Soothing Stress and Anxiety Outside of Disordered Eating

Woman suffering from stress and anxiety

Dysfunctional eating behaviors often arise due to a lack of positive self-soothing behaviors [1]. This is why it is important to learn tools in soothing stress and anxiety.

Stressful moments will inevitably come our way. Failing to prepare for them in hopes they won’t only lead to further stress, increasing the temptation to engage in harmful, quick-fix, coping mechanisms like disordered eating.

Read on to learn why developing a stress-relief routine is vital for eating disorder recovery and self-care, and discover some positive coping tools you can use!

Under Pressure

Have you ever opened a bottle of soda after it’s been shaken up?

For those who haven’t, spoiler alert: it explodes everywhere.

The trick to avoiding this is to either let the soda sit and settle for awhile or unscrew the lid *very carefully* to release the pressure inside of the bottle slowly.

As commonplace as this is, it’s an excellent metaphor for how humans deal with stress:

Everyday events cause small amounts of stress that gradually build up until *CLICK* we explode by either having an emotional meltdown or engaging in unhealthy coping behaviors like disordered eating.

If you’re treating yourself like you would a soda bottle about to blow, you should be applying coping mechanisms that let you take a beat or slowly release stress as it comes your way.

Soothing Stress and Anxiety – Find Your Release

Imagine your most stressful moments. Those times when you’re emotionally exhausted, physically tense, and can feel you’re about to fall apart.

Woman struggling with Soothing Stress and AnxietyNow, imagine what would provide relief for you at that moment.

Sometimes, the “let it sit, let it settle” approach works best. Engaging in calming, mindful activities can help you process your emotions, regain your composure, and come back down to Earth.

In these stressful moments, try meditating or doing yoga. There are tons of apps and websites dedicated to providing free mindfulness meditation and yoga classes!

Meditation doesn’t always come easy, and there are times when you may need a calming activity that occupies your mind a bit more. The same tools that distracted us as children work just as well today.

Coloring, for example, “keeps you focused in the present moment…and gives you a break from the chatter of worry, fear, and anxiety that can cause stress [2].”

You could also try doing a crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or attempt a jigsaw puzzle.

There are also times when anxiety is so consuming you can’t sit still. Exercise is also a great way to relieve stress and can be tailored to fit you.

Try running, cycling, rock climbing, boxing, Zumba. There are so many ways that you can move your body, distract your mind, and get rid of your worries!

Engage in it Often

Finding ways in soothing stress and anxiety that work for you is liberating, but it won’t help only to do this when you’re overwhelmed with anxiety.

Find what melts your stresses away and do it often.

After all, a great way to avoid an anxiety-filled explosion is not to allow pressure to build in the first place!

Meditate for 5 minutes every morning, go for a run a few days a week, color while you wind down in the evening.

Find a method of stress-relief that you enjoy so much that it isn’t a hassle to add it to your daily routine!

Make it a priority to find healthy ways to deal with stress. Doing so allows you to gain the knowledge and comfort that comes with being able to take care of yourself in a positive and nurturing way, no matter what life throws at you.

Image of Margot Rittenhouse.About the Author: Margot Rittenhouse is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.

As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.


[1] Lobera, I. J. et al. (2009). Coping strategies in eating disorders. European Eating Disorders Review, 17:3, 220-226.
[2] Barrett, C. A. (2015). Adult coloring books: patterns for stress relief. Phi Kappa Phi Forum, 95:4, pg. 27.

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.

Published on March 13, 2018.

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