ED Recovery & Stress Management
by: Hannah de Groot Med.
August fading into September can be challenging as we begin to transition into a new season and a new school year. Summer festivities come to rest for the year and we sometimes have to face realities we’ve been avoiding for the past few months. Change is hard! Life transitions can bring up unresolved habits and unwanted emotions, which might draw out and intensify our stress. This week, let’s talk about managing stress effectively and continuously to avoid reverting back to unhealthy habits. Please know, feeling anxious at this time of year (or any time of year) is completely normal, and we honor your feelings during this time.
Stress impacts everyone differently. We know that stress can cause us to engage in disordered eating habits, such as restricting, binging or overexercising. And while we might engage in these habits to have some control over our stressful situations, these coping strategies can actually exacerbate the problem and leave us feeling unprepared to face our fears. Nourishing your body adequately and practicing self love should be a priority during challenging times. Not only does properly fueling yourself allow you to better regulate your emotions, but it also gives you the energy you need to be the best version of yourself.
Knowing and understanding our bodies is a super important part of managing stress. When we enter stressful environments, our bodies go into a “fight or flight” reaction, which dates back to the beginning of (wo)mankind. When we feel stressed, our heart rates might increase, we might start sweating excessively, or our muscles might tighten up, among other possible reactions. Next time you notice yourself feeling stressed, take a minute to examine where you feel it in your body. Being aware of this physiological reaction can help you soothe yourself in the future before the stress manifests in other ways and makes the situation worse.
Self soothing techniques are a crucial part of effectively handling stress. There are tons of ways to calm yourself down, and different techniques work for different people. For some, breathing exercises help to slow down heart rate and calm nerves. For others, distractions are imperative for distress tolerance because they allow for a moment of calmness and self reflection until those ready to handle the situation. Next time you’re feeling anxious, take a minute to explore what works best for you! Real time stress relief is different for everyone. No one method is better than the other, as long as the ultimate goal is to self sooth in a calm, effective and safe manner.
One helpful and easy technique to relieve stress is called Half Smile. Half Smile is a radical acceptance method that emphasizes the importance of accepting reality and stressors, no matter what they are. Studies show that moods can improve simply by smiling. To practice Half Smile, sit still, relax your muscles and try to keep a blank expression. Next, slightly smile. Take a moment to recognize how your face feels and how your emotions change. Your body associates smiling with an uplighting, positive mood. Smiling through stressful situations can shift your perspective and elevate your mood, despite external factors.
Showing yourself compassion is essential in stressful times. While it is not always easy to show yourself love, being kind to yourself is a key part of managing stress. When you are anticipating a stressful event, self care is essential! Carving out time to decompress, relax and have fun is important for recharging, preventing burnout and remaining levelheaded. Self care can be used to release pent up emotions in an effective way. For example, journaling can be helpful for self reflection and gaining insight. Joyful movement such as kickboxing might help to release tension and displaced anger. Self care should be practiced regularly, but is extra important during times of stress.
No matter what you’re going through, we are here to support you and help you process stressful situations. As the seasons change and the upcoming school year begins, know you are not alone!
Resources of Stress Management: