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Self-Care 101: Effective Coping Skills to Use In Eating Disorder Recovery

Being in recovery from an eating disorder can be equally as challenging as it can be rewarding, given the countless number of potential triggers that may possibly impede your progress.

Unfortunately, going through life without ever encountering these triggering situations is nearly impossible, so learning how to respond to triggers in a healthy way is key to staying on track on your recovery journey. For this reason, when entering recovery, it’s crucial to develop practical and healthy coping mechanisms that you can use in times of distress.

Different people may find certain coping skills more helpful than others, so finding ones that work best for you is an essential part of the healing process. Let’s go over some of the most common coping skills for eating disorder recovery that may help keep you on track and deal with potential triggers.

How Coping Skills Are Used in Eating Disorder Recovery

Before diving straight into the coping skills used in eating disorder recovery, it’s important to recognize that eating disorders are often coping mechanisms within themselves – albeit harmful ones. 

For someone with an eating disorder, controlling food and their body is a way of relieving distress and achieving some degree of control. However, learning how to cope with negative emotions without using food is an important aspect of recovery.

Therefore, it’s critical for individuals in recovery to develop new and healthy coping skills that replace the old negative ones. There are many different types of healthy coping mechanisms used in eating disorder recovery, and they all work differently for each person. You may also find that a combination of several coping skills works best for your individual healing journey.

Coping Skills in Eating Disorder Recovery

In eating disorder recovery, experiencing triggering scenarios is not uncommon. Identifying these triggers early on is one of the best ways to stop disordered thoughts and behaviors in their tracks, which is where coping skills come into play. Here are some of the most common coping skills used in eating disorder recovery to help you feel supported and work through potential triggers that may arise.

  1. Connecting with Supportive Peers

Finding and meeting other people that you trust and can understand the same struggles you’re going through can be extremely helpful in alleviating negative thoughts and disordered eating behaviors. 

Although close friends and family may mean well, they might not always know what to say. Therefore, a support group can be a valuable resource when going through recovery from an eating disorder.

Our RecoVERY community is a virtual safe space for individuals in recovery from all types of eating disorders to receive support from peers with similar experiences as well as valuable education from our eating disorder experts. With meal support groups, daily psychoeducation, and unlimited community support, our community can be a helpful and realistic way to enhance your recovery journey and help you feel more supported.

  1. Journaling

When feeling overwhelmed with negative thoughts surrounding food, body image, or any other matter, mapping out your thoughts and feelings on paper can be an effective way to release any built-up emotions you may have. Journaling about your specific thoughts and emotions may help you identify and recognize certain patterns or triggers that you might have been unaware of beforehand.

Plus, journaling can be used to supplement recovery. When you physically write down your goals and accomplishments, it can make you feel more committed to them and the recovery process. Whether you choose to follow a prompt or free write whatever comes to mind, journaling can be a beneficial coping skill to use while in recovery from an eating disorder.

  1. Self-Care and Hobbies

Engaging in self-care is one of the simplest, yet most important aspects of managing recovery from an eating disorder. When experiencing heightened feelings of anxiety or distress, take a step back and think about what you can do to make yourself more relaxed. It can be something as simple as going for a walk, snuggling with a pet, or reading a book.

Another element of self-care that’s often forgotten about is building in time for hobbies. Whether it’s a new hobby you’ve been wanting to pick up or one that you’ve loved for years, having a hobby can help fill your schedule and move your attention away from disordered thoughts and behaviors.

  1. Relaxation and Mindfulness

Similar to self-care, finding time for pure relaxation can be an effective coping skill to use when faced with potential triggers. Since eating disorders are often linked with strong feelings of anxiety, learning ways to calm yourself down and relax is essential.

Mindfulness is a well-known concept that represents different skills and techniques that help you focus on the present moment instead of the past or the future. Anxiety and eating disorders can often cause a spiral of worries rooted in the past or future, so using mindfulness strategies can be an effective way of redirecting your emotions. 

Moreover, mindfulness may help you better process your emotions and make healthier decisions when something triggering occurs, rather than simply reacting right away.

  1. Set and Communicate Boundaries

With diet culture talk popping up at nearly every corner we turn, it can be difficult to ignore triggering comments about food and body image. Setting boundaries around any triggering situations and communicating them to those around them may help to minimize the occurrence of accidental triggers from loved ones. 

For instance, if you have a specific trigger pertaining to diet talk or “healthy” eating, tell your close friends and family. This way, they can be more conscious of the type of language they use in your presence and maybe even in their own lives as well. Even if it may feel awkward or uncomfortable, communicating these boundaries early on is vital for reducing the likelihood of future triggering scenarios with loved ones, especially if they’re a part of your support system.

  1. Self-Compassion

When struggling with an eating disorder, it can often feel as if you’re failing or not doing good enough for not making far enough strides in your recovery. Recovering from an eating disorder is difficult and takes hard work, so it’s important to have compassion for yourself during these challenging times.

Self-compassion isn’t about ignoring the aspects of yourself that you may not necessarily like or aren’t proud of; it’s about giving yourself the grace and kindness to keep going. A major part of having self-compassion is reducing negative self-talk and reframing your thoughts into ones that are healthier and more conducive to recovery. 

Here are some tips for increasing self-compassion in recovery:

  • Avoid perfectionistic standards and aim for more realistic goals instead
  • Allow yourself to make mistakes without the fear of shame or judgment
  • Remind yourself that food is an essential and necessary part of life
  • Never forget to celebrate the small wins and progress you’ve made

Importance of Using Healthy Coping Skills in Recovery

Recovering from an eating disorder is a long and challenging process that takes hard work and commitment. Learning healthy coping skills that work within your personal lifestyle is a key component to achieving a lasting, successful recovery, but you don’t have to do it alone!

VERY’s virtual eating disorder treatment team is dedicated to helping individuals with all types of eating disorders finally reach recovery and regain a healthy relationship with food.

If you or a loved one is currently struggling with an eating disorder, schedule a free consultation to see if VERY is right for you.