October 2021: Change, challenge and opportunity

Last updated: 01/10/2021

Change, challenge and opportunity

This autumn has seen the return of many things that we missed out on last year. Perhaps you are returning to school or college in person at last and looking to the year ahead, or perhaps you are returning to the workplace. Sporting activities have resumed, as has eating out and meeting socially with wider friends and family.

All of these are positive steps towards ‘normal’ life after the disruption of the last 18 months caused by the pandemic. However, there is little doubt that many people are describing this time as stressful, even when they don’t have something like an eating disorder to deal with.

Changes, even positive ones, bring uncertainty to all of us until we establish a new rhythm of going about our day. Uncertainty often leads to anxiety, of feeling less safe and stressed. This in turn activates our coping strategies, both helpful and unhelpful ones.

If your coping strategies for managing stress are healthy (e.g. breathing exercises, mindfulness, sleeping enough, balanced nutrition, walking), it will be easier to bounce back from the stress of the current changes. But if your coping strategies are unhealthy or destructive to your wellbeing (e.g. not eating enough, using alcohol, compulsive exercising) then it risks making the eating disorder and its anxieties flare up and it will delay your recovery. So it is important to take steps to counter this risk and what better time to learn new habits than in the ‘back to school’ season.

Our Managing Emotional Distress article contains lots of ideas for managing stressful and distressing feelings. Good lifestyle habits around nutrition, Sleep and smartphone/ tablet are cornerstones stress management, even in people without eating disorders. You can find more about developing these strategies unhealthy ones uncaused by the eating disorder.

It is worth remembering that it takes a lot of repetition to make a new habits automatic. One study suggested it took between 18 and 254 days to form a new habit, with an average of 66 (Lally et al, 2009). So don’t become disheartened if this takes time. Positive coping strategies are a lifelong skill that will serve you through eating disorder recovery and beyond, so it is totally worth it to try again. For further tips on how to introduce new habits, check out our article on this topic here