Stepping out of my comfort zone…
Recently I went camping at Lake Ocquittunk in New Jersey for the weekend. I was not totally looking forward to it-one bathroom for 10 people; possible mosquitos and tics and what if it rained? I was also concerned that I would not have time to work over the weekend. I am writing a book so the weekends are prime time to sit down and write without the distraction of the work week. I would be losing a whole Saturday and half of a Sunday!
If you have not realized I have not mentioned anything about my body, weight or shape. This is a huge indicator of my recovery. I was not confused about what clothes to bring or what to wear; I did not think about what the other people on the trip would think of me and I did not obsess about what food I should bring and/or how I would restrict. I was worrying about getting bit by spiders and getting behind in my work.
During my years of struggling with anorexia stepping out of my comfort zone was always so difficult. My favorite place was to be home by myself, in my bed, under the sheets. Traveling escalated my anxiety. Being with large groups worried me. Being with large groups where eating was involved scared the hell out of me and I avoided it at all costs.
The weekend was a huge success. It was first time I really relaxed in quite a while. It is a wake-up call for me to prioritize rest, relaxation, pleasure and quality time with loved ones. I often am so goal-oriented that rest and fun falls to the bottom of the “to do” list. I often am on automatic pilot and I need to slow down. The weekend allowed me to stop, to reflect and to be in the moment. It also allowed me to engage in relationships that need to be fostered in my life.
When I got home, I showered and I even took a nap! And I was smiling…
So here are some pointers I would recommend during recovery:
- Plan weekend getaways with family or friends. The change in the environment can do wonders for recharging your batteries and distract your focus away from body, weight and shape. Weekend trips may be too big of a step (it is was for me in early recovery!), so plan an hour with a friend. Take a walk or go to a store. The goal is to act opposite to the anxiety that the anorexia is creating.
- Play like a child again. Playing “monkey in the middle” and frisbee brought me back to a more simple time in my life and I was able to have fun. Engage in activities that used to bring you pleasure. Anorexia zaps any joy from you. Even engaging in an activity for 5 minutes is a step in the right direction.
- Bring snacks and meals. During recovery from anorexia or other eating disorders it is important to have snacks on hand that you enjoy and to continue eating regularly. Just because you are away does not mean that recovery is placed on hold. Plan ahead and prioritize following your meal plan.
- Expose yourself to the festivities of the weekend. When I was in the candy store I bought some candy; during a picnic I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich like everyone else. Exposure therapy is a vital recovery tool (to be discussed in detail in a future blog). Take baby steps.
- Spend time in a relaxing environment like near a waterfall, stream, beach, wooded area or field. For me the sound of the water was so calming and helped me to reflect on the present moment. Practice being mindful and focus on the here-and-now instead of the past or present.
- Create memories.
- Relax and let go.