Self-care is an important part of Eating Disorder recovery that all individuals, no matter where they are on their journey, should be participating in. Self-care can help individuals cope with the stressors in their everyday lives and be an important part of maintaining their well-being while in ED recovery. There are many things individuals can do, both big and small, as part of their self-care routine to help them on their journey. Finding what works for you is a journey in and of itself. Here is a list of fourteen suggestions that may become a part of your own self-care journey.
Immerse yourself in positivity
Everyone has something that can bring them joy, whether it is cooking, painting, reading, or getting some physical activity in. Doing these activities can help you to focus on the things you love and bring aspects of happiness back into your life. Often you may forget about all of the things you once enjoyed and may find yourself thinking you are too busy to do them. It is important to make time for the things that bring you joy; you might even make a new hobby out of it!
Journaling can be an effective way for those in ED recovery to open up their mind and flush out the thoughts and feelings they are having on paper. This can be extremely beneficial for coping with the stress that comes with having an Eating Disorder and navigating your own personal recovery experiences.1 Having a way to reflect on your journey through words that you can continue to look back on can help to show how much you have been able to go through and to work towards a positive future.1
Doing something creative can aid in expressing all the emotions you may be feeling. Whether it be writing, drawing, painting, or crafts such as beading and knitting, all of these activities can be beneficial to your wellbeing. Finding something creative that you enjoy doing can help to channel your creativity and boost positive emotions. On your ED journey you may find yourself experiencing so many different types of emotions which can be extremely difficult. Having this creative outlet can help you to get these negative emotions out and increase your positivity.
Join a Support Group
Support Groups may seem scary at first and are not for everyone, but they are a great thing to try out. Hearing from other people who are also on their ED recovery journey share stories and tips can be extremely beneficial and make you feel less alone in your journey. You will never know you don’t like something if you don’t try and although the first step may be daunting, you might find yourself wishing you had started sooner.
Have no-socials days
Social media can bring up a lot of triggers for those in ED recovery and take a negative toll on your mental health. Sometimes it is good to shut off all your social media apps, especially when you are feeling down and need some time to yourself. You may want to visit some friends or hang out with your family or spend some time alone doing a hobby! Social media isn’t everything and taking some time away can be beneficial.
Prioritizing yourself and your physical and mental health is necessary for your ED journey and happiness. Understanding what you need and want instead of focusing on what everyone around you expects from you will help to enhance your life and prioritize your ambitions. Discovering who you are is hard when you are worried about everyone else’s expectations. So, take the time to figure out your goals and work towards them. No one’s ED journey looks exactly the same and figuring out what you want to achieve is part of the journey.
Meditation, Yoga, and Mindfulness
Using yoga, meditation, or mindfulness strategies can all be beneficial to your journey. Yoga can help you become more in tune with your emotions and your body, which can be a great way to relax. Tina Clay from the National Eating Disorders Association goes into more depth about the importance of Yoga and provides some examples of yoga poses and practices. This article can be found here: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/yoga-self-care. Body scans or breathing, mindfulness, and grounding exercises can all be beneficial in learning how to stay present and managing stress.
Listen to Something
Sometimes that voice in your head can be very difficult to tune out or turn off. Listening to something, whether it be music, an audiobook, or a podcast, to name a few, can help to distract from all of the other things going on in your mind and can help in grounding yourself and your mind.
Nourish Your Body
Maintaining a balanced and nourishing diet and considering nutritional needs while being mindful of personal preferences and food choices is important to do when on your ED recovery journey. This can be extremely difficult for some people but is an important step in the process of recovery. Having a healthy relationship with food takes time and effort and everyone starts somewhere different.
Take Time to Relax
There are many different relaxation techniques that can be beneficial to both your physical and mental wellbeing. Taking warm baths, long showers, getting a massage, or practicing aromatherapy are just a few examples of things you can do to relax. Your bodies and mind hold a lot of stress and taking the time to wind down can relieve you of this pressure. You may find yourself wound up during your ED journey and taking the time to relax and clear your mind can help to keep you on track.
Volunteering can help to boost your happiness and create a greater sense of wellbeing. When you volunteer for a cause that you love and resonate with, the time you spend can help you integrate with the community and contribute to your sense of purpose and identity. Having the opportunity to help others can be a very rewarding and grounding experience and lead you to develop stronger interpersonal relationships. When you help others, you can inadvertently help yourself and benefit yourself on maintaining your recovery journey.
Spend Time in Nature
Going outside, whether it be for a walk around your neighbourhood, a hike in a conservation area, or laying on the beach can all help boost your mental wellbeing. Nature helps to foster a sense of tranquility and has been shown to have great benefits on both mental and physical health. Taking even thirty minutes a day to immerse yourself in nature can help to reduce your stress which can be very beneficial on your ED journey.
