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How to Deal with Eating Disorder Relapse


Recovering from an eating disorder is difficult, but staying in recovery can be even harder.

Although it may seem like you've overcome the disorder, there is always the fear of relapse lurking at the back of your mind.

You may feel more vulnerable during periods of stress or anxiety in your life, which can result in added stress to the possibility of relapse, creating a vicious cycle.

However, there is no shame in relapsing, and it is important to remember that even if you fall off your recovery wagon, you can always get back on.

Here are five tips to follow when you feel like you are relapsing:

Remember to Breathe

This may sound too simple, but often when the panic of falling into relapse hits, it only makes getting back on the path to recovery that much harder. The best way to prevent yourself from falling back into old habits is to remove yourself from what is causing your anxieties in the first place. Find a way to relax and meditate, or find an activity that will help to relax you when you are the most stressed.

Yoga breathing techniques can be really useful to learn so that you can have a coping mechanism you can turn to on the fly. Most of all, remember that if you have relapsed, you can always start over again.

Allow Yourself to Relax

When you find yourself in a stressful period in your life, try to find an activity that you can turn to in order to relax. If you can get out of your anxious mood, you will be better able to avoid any urges you may have of resorting to disordered eating behaviors. Self-care is extremely important, and you must never neglect your emotional and physical well-being.

Here are some ideas that you can try out next time you are trying to relax:

  1. Make a cup of tea and remember to drink it slowly.
  2. Take a hot bath with bubbles. If you can't take a bath, a shower with aromatherapy works too.
  3. Try doing arts and crafts. Pick up knitting, sewing or scrapbooking – or simply make someone a card.
  4. Cook or bake something for someone. Don't worry about having to eat it yourself and enjoy the process instead.
  5. Learn to meditate. Try lying down and closing your eyes, which can help you refocus your attention.
  6. Take a walk. Switch off, or “unplug” yourself, from the busy world that is keeping you stressed and go out for a walk around your neighborhood or at a local park.
  7. Have a good cry. Let everything out and you will see that the world always looks a little brighter afterward.

Challenge Irrational Thoughts

One of the things that makes eating disordered thoughts difficult to deal with is that they are out of your control. These thoughts take you by surprise and pop up when you least expect them. However, you can develop a game plan to help you take back your thoughts.

You can do this by sitting down, letting yourself think the irrational thought and breaking it down in a rational way. Ask yourself: Why am I thinking this? Does any of this make sense, or are my thoughts being distorted by my eating disorder? This will help you to ground your thoughts in reality and will allow you to control irrational thoughts.

Find a Support System

One of the key elements for successful eating disorder recovery is having a support system on which you can rely. Your support system should consist of friends, family and both medical and mental health professionals. Try not to rely on only one person but to instead create a network of people because no one person can carry that burden for you. A support network will be better able to support you.

Recognize that You Need Medical Attention

If you find that your feelings of relapse are recurring more often and you are becoming less able to control them, it might be a good idea to talk to your primary care physician, nutritionist or mental health professional. There are many options out there for you, such as therapy and medication. A healthcare professional can help you to come up with a plan and show you what the best options are for you based on your needs and condition.

Lastly, remember that relapse is not failure and that there is nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it. Never lose hope; tomorrow is a new day.