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The Emotional Elimination Diet

I didn’t realize how emotionally wired I was until someone asked me, “What do you do to relax?” and I didn’t have an answer. It’s funny how I was raised with all these different skills – piano, ballet, figure skating, which garnered a lot of different hobbies – and yet I’ve become so busy that I don’t even know what helps me chill anymore! I’ve fallen into the rabbit hole of dedicating my energy to my job, school, students, family, and research – everything under the sun – except myself. My breaking point was when I did dedicate time to myself, I was angry. Why am I wasting my time?

That was when I recognize, I was way too emotionally invested with my time.

It’s not like I can turn off my brain, and time will stop. So I had to figure out a way to recruit time to be on my side, by giving myself tasks that I can accomplish. The trick was, the tasks I accomplished weren’t mind-breaking things. They were activities that I had never dedicated time to for months.

A Roman poet once said, “You should pray for a healthy mind in a healthy body.” We have strived to take care of our bodies with every diet and nutritional plan ever created, yet when it comes to mental health, we fall short. Gratitude journals are great, but do they help solve – or narrow down at the very least – the issue that may have caused an “unhealthy” mind in the first place? Sometimes, we know what the issue is – it’s stress from our job, our family, our dreams, our failures etc. That’s why I’m challenging you to go on a diet for your brain. No, I’m not talking about eating “brain foods” only for two weeks. I’m talking about eliminating all potential forms of stress and then slowly adding them back into your lifestyle. Just like an Elimination Diet with food, after excluding the top stressors for a few days, we will slow reintroduce those stressors back into our “diet” to figure out what is giving you that emotional glitch and how to best combat it.

You will not be asked to perform a mediation, write an essay reflecting your worries, or find new things to make you happy. Instead, I want you to focus on you and what you already know about yourself. The point of this diet is to have your overworked brain be wired to reset by relocating your cognitive energy for other tasks that aren’t cognitive demanding.

This is a preliminary guide to how to combat both, but make sure to see a licensed practitioner to help work with your stress and anxiety.

 

Emotional Elimination Diet

Before the diet: let those essential to you (your family, your co-workers, your employer) know that you may be less social throughout the week, but it is so you can get your mental health back on track. Make sure there isn’t any known potential emergencies that may arise within the 2 weeks of using the diet.

Get a timer that isn’t your phone. I recommend a cooking timer.

If you feel low-energy due to social isolation (not talking to people enough; typically found within extroverts), then please make sure to reach out to people who do give you that energy but spend only 30 minutes with them daily.

 

Week 1

  • Remove social media (Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, etc,) from your smart devices. This can include your computers, cell phone, tablets, television and where-ever you can have immediate access to. Do Not Go On Social Media!
  • Do not start up a texting conversation with someone new
  • Write down 3 things that you know make you stress on a piece of paper, then rip up that paper, and throw it away. Done. Don’t think about it for the first week of the diet.
  • If you’re in a situation that is causing you stress (family, friends, co-workers etc.) then leave that situation for at least this first week
  • Find a place that you can chill with just yourself or yourself with another companion that will check in on you
  • Plan three home-cooked meals a day for the week (start with a simple breakfast dish like scrambled eggs with a spinach salad, a soup for lunch, and a protein with pasta dish for dinner; doesn’t have to be perfect it just has to keep you focused on something other than your stress)
  • Drink water at least 4 cups of water, three times a day

 

Day 1-3

  • Turn off your cell phone until 5pm
  • Slowly get up and start your morning routine – this can be brushing your teeth, making your bed, taking a shower etc. anything goes so long as you are not looking at any technology and are focus on taking care of you. Avoid looking at the clock until your morning routine is completed
  • Take a 20-minute walk in the morning, preferably without music. Focus on your surroundings
  • At 5pm, only spend 25 minutes answering any emails, text messages, and phone calls, then turn off your phone again. Do not have any long conversation with anyone (aside from those you are living with) over technology
  • Spend at least 1hr doing something you love to do – this could be watching a movie, writing, painting, knitting, exercising etc. If you cannot think of one thing, spend 25 minutes each on various things that you know you could do until you decide on the one thing that interest you the most
    • Please note if movie-watching is something you love, make sure that the number of hours you spend watching movies are matched with the number of hours you spend doing a multiple physical activity such as cooking, cleaning, and exercising
  • Spend 25 minutes and only 25minutes cleaning one location in your household. If it doesn’t get finished, then you can pick it back up tomorrow
  • Write on a clean piece of paper bullet point answers to the following two questions:
    • What or who made you anxious today? What part of today made you relaxed?
  • Go to sleep at 9pm