Surround Yourself with Positive People
Having positive people in your life who will lift you up is an important aspect of self-care when on your ED recovery journey. You want to be around people who make you feel better about yourself and who can help get your mind away from negative thoughts. The people you surround yourself with should make you feel comfortable and loved and help you on your journey.
Much like the last self-care tip, you need to surround yourself with people who are going to respect the boundaries you set. Your mental and emotional wellbeing is more important than letting someone continue to make comments that make you uncomfortable. Everyone has different boundaries, and you should not be ashamed of needing to set them. Having realistic boundaries is an important part of your recovery and they are there to help you move forward on your journey.
ED recovery is not a straight road, and everyone’s journey looks different. It is important to find the things that make you happy and use these to help you along the way.
In recognition of National Teen Mental Health Day on March 2nd, 2023, Nikki Olguin from Eating Disorders Nova Scotia was interviewed regarding their new Peer Support Program.
Eating Disorders Nova Scotia has a multitude of programs and supports available to youth. www.eatingdisordersns.ca
Q: Why did you feel it was necessary to start this program?
A: There was an increase in enquires from youth, specifically those aged 13-17. There are few supports that exist in this area and so this program was born out of the need for support.
Q: Why are peer support programs so important? In the same light, can you tell me a bit more about the peer support program you offer?
A: Peer support is really important and not often recognized as such. There is currently a lack of community connections and healing through community. Peer supports helps to build this gap and is based on the human desire to connect with others. At EDNS we currently offer three different support groups:
a Thursday night group (18+) and
a two-spirit non-binary and trans plus group
We also provide one-on-one mentoring where people can be matched with a mentor who has lived experiences with eating disorders.
Then we have Monday night workshops and clinical services which can be found on our website.
Q: How often do the groups meet?
A: The Peer Support Group began on March 9th and is a 5-week program. With new programs coming soon be sure to check out our social media pages for the most up to date information. The one-on-one program is dependent on both the Peer Mentor and the individual as to how much they meet and how often.
Q: How are the Peer mentors trained?
A: Peer Mentors go through 30 hours of peer support training over the course of five weeks. The training includes everything from role-play, case studies, navigating difficult conversations and reflecting on one’s own experience of recovery.
Q: What are the questions a teenager should ask to decide which is best for them- individual/group?
A: A part of defining your own recovery is reflecting and experimenting. Only you really know what helps and so exploring different programs and workshops, choose what resonates and leave what doesn’t. If you are feeling overwhelmed, try asking what makes sense for you to take on right now. There is no pressure to choose – at EDNS you can use multiple programs at one time.
Q: What are the best ways to access the peer support program?
A: Our Instagram page will take you directly to registration for the Peer Support Group. For our other programs you can access these on our website as well as Body Brave’s website.
Q: Are there any barriers that teens face in getting help for Ed’s that is specific to their age group?
A: We need to acknowledge the systemic and structural barriers that are in place for individuals trying to gain access to ED supports. Medical Fatphobia is common among health care professionals, the continued use of BMI as an indicator for treatment access is harmful for youth. There needs to be a more collaborative approach when supporting youth and being aware of culture, race, and gender when addressing eating disorders. Teachers and guidance counsellors need to be more aware of eating disorders and the supports available. Talking to young people about food is extremely important and ending the “good” vs. “bad” food binary is necessary. There is also a lack of harm reduction, and we must acknowledge Gloria Lucas and her contribution to this field. It is asking the question: Can we support those who are not ready for recovery but want to address the physical concerns caused by their eating disorder. Social media and society’s view of what a body should look like deeply impact teenagers and is a barrier for young people with eating disorders.
Q: What can be done to help de-stigmatize eating disorders among teens?
A: Collective effort is very important; young people are tied to their friends, family, teachers, and coaches to name a few. As a collective we need to work to push against the idea of disordered eating and the struggles. Eating disorders are not an individual problem, but rather a society problem. Awareness and conversations about eating disorders, and mental health in general, needs to happen.
Q: Since the peer support program is new, are there different additions to the program you are hoping to add in the future?
A: We are excited to be expanding our existing programs to include young people, specifically BIPOC and two-spirit non-binary trans plus group. As well as groups specific to certain ages (such as 18-25, 14-17). Keep an eye out on our socials for more up to date information.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share?
A: I just want to say, I don’t know who is reading the blog, but I understand that this is scary and how terrifying and overwhelming it can feel to read about the potential of having an eating disorder, asking if something is up with me, and reaching out for support. Most of the time it takes a while to get to the point where you want to reach out. I want to ensure folks that the fear makes sense and the relief you feel after hearing someone else’s struggles overpowers the initial fear 1000x over. We have a whole identity outside of our eating disorders and we can talk about many topics separate of our body and eating struggles.
NIED thanks EDNS for their ongoing and innovative programs to support those impacted by Eating Disorders.
Interview with Nikki Olguin on Eating Disorders Nova Scotia’s new Peer Support ProgramAlexandra DiVincenzo2023-04-06T15:30:06-04:00