We all struggle with something right? Speeding, drinking, watching too much television, smoking, lying, overeating, under-eating, worrying, not reading our bibles or praying as often as we think we should or need to or as often as we like … the list is endless. Our struggles are as unique as we are. The thing is, the only way that we can begin to change these issues we battle is by facing them head on. And that seems scary. And often, it even seems impossible. But we resolve to change anyway, because we know we should and we will be A Better Person because of it – and perhaps then we stick with it, with our new changes, for a few days or a week or a month or a few months – but we fail. We inevitably end up back where we started and we very dangerously say “Stuff it, I’m clearly incapable of making change long-term.” And so we give up. We give up and we stay stuck in our behaviours.
I’ve been thinking about this in recent times and thinking about how I have actually managed to avoid a huge eating disorder relapse and thought it was important I wrote some of these thoughts down. These are not only applicable to eating disorders; you might find there’s something written here that strikes you as relevent for your own life / situations you encounter etc – hopefully you do! These are a few things I have found helpful in the last 10 months.
1. Pray. Pray a lot a lot a lot a lot. Pray that God will be with you as you seek to make changes in your life for good. Pray you’ll find the strength to persevere. Pray you’ll find the courage to not quit, even if it seems ridiculously tough sometimes. And pray that God makes you bold through this; that He uses your experiences to help others too.
2. Ask people to keep you accountable. Find people you trust in your church or some school buds or uni buds or work mates – and share with them what’s going on for you. Talk about changes you want to make. Be honest about the fears you have of failing. Ask them if they could be so kind as to ask you regularly how you’re going – perhaps if you can catch up once a week or once a fortnight or once a month – whatever works best for both of you. The more people you have around you supporting you, the more likely the change is to occur. Don’t isolate yourself when you’re attempting to make big changes in your life, and be upfront with people – they’ll appreciate it, and long-term it will be useful for you as you seek to make change.
3. Self-care self-care self-care. I can’t say this often enough! Do the things you love with the people you love as often as you can. And treat yourself very kindly. Read a book in the sunshine. Turn your mobile phone off for the day. Go walking barefoot in the rain. Make a chocolate cake and eat a slice with some fresh coffee. Swing on a swing. Walk on your hands. Clean. Have a bath. Buy some fresh flowers. Look after yourself. Look after yourself because you are very valuable, and very worthwhile.
4. Know your triggers. When I use the word “triggers” here, I mean the things that send you spiralling back down into your eating disordered ways (or whatever else you’re attempting to change). Try and learn what they are so you’re able to tap into them a little more and be mindful of them. Be gentle with yourself though, getting to know what your triggers are and being able to deal with them appropriately can take quite some time. And that’s okay! I’ll give you an example of my own – when I’m sick, I’m more prone to thinking in an eating disordered way or thinking more about my body. I had laryngitis and a tummy bug a few weeks back and the ED thoughts came tumbling back. Point is – be aware that these things happen. Everyone has different triggers. The important part is that you figure out ways you can deal with those triggers instead of just falling into the relapse trap. And talk it out with people, that’s super important too.
5. Find healthy and appropriate coping strategies – and implement them. No, it’s definitely not easy to do and this also takes time but the sooner you start practicing these when you’re feeling beyond overwhelmed, the more natural it will become and the more likely you are to start to be able to make wise changes in your life. This equals less risk of relapsing – yay!
6. Make goals. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to change too quickly – but write down a list of things you’d like to be able to do – both long-term and short-term – perhaps to challenge some scary foods, eat an appropriate amount of carbs, eat enough to be able to do things you love (exercise, study etc), learn to accept your body – and tick them off as you go! It’s taken me near a year, but I’m happy to say that I’ve achieved 39/40 of my goals that I set for myself last year. These things take time, and it’s important that you don’t rush things along.
7. Seek professional help. Sometimes when we make big changes, it can be helpful to have someone who we don’t know a whole heap to also keep us accountable. Give us an outsiders perspective. Help us to achieve changes we might not otherwise be able to do alone. If you have been receiving treatment for an eating disorder or some other emotional issue that has been going on for you – don’t finish treatment too early. Make sure you’re really okay to be finishing up. Line people up so they’re there and aware if necessary (ie – doctors, dietitians, psychologists etc). Be wise.
8. When it all gets just a little too much, remember to breathe. You’re okay. You will be okay. You’re doing okay. It’s okay. Breathe breathe breathe breathe breathe. Also, while we’re still on this point, write affirmations for yourself and leave them everywhere. Stick things on your fridge; on your walls. Write yourself lovely reminders about yourself and how valuable you are on your phone. Collect bible verses and quotes and things you love to constantly be mindful and aware. This is a helpful tool, methinks, in reaching your long-term goals.
9. When the ED tries to reel you back in, go outside and look at the stars. I did this the other night; it was a good reality check! God is big and I am little and He is sovereign and has made me precious and valuable. And He has made you precious and valuable too!
10. Lastly, be gentle with yourself. You might have had an eating disorder for a very long time. Whatever you’re trying to change – it might be something that you’ve done for years and years. Change won’t happen overnight and that’s okay. Sometimes you’ll relapse or fall back into old habits and that’s okay too! Onwards and upwards, my friends. Onwards and upwards.