Today we’re talking about an issue that comes up a lot for people in recovery – putting strategies you learn in recovery into practice!
Translating some nicely worded worksheets into the moment where the thoughts are racing, the ED is pulling some serious power moves, and everyone is watching you can be agonizingly difficult. Here are some tips and tricks to get those strategies into practice and beyond!
- Be kind to yourself. Some days you may feel able to challenge all the ED thoughts and behaviors, other days you can challenge one and other days you just can’t challenge any of them. That is okay!!!! Though the eating disorder thoughts would love to let you believe that “you can’t even do recovery right”, that’s not the truth. You need to meet yourself wherever you are at any moment and work with the energy you have in that moment. If you have a day where your ED seems to take over everything, take a breath and remind yourself that you have more opportunities to challenge it coming up. Give yourself permission to “stuff up” and “get it wrong”, because, there is no wrong way to recover. If you are trying, even if that means all you do is think about it, then you are on your way. So, give yourself a high five (which is essentially a clap) and keep going!
- Practice. Practice. Practice. When starting out with new habits, new self-care strategies and new routines, we need to start making these things a part of our daily life. Use the strategies throughout the day, every day, to get yourself used to engaging in these activities. Even if you get up one morning and feel good, no negative thoughts, nothing to actively challenge or push through, STILL engage in your healthy strategies. These need to become a part of your routine so that when you are in distress and you need to reach for these tools, they are much easier to access than if you have never tried something before. If you fill your day with helpful strategies and behaviors, your base levels of anxiety will be lower, meaning that when distress arises, you are starting from a much lower level that you previously would.
- Explore what works for you! Just because you got a worksheet in group, listing things to do, doesn’t mean it will be suitable for you. Everybody is different. Although there are some basic guidelines to show us what might work, it is up to you to explore and have some fun experimenting with strategies that work. Your strategies should be tailor made for you. The best guide to come back to is to explore strategies for: Distraction, grounding, self-care, thought challenging and emotional expression.
- Acknowledge the limitations. Let’s be clear, using healthy coping strategies is not going to fix all the difficulties that come with your eating disorder, and some days the strategies that usually help you, may fall flat. Using helpful strategies is a process, to be used alongside other supports such as psychological therapy and dietetic support. We need to understand the limitations of the strategies. Some can be used at home, some can’t, some require support of others, some don’t and so on. Therefore, it is important to have a suite of strategies that you can adapt to the situation. You need to be able to draw on strategies to use while on a tram, in the supermarket, at family events, when home alone etc.
- Ownership & accountability. One of the most crucial aspects of recovery is taking ownership of behaviors, both positive and negative. Acknowledge when the eating disorder is guiding your actions and behavior and take responsibility. This doesn’t mean chastising yourself for letting the ED take over, it means working on your self awareness and being held accountable for the changes you make. Often, we need support to make these changes, so reach out, ask for help, ask friends and family to keep you accountable. Sometimes coming up with a code word to flag when you or someone else is noticing the ED behaviors coming through can help shine a light on those moments where you have an opportunity to implement coping skills. Keep a log of what behaviors you were able to challenge today and what was a bit too much. Eating disorders love to let us believe that we are at the mercy of them, but there is so much more strength to you than you realize. Take ownership of recovery, engaging in positive behaviors and good habits and GO FOR IT!
Contributed by Amy, EDV’s Wellbeing Coordinator