Maintaining Anorexia Recovery While in School
Being in the midst of midterms, with finals just around the corner, my stress levels are extremely high. And when stress is high, I know I am more vulnerable to resort back to eating disorder behaviors to cope. But I’m intent on protecting and prioritizing my recovery! Here are some of the things that are helping me do so:
- Prioritizing eating — literally scheduling meals and snacks into my agenda and my phone to remind myself of their importance and to not let them get pushed aside.
- Reminding myself of why I am fueling myself: It enables my body to perform its basic functions, to keep my lungs breathing, my heart beating, and my brain thinking. It allows me to get from home, to school, to work. It allows me to write a paper, to create something artistic, to get through a yoga class, to play with my nephews, and to go out and have fun with friends!
- Doing meal planning in advance can help me ensure my nutritional needs are getting met and to lessen the stress of having to make on-the-spot decisions about what and how much to eat.
- Having a list of safe foods on hand that I am most comfortable with. These are my fall-back plan, and if I am really struggling I can go back to one of these foods.
- Regarding food as medicine. I wouldn’t skip my medication, so I shouldn’t skip my meals either!
- Not comparing what I am doing to what others are doing. Other people might not take a break to have lunch or snack, but that doesn’t mean I have an out to do so too. Different people have different needs, and I know what I need to do for my health and my recovery, which is to eat adequately and on a regular basis.
- Learning to have some flexibility because sometimes things don’t go to plan. Maybe I planned out that I was going to buy a particular thing for lunch, and it wasn’t available. But that’s OK, because I can pick out something else. Maybe lecture ran late, and I can’t eat at the time I planned to, and that’s OK! Relaxing my rigidity is a process, but it’s one I’m working at daily.
- Forgiving myself for mistakes. Recovery is not linear, so sometimes slips happen. I try to see slips as isolated incidents and not in an all-or-nothing manner (i.e. “I skipped one meal, therefore I’m a failure at recovery and a failure at life!”). It’s not that cut and dried. Yes, a slip needs to be taken seriously, but if I let it defeat me, I just open the door to more slips which could then spiral into a relapse. So I actively choose to respond to mistakes with kindness and compassion.
- Finding a recovery community of others who “get it.” For me this is the Instagram ED recovery community. I use this judiciously and recognize what is helpful to me and seek that out, and avoid what is triggering to me. Instagram has allowed me to connect with some truly amazing, encouraging, and supportive individuals.
- Finding what coping strategies work for me and making a point of utilizing these every day. For me, this means using opposite action, mechanical eating, and reminding myself to treat recovery as an experiment.
- Making time for self-care. I literally have to schedule this in for myself or I can easily end up neglecting it. It can be hard to allow myself to take a break, but it is needed, and deserved! It will make me more focused, refreshed, and effective when I return to what I was doing.
- Leaning on my support system and asking for help when I need it! I used to think this would be a burden to others, but in fact, not asking for help can end up being much more of a burden to people because if I don’t let them know how to help me, their hands are tied. Figuring out what I need, and asking for help in getting these needs met is incredibly important and empowering. Anorexia robbed me of my voice, and so learning how to get my autonomy back is really meaningful to me.
If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.
So, to everyone else who is stressing about school or work, take a deep breath, re-focus on what is important to you and keep fighting! Recovery is possible, and it is so worth it. Be aware of your vulnerabilities and find ways to skillfully navigate them.
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Stock photo by Poike