How to prevent stress from triggering eating disorder behavior
- Category: Coping Strategies
Build yourself a personal stress reduction program and reap vast benefits.
*pix Would you be stressed at meeting a horse like this? Or would you be confident and resilient so you could connect and find the joy you see in the woman's face?
Eating disorder behavior is a primitive response to stress. Regardless of whether the stress is caused by other people’s behavior, your own thoughts, your life situation or world conditions and world events, if you have an eating disorder you dip into eating disorder behaviors to feel calm and safe.
1. What is the stress that triggers you into your eating disorder behaviors?
2. What can you create to take care of yourself and cope with that stress positively?
The triggering stress you experience may be associated with isolation and loneliness, fear, criticism, self condemning thoughts. That stress is intensified by family, political and economic pressures. Learn to identify the conditions that bring on your triggering stress.
To counter that stress, find your way to incorporate these trigger proofing activities into your life.
1. First, recognize that you are living with stress. Stress-related problems account for 75 - 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians in the United States.
Denying this or feeling that you are stressed because you are a deficient person in some way, gives stress more time to take its toll on you. You might respond naturally to stress by stretching and taking a walk. But if you respond by overeating or skipping meals or losing your temper or avoiding sleep (or sleeping too much) or reaching for candy or alcohol or drugs, you are creating more difficulties for yourself.
2. Simplify your life in as many ways as you can. Put your energy into what's genuinely important to you. Make room for the essentials in your life.
This usually starts with a clean out. Sort through your living space, work space, mind space and time space. Clean out the clutter of things, thoughts, activities and people who are negative to your life. As you clear you’ll discover the joy of freeing yourself of crushing limitations and have more clarity and energy to deal with your challenges.
3. Maintain an alert awareness. Since you can’t predict future events you need to be as prepared for stress as much as possible in advance. For examples, do regular maintenance work on your body, clothes, home, garden, financial files. Care for your mind by reading, keeping up with the news. Learn something new or get better at something you enjoy. When you are in a potentially stress laden situation you will have more self confidence and a refreshing point of view to contribute.
4. Stay current and communicative with the people important to you, especially your family and friends. You will be aware of their life situations, be able to share in their joys and support them in their struggles. The love and support you share is a treasure. Plus, when you are stressed you can reach for their companionship rather than old eating disorder behaviors.
5. Maintain your health by eating three nourishing meals a day and exercising regularly. Your mind is more positive, resilient and creative when you are in good health.
6. In this time of increased stress in our culture, we are all affected by our political, economic and environmental climate. When you need help, reach for help. You may need a friend to listen, an organization to support you, a psychotherapist to help you through a difficult patch. Perhaps you need a yoga class or a support group. You might want to investigate a 12 step program or go back to one you left.
Your eating disorder behaviors rise up to help you live your life without feeling or knowing about emotional stress. You use them to limit your experience of stress to a tolerable level. If you keep your eye on your stress levels and take care of yourself those behaviors will not be necessary.
Stress will not trigger you when you are self aware, healthy and resilient. Stress may even motivate you to discover new and satisfying ways of living.
*pix U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Juana M. Nesbitt, 13th Public Affairs Detachment A Soldier with 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division shares a moment with one of the horses during a women’s retreat at a local wellness center Dec. 12. The event was part of the 3rd ABCT comprehensive Soldier fitness program and provided a day learning vital life skills.
This image is a work of a U.S. Army soldier or employee, taken or made as part of that person's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.