 

Day 4-6

  • Keep your cell phone off until 2pm today
  • Start your morning routine before 10am
  • Take a 20-minute walk in the morning, preferably without music. Focus on your surroundings
  • Spend at least 1hr doing something you love to do – this could be watching a movie, writing, painting, knitting, exercising etc. If you cannot think of one thing, spend 25 minutes each on various things that you know you could do until you decide on the one thing that interest you the most
    • Please note if movie-watching is something you love, make sure that the number of hours you spend watching movies are matched with the number of hours you spend doing a multiple physical activity such as cooking, cleaning, and exercising
  • Spend 20 minutes cleaning one location in your household. If it doesn’t get finished, then you can pick it back up tomorrow
  • At 5pm, spend only 25 minutes answering any emails, text messages, and phone calls, then turn off your phone again
  • Write on a clean piece of paper bullet point answers to the following two questions:
    • What or who made you anxious today? What part of today made you relaxed?
  • Go to sleep at 9pm

 

Day 7

  • Turn off your cell phone until 2pm
  • Take a 25-minute walk in the morning, preferably without music. Focus on your surroundings
  • Spend your time with doing the activity you enjoyed doing from Day 1-6
  • Allocate only 25 minutes to cleaning your household, whatever doesn’t get done, let it go
  • Analyze your bullet-point answers from the questions listed in Day 1-6, by writing down with as little words as possible why you think the answers to question 1 made you anxious and why you think the answers to questions 2 made you relaxed
    • Create an action-plan (aka strategies) that may help you avoid or lessen those activities that may you anxious
    • Do not implement the action plan until Day 1-3 of Week 2
  • Go to sleep at 9:30pm

 

Week 2

  • Remember those 3 things that you knew stressed you out off the bat from last week? If not, good it’s out of your system. If you do, that’s okay we’re going to slowly reintroduce them back into your diet
  • Plan at least two home-cooked meals a day for the week; try to order out only once
  • If you have to move back to your situation that you already know is stressful, then limit your interaction time with your stressors by creating boundaries (for example, only engaging with the stressors between 1pm-3pm). Do not push your stressors out for the end of the day
  • At 5pm, spend 25 minutes cleaning your household. Once the 25 minutes are up, let it go and move on to a different activity
  • Drink water at least 4 cups of water, three times a day

 

Day 1-3

  • Keep your cell phone off until 12pm
  • Log back into 1 social media of your choice but spend only 25 minutes on it
  • Take a 30-minute walk in the afternoon, this time you can use music. Try soft, instrumental tunes
  • Complete one work task before 7pm
  • Spend an hour focusing on an activity you enjoyed doing from Week 1
  • Reach out to one friend, and spend 25 minutes on a conversation with that friend
  • Follow one of the action-plans you created, then evaluate at the end of the day if it worked or if it didn’t work
  • Go to sleep before 10pm

 

Day 4-6

  • Keep your cell phone off until 11am
  • Take a 40-minute walk in the afternoon, this time you can use music. Try soft, instrumental tunes.
  • Complete two work tasks before 6pm
  • Spend an hour focusing on an activity you enjoyed doing from Week 1
  • Slowly start conversations with other people over technology, but try to cap them between 25minutes to an hour
  • Follow one of the action-plans you created, then evaluate at the end of the day if it worked of if it didn’t work
  • Go to sleep before 10:30pm

 

Day 7

  • Have your cell phone on, but avoid looking at it until 10am
  • Make sure your morning routine is completed before 10am
  • Go out for an hour-long walk in the afternoon with or without music
  • Spend 45 minutes focusing on an activity you enjoyed doing from Week 1
  • Continue to start conversations with other people over technology, but try to cap them between 25minutes to 45 minutes
  • You can log back into all of your social medias, but avoid looking at them until 5pm
  • Re-evaluate your action plans, and decide if these strategies are working for you or if you need professional help
  • Complete three of your work tasks before 5pm
  • Go to sleep before 10:30pm

 

When to Seek Professional Help:

If you find yourself more irritable without being on social media, low-energy despite not working with technology often, none of the activities that you have loved in the past are of interest to you, or if none of the action-plan strategies seem to work for you, please make an appointment with a license practitioner. It is more than okay to ask for help when you are anxious! Practitioners are here to help healthy people maintain their health and to guide those with unhealthy tendencies towards a healthier path.

Manhattan Acupuncture and New York City Fertility Center