5 Effective Self-Care Strategies For When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

Relaxing and coping

When in eating disorder recovery, it is important to identify what triggers influence past eating disorder behaviors. Experiencing urges to restrict, binge, purge, or other associated behaviors that may have been part of your disorder, usually signals that something in your life needs attention. Using self-care strategies can help maintain your recovery.

Stress, anxiety, and feeling overwhelmed in general are factors that can easily trigger eating disorder behaviors.

While in the past, you may have resorted to these behaviors to help you cope through difficult situations, it is important to build on healthier coping mechanisms that can help you sustain your eating disorder recovery for the long term.

Building on Healthy Self-Care Strategies

Having strategies in place ahead of time can help you identify a plan for working through feelings of being overwhelmed and apply effective coping skills that can keep your urges at bay. Self-care is fundamental to ensuring that you nurturing your body, mind, and spirit and keeping things balanced to support your recovery efforts.

While you may not necessarily be able to change your circumstances, like a work environment, finances, or other things that may cause you to feel overwhelmed, you can find practical self-care strategies to care for yourself, especially during stressful situations.

Here are some self-care tips that you can start implementing today when you’re feeling overwhelmed and to help you better cope with stress:

Take a breather: Literally speaking, deep breathing has been scientifically proven to help relax the body and alleviate stress [1]. So if you find yourself in an overwhelming situation, try to remove yourself if possible. Go outside for some fresh air and take five minutes to focus on deep breathing.

Focusing on your breath can also help reconnect your mind-body and help you mindfully connect to the emotions and feelings you might be experiencing. Ground yourself with a few deep breaths and physical removal from an environment or situation that is stressful.

Stay physically nourished: Feeding your body adequately throughout the day is important, not only for recovery, but for being better able to cope with stressors that you might face.

If you are not eating enough or experiencing energy drops throughout the day, you will find it much more difficult to handle stressful circumstances. Take time to meal plan, prepare necessary snacks and meals for the day, and have adequate food at home by grocery shopping regularly.

Get adequate rest: Many of us are juggling multiple things in our lives, including relationships, jobs/careers, finances, home responsibilities. Sleep is often one of the first things to be sacrificed when our schedule becomes overloaded, but this is incredibly detrimental to our health.

Lack of sleep – even if only 1-2 hours per night – can contribute to mood fluctuations, lack of focus, and poor mental/physical well-being. If you are prone to depression and/or anxiety, lack of sleep can further exacerbate these issues [2].

If you find you are regularly skipping out on the sleep you need, re-evaluate your schedule and determine what you need to eliminate to make adequate sleep a priority.

Maintain a Support System: When things in life feel out of control and overwhelming, part of self-care strategies is having an appropriate support system for processing the emotions you experience on a daily basis.

Self-Care Strategies includes Relaxing

Whether this is regular meetings with your therapist, a weekly support group, or a coffee date with a trusted friend, it is important to have someone you can talk with about any difficulties you are experiencing.

Keep your support system maintained, even if you feel like things are going well in your season of life.

Make time for movement: Physical exercise and activity are an effective means for dealing with stress and feelings of overwhelm. Research has shown that exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function [3].

This can be something as simple as taking a walk around the walk, taking a yoga class, or gardening in your yard. Move your body gently and intuitively, in a way that feels good and relaxing.

If you previously abused exercise in your eating disorder, take caution when engaging exercise and be sure to find movement that is honoring to your body and recovery.

Facing various stressors is something that you may encounter in different forms throughout your life and recovery. Regularly practicing self-care can help you better manage potential stressors and maintain your recovery for the long-term.

Crystal Headshot 2About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work and nutrition private practice.


[1]: NPR, “Just Breathe: Body Has a Built-In Stress Reliever”, http://www.npr.org/2010/12/06/131734718/just-breathe-body-has-a-built-in-stress-reliever Accessed 10 April 2017
[2]: NHS, “Why Lack of Sleep Is Bad For Your Health”, http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/tiredness-and-fatigue/Pages/lack-of-sleep-health-risks.aspx Accessed 10 April 2017
[3]: Callaghan P. Exercise: a neglected intervention in mental health care? J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2004 Aug; 11(4):476-83.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 13, 2017
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com