Periods of change present new challenges to recovery.
For our loved ones, stressful life events are often associated with disordered eating behaviours such as binge eating and using destructive weight control practices, as a way to cope or reduce negative emotions.
Times of transition can include:
- returning to school, tafe or university (or other)
- starting a new job
- losing a job
- returning to work after a break
- moving house
- change in circumstances
- health issues
During these times, your loved one’s typical coping skills may not seem like they’re working because of increased stress.
Individuals with eating disorders often report feeling overwhelmed during big transitions in their lives. For this reason, it is important that those in eating disorder recovery have useful tools and skills to cope.
Here are some tips to help your loved one through periods of transition.
Find one consistent thing
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.
In periods of change, many of the things that were once routine are shaken up. This can be uncomfortable and may even feel wrong or scary.
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.
Flexibility is also important. 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 overwhelm and often we don’t know how to cope.
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 keep on track.
Be flexible enough to find another way and open yourself up to the idea that it can work just as well.
Increase treatment if necessary
Transitory moments in life may mean that you need to step up treatment, even if you haven’t relapsed into your eating disorder. If you are currently engaging in therapy, you may consider increasing your session frequency.
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. It actually may be necessary to keep yourself safe.
Ultimately, there are many things you can do during a period of transition to take care of yourself and there is no reason why recovery cannot continue, even if you feel out of control.
For all the incredible parents and caregivers out there, know that you can help to sustain your loved ones’s recovery efforts, even during difficult or unexpected times.
There is hope.