Whether expected or not, periods of transition present a new challenge to eating disorder recovery. During these times, typical coping skills may not be accessible, or one may be feeling increased stress that previously effective coping mechanisms are not helping with.
Due to this, it is unsurprising that “stressful life events…are associated with disordered eating behaviors such as binge eating and using unhealthy weight control practices, as a way to cope or reduce negative emotions .”
Individuals with eating disorders often report feeling triggered during big transitions in their lives. For this reason, it is important that those maintaining eating disorder recovery are either preparing, anticipating, or experiencing an upcoming transition consider tools to cope.
Find One Consistent Thing
One of the aspects of transitory periods that makes them so challenging is how they test our feelings of control. For many of us, stability and consistency are comforting. We like our daily life to be predictable and for things to work out as we had planned.
Consistency is important in eating disorder recovery as well and can be a useful tool to continue a recovery-focused lifestyle. In periods of transition, many of the things that were once consistent are shaken up. This can be jarring, uncomfortable, and triggering.
Find one aspect of your daily life that is restorative and can be transferred to your new circumstance. Whether this is journaling, going for walks, engaging in daily meditation, calling a loved one, listening to music – there are many possibilities for coping skills that you can continue regardless of how your life is changing.
Engage in your chosen activity consistently enough that it provides a touchstone of stability that you can come back to when things feel chaotic or overwhelming.
Flexibility is also important during these times. When we find ourselves believing that recovery can only be achieved in one particular way, environment, or set of circumstances, we set ourselves up for frightening moments when these particulars are not available, and we don’t know how to deal.
Understand that there are many places, situations, coping skills, and people that can contribute to recovery, and they do not all have to exist for recovery to be successful.
If your preferred support-person, skill, or quiet space is not available, be flexible enough to find another and open yourself up to the idea that it can work just as well.
Bolster Eating Disorder Recovery Treatment if Needed
Transitory moments in life may mean an increase in treatment, even if you haven’t relapsed into your eating disorder. If you are currently engaging in outpatient therapy weekly or monthly, you may consider increasing your session frequency to weekly.
If you have been maintaining recovery with support groups alone, this may be a time when plugging back into support from a professional is helpful. Increasing the support and treatment you are receiving is not a step backward, and it is not shameful.
Sometimes, treatment is exactly what is needed to strengthen a foundation of recovery. Do not be afraid to increase your support should you need it during these changing times.
Ultimately, there are many things you can do during a period of transition to take care of yourself and maintain your eating disorder recovery. Even when you feel overwhelmed or as if things are out-of-control, you have the capability to take care of yourself and continue fighting for your recovery.
Resources: Berge, J. M., et al. (2012). Family life cycle transitions and the onset of eating disorders: a retrospective grounded theory approach. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 21:9-10.
About the Author:
Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC 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 Hope 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.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a 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 October 20, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on October 20, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC