There's a little game I play whenever I find myself numbing out or otherwise avoiding my life or feelings. It's called Kick the Crutch, and by game, I mean the torturous process of eliminating something for a few days that I previously thought I absolutely COULDN'T. LIVE. WITHOUT. I've done crazy-seeming cleanses in the past, and don't usually undertake these challenges with the intention to swear of all delicious things forever. But I do like to raise my awareness around how much I come to rely on certain comfort foods and/or activities to numb out to what's really going on.
What goes up must come down
This week I played Kick the Crutch by going cold-turkey on coffee and refined sugar: I was turning to both in borderline binge amounts, my consumption creeping up and up, higher than I knew was healthy for me.
Suddenly after a few consecutive days of bad sleep and worse moods, I realized that I was drinking coffee on intravenous drip to get UP and stay UP in the first half of the day, and then by afternoon I would turn to chocolate, macaroons, more chocolate, and other sugary treats to relax and stuff any pesky feelings back down from wherever they were trying to come up from. (Living and working alone in a studio makes you vulnerable to these sort of things!)
I'm on day five today and have had several interesting observations:
- I had a pounding, unrelenting headache on the first day, but it let up after day 2. (Though it did come back on the morning of day 4 . . . old habits die hard!)
- I miss the experience of my morning cup o' joe (tea will never capture the same corner of my heart) but I have much more consistent energy and mood throughout the day.
- Part of the higher energy and mood may also be due to much improved sleep, which coffee must have been affecting more than I realized.
- My physical sugar cravings have disappeared, but I can feel the pull of wanting something FUN to nibble on while watching a show at the end of the day. That's been one of the hardest aspects of the habit to kick.
I know I will add coffee and sugar back in, but hopefully I can start with a lower threshold than "OMFG GIVE ME THAT RIGHT NOW OR I WON'T BE A RATIONAL FRIENDLY PLEASANT HUMAN."
Comfort vs. Crutch: The Energy Bank Account
Certain activities refill our energy bank account, others clearly drain it. Reading replenishes my energy stores, not exercising very quickly drains them.
There's a third category, which is the topic of today's conversation: crutches masquerading as helpful, but that actually have adverse effects on our mind and body.
Annie's Mac is a personal food-related guilty pleasure: I know it's bad for me, but sometimes I just want the cheesy comfort goodness of macaroni in a box. It feels great in the moment! But bloated and a bit regretful after the fact. . . and still hungry!
Alcohol has the same impact for me: its Russian roulette for my mood. Sometimes I feel that great, warm, relaxation response, and at others it absolutely and immediately kills any good vibes I've got going. I'm 14 months in to my no-alcohol game of kick-the-crutch because I don't care to spend the calories, money, energy or brain cells on it at the moment. My body and my business come first.
Sneaky Little Things
Kick the Crutch can feel a bit like whack-a-mole: we all tend to rely on a numbing crutch or two, and for me as soon as I kick one, another is waiting in the wings to creep in ASAP. Coffee and sugar are two of my biggies, for others it's watching TV, alcohol, social media, or even workaholic-ness.
Kick the Crutch isn't about beating ourselves into perfectionist submission — it's about reducing distraction or things that ultimately make us feel worse, either physically or mentally.
Part of the reason crutches are hard to eliminate is that it can sometimes feel like a hole remains in its place — an empty space or emotional void that threatens to swallow us whole.
That's actually a very insightful place to be, and the good news is: you will survive it — with greater clarity, insight, and awareness. And it might even uncover a few REAL energy account deposits you can make for lasting positive impact beyond just a flash in the pan.
How about you? I'd love to hear from you in the comments:
Have you ever tried to Kick a Crutch even just for a few days? What helps you get through the withdrawal? BONUS: Try a three-day challenge of the ONE crutch that almost seems impossible, and let me know how it goes!