My New Worry Cure; Maybe It’ll Help You, Too

Oooh, pretttttty! (That's what I'm trying to say about my life right now; I just want to take a look around and go, "Neat!")

Anxiety. It’s a word you’ve heard me say often enough here on I don’t have an anxiety disorder, but when things in my life change, or good—or just new!—stuff happens, I can feel quite queasy and unsettled. Those feelings of anxiousness have been a big binge trigger throughout my life. Like many of you, I used mounds of food to numb them and “deal” the best way I knew how.

Of course, now that I’m not using food, I have to just feel them and work through them. And I’ve found healthier ways of dealing like talking about it, exercising, and meditating. But I’ve stumbled upon another new tool, and it’s been kind of amazing. Here’s how it happened:

A few things have been heating up in regard to my book lately (discussions about publicity and speaking engagements, and what magazines an excerpt should run in—all good stuff), and about a week ago I found myself feeling incredibly anxious, and almost blue. I thought to myself as I was sitting on the subway on the way to work one morning, “This is an amazing time in my life, why am I not enjoying it more? Why I am feeling all of these unpleasant feelings instead of excitement and joy?”

And the answer came to me: My perfectionistic side had kicked in big time, and I had been thinking about all of this in terms of results. I had been focusing on what the outcome of the work I’m doing right now will be once the book comes out in April rather than what it’s like to live and work on it today. That made “today” feel sort of meaningless and gray, like drudgery rather than exciting or engaging. And, because the future is unknown, living in it like that is scary to me rather than wonderful.

As these connections were being made, a phrase popped into my head totally unbidden: “Beginner’s mind.” It was like the proverbial lightbulb went on over my head, and I immediately felt less stressed out.

Beginner’s mind is a mindfulness concept that I first read about in a post by Tiffany Stewart, Ph.D. on her Body Image Project blog. When practicing it, you basically attempt come at things as if you’re a true beginner: curious and maybe even a bit wide-eyed, with a fresh and new point of view, almost as if you were a child. No pre-conceived notions about what it’s going to be like, what it means, or how to do it.

I realized that beginner’s mind is the only way for me to approach this part of my life because, well, it’s the first time I’m ever doing anything like this. It’s the first time I’ve written a book! It’s the first time I’m going to be expected to publicize something of my own! It’s the first time for a lot of things that I’ve been doing this year! So why wouldn’t I have a beginner’s mind about the whole thing? Everything?

Giving myself permission to be new at something, to be wide-eyed and excited, to approach it with curiosity rather than pre-conceived ideas has soothed my anxiety and made my daily to-dos more…fun! This is the only time I’m going to publish my first book. I’m giving myself permission to act like it and feel like it.

Maybe this is the first time you’re going to go to a party since you’ve started trying to recover from binge eating; or maybe this is the first time you’re trying to be in a relationship where you ask for what you really want; or maybe this is simply the first time you are 19, or 22, or 35 years old. No matter what it is you’re facing that might be making you anxious, or making you seek numbness in food, maybe you can take the beginner’s approach, give yourself a break and take a look around—without judgment—at what’s going on and just take a moment to wonder at it. Maybe it’ll help. I know it did me.

What do you think about this beginner’s mind idea? And what do you use to help you get through anxious times without turning to food? xo…Sunny

6 Responses to My New Worry Cure; Maybe It’ll Help You, Too

  1. Jessie says:

    Great post, thank you!
    I get completely overwhelmed when something changes or is new or good in my life too. And I find myself wondering, why am I not enjoying this time in my life right now? I am happy, but I don’t feel it because I am so concerned/worried about getting to all the good stuff-graduating in December, my mom moving away (for an awesome new job!), getting married in June. I also feel like if things are going well for me, then things are definitely going to go downhill for me soon (so maybe I’m afraid to be happy about these things?!). I have always dealt with these issues by binge eating or restricting. I love the idea of “beginner’s mind,” and my goal for this week is to be “present” in the moment.

  2. Andrea Owen says:

    Sunny, I love your idea! And it’s great that you had such an epiphany.
    Whenever I feel like you mentioned, and my inner gremlin gets noisy, I remember something I learned from my training as a life coach: Whenever you are on the verge of something BIG, your gremlin gets very uncomfortable and will try to keep you down.
    It looks different for everyone, as everyone’s gremlin looks different. Mine is a perfectionist too. She wants me to do more, to be more, but all the while telling me I’ll look stupid, fail and P.S. I should be thinner while I do it all.
    At this point in my life rarely do I consider restricting, but I’ve noticed lately I’ve wanted to weigh myself. Or, should I say my gremlin wants me to weigh myself! ha! I’ve just had an epiphany myself…
    Congrats on the book, too 😉

  3. Carly says:

    I think a lot of us perfectionists can relate to anxiety issues and trouble dealing with change. But it doesn’t have to get the best of us :) P.S. Can you tell us more about your book, Sunny? I’m so curious and I can’t wait to read it!

  4. Blue says:

    Hi Sunny,

    I just wanted to thank you for this post. Thinking this way helps me to not feel so much pressure, which usually leads to more binging.


  5. Kensington says:

    Love it. It reminds me of how I felt when I travelled out of town to my first eating disorder conference. It was such a new experience to me and I was nervous. I allowed myself to just experience things and make sure I was In The Moment, as they happened.

    I have a friend whose book is being published next month and she is in freak out mode. I’m going to fwd her a link to this blog.

  6. Erica8 says:

    Wow, Sunny. As a fellow perfectionist and anxious-too-often person I cannot even explain how much I can relate to this. Beginner’s mind is an awesome way of looking at the journey instead of just the destination. Thanks for the enlightening post!


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Sunny Sea Gold

About the Author

Sunny Sea Gold is a media-savvy advocate and commentator specializing in binge eating disorder, cultural obsessions around food and weight, and raising children who have a healthy body image.