slow cooker, or a sheet pan dinner ready to assemble in minutes are all golden.

Again, re-frame this as an empathic gift from the person that you are on Sunday afternoons to the person you sometimes become by Tuesday 7pm when you are more depleted, hungry and feeling worn out. Try to keep perfectionism out of the equation to avoid tipping into all-or-nothing thinking or what has been called the “what the hell” phenomenon where we overeat to deal with our emotional frustrations and feelings of self-blame.

Having a sticky note reminder of some quicker-than-take out and healthier-than-cheese-and-crackers options, like scrambled eggs or ready-made soup, is also helpful.  

 

6. Process your thoughts and feelings

The emotional residue of our days often rumbles through us into the evening, and it is so very tempting to soothe, numb and reward with food (and wine!).

One strategy is to use free writing to honour and process thoughts and feelings — set a timer for 7 minutes and write without pausing the pen (or editing — this is a *dump* — not journaling or essay writing!) to help process your day…let it rip, say *anything*… vent, rant, complain, yearn.

When the timer goes, aim to have your Inner Mentor extend kindness and empathy to yourself, as well as see if there are any *Actions* or *Don’t forget* items that need put on your To Do list. Then shred or burn the papers over the sink, wash up and exhale.

Cultivating compassion for having done your best… as well as showing yourself kindness and generosity for the true complexity of the challenges of our work is also a powerful component of this practice. For further strategies for lessening the grip of emotional eating, check out these downloadable resources:

Four N’s Instead of Food as Friend [PDF]

Meeting Emotional Needs without Food [PDF]

Getting support, such as through coaching, counselling and the excellent courses here at TEND also helps with reducing the burnout, compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma that can leave us overly vulnerable to turning to food as a (lousy) “friend”.

 

7. Build a Nourished Life

Indeed, everyone benefits from support to build nourished lives such that we have less depletion and stress to prompt us to over-eat after work or at night. This can include creating more belonging, boundaries, a less taxing workload, play/fun/hobbies, rest and sleep, regular enjoyable exercise, emotional supports, and especially: alignment between our core values and our actual lives.

Building a nourished life takes time, and guidance/supports, but it’s important that we put some energy into the prevention of being spread thin, not just coping with it.

What’s ONE thing you might do this week to move the needle a tiny bit on behalf of more movement, rest, play, or connection? You could get to bed 20 minutes earlier, you could do a 15 minute yoga video in your living room, you could plan a coffee date with an old friend, you could sign up for art lessons, you could explore options for coaching or counselling.

 

8. Curate a Menu of Alternatives

Ok, back to more directly disrupting the habit of eating at the end-of-day when you are finally off duty… it’s helpful to develop a menu of alternatives to snacking or imbibing.

Perhaps a bath, a good book, magazine, podcast or show on Netflix? Colouring, crafts, games or texting? A warm drink? Some puttering or light tidying up or getting things ready? Or if this last one feels like more work (which may prompt eating as an escape or reward), then leaving those tasks for morning?

Looking over your menu can help you choose what will soothe, restore and calm you tonight.

 

9. Enjoy a Low Calorie Treat

For end of day, you may like to plan for a yummy-to-you low calorie treat (eating at night is not necessarily problematic unless it involves EXTRA calories)… winter seems like a wonderful time for a baked apple (here’s a microwave recipe).  

It’s helpful to keep high temptation treats like chocolate, chips, ice cream, cookies, etc. either out of the house, or at least out of sight and hard to access… as we do tend to eat more in response to availability. Forbidding these foods is not necessary (and often really backfires into all-or-none yo-yo-ing), but often having single serving options, planned treats when eating out, and healthier alternatives such as popcorn instead of Doritos; broth, decaf or herbal tea instead of wine; or Fudgsicles instead of Hagen Daz are very supportive.

 

10. Reconsider the Division of Labour

If part of your evening over-eating is related to feeling beleaguered and exhausted regarding the division of labour in your home, it can be helpful to have a series of conversations about who does what when with your partner/family. Teaching kids to pitch in can be an investment that pays off in the long run.

If you live alone, get creative in how you might outsource some work  such as cleaning or getting more ready-made foods from the grocery store, and/or have chore or cooking parties with other single friends. Finally, most of us can also lessen our weariness (and vulnerability to emotional or “Eff It” eating) by softening our standards, letting go of impeccability and embracing imperfection with more compassion.


For more, check out this webinar with Dr. Deb Thompson and Françoise Mathieu on how to curb emotional eating [from December 4th, 2017]

TEND Newsletter Archives

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Join our mailing list and get free resources, blog posts and updates on up-coming TEND events sent to your mail box!

 

Edition No. 9 – July 4th, 2019: What is burnout? Does deeply caring about our work contribute to burnout – or is it in fact a protective factor?

Edition No. 8 – June 5th, 2019: All about the brain – protecting your brain from stress

Edition No. 7 – May 3rd, 2019: All About ACES + being trauma-informed in the classroom

Edition No. 6 – March 8th, 2019: What is Self-Care? + whatever happened to the sick day?

Edition No. 5 – Feb. 6th, 2019: Looking into Mental Health – how can we support students + ourselves?

Edition No. 4 – Jan. 9th, 2019: Happy New Year – create good habits, sleeping better + eat more plants.

Edition No. 3 – Nov. 27th, 2018: Toxic workplaces – what is it, how bad is it and what can we do about it? 

Edition No. 2 – Oct. 30th, 2018: Overwhelm – behind at work, don’t check those after-work emails!

Edition No. 1 – Sept. 25th, 2018: Feeling Fried – how to revive, CF from the news? + tips to help burnout