Every person has felt anxiety at some point in their life. Fear actually serves a purpose and keeps us safe. Imagine if you never felt fear- even in a dangerous situation. Humans would not have survived if we did not have fear to keep us from approaching a dangerous animal, for example.
Fear can become a problem, however. At some point, we begin to fear things that are not dangerous, real or have even happened yet! This is anxiety. Most of us with anxiety are often living in the future- with "what if" worst case scenarios running through our minds. At this point, our anxiety goes from an attempt to keep us safe- to keeping us from really living in the present moment.
So what are some ways to combat anxiety?
You can start at your thoughts- become mindful of your thoughts throughout the day and increase your awareness of when you are actually living in the future instead of the present moment. When you notice yourself anxiously thinking about the future- redirect your mind to what is actually happening in the moment. You can also begin to question your worst case scenarios and the likelihood of such a situation actually happening. Some people find positive affirmations helpful in bringing them back to the present moment- you can try repeating, "in this moment, I am safe".
Along with monitoring your thoughts, try practicing anxiety reducing behaviors each day. Practice makes better (there is no such thing as perfect). The more you practice the behaviors, the more likely you are to use them when you become overly anxious.
Everyone has their favorite activity that decreases anxiety. Mine is taking a bath- I do not know what I would do without a bathtub..and some people dislike baths- it is up to you to figure out what works best for you. Some possibilities could be...
Now, this list does not include every possible anxiety reducing activity, but hopefully it can help you brainstorm some possibilities for yourself. It is time to find some peace of mind. You deserve it.
This is the most wonderful time of the year, right?
As amazing as the holidays can be for many people, they can cause a lot of anxiety and sadness for many others. The anxiety can actually become worse because of the expectations that the holidays "should" be the most wonderful time of the year.
When someone is suffering from an eating disorder, depression, anxiety and/or grief, holiday traditions can be agonizing--- between social gatherings, holiday food, extra time with family, shopping, extra expenses, etc.
Here are some tips to get through the holidays this year
1. Talk to someone
Have someone that you can lean on during this time. Hopefully you have at least one person that knows about your struggles that you can call and be honest about how you are feeling. It can be extremely helpful to talk to that person before a holiday gathering and create a plan of action- try asking that person if you can talk to them (text, call, mesage) to help talk you through the challenges.
2. If it is possible, bring a supportive person to the holiday gathering
What is even better than messaging? Actually having the person there to help you. It can be scary to ask the person to come with you, but wouldn't you go to a holiday gathering to help a friend?
3. Create an escape plan with your supportive person
If the gathering becomes to stressful, call your support person and practice your escape plan. It could be as simple as a code word that means you need a break and need to go for a walk.
Remember to breathe deeply when your anxiety hits. It can help to count your breaths or have a mantra. Try practicing now- breathe in for 8 seconds, pause at the top of your breath and breathe out for 9 seconds, again pausing at the end of your breath, then repeat.
5. Practice anxiety reducing affirmations/mantras/coping statements
Try to find a mantra that fits for you and repeat it to yourself when you get anxious
I am okay
I am calm
I am exactly where I need to be right now
I am relaxed
I can do this
This will pass
I can be anxious/angry/sad and still get through this
I have done this before and survived, I will survive again
All anxiety passes
This will not last forever
Right now, I am not in danger, right now, I am safe
It is okay to be anxious/sad or angry. It is what I do with the emotion that matters
6. Practice visualizing yourself in protective bubble
Many people have dysfunctional families and the thought of extra time with extended family members can cause an increase in anxiety. If you have difficulty being around family members, practice visualizing a protective bubble of whatever calming color you choose. The bubble protects you from any negative energy from others and surrounds you with calming energy.
7. Memoralize lost loved ones
If your holiday sadness and or anger is due to grief, memoralize your lost loved one. Many people try to ignore memories of their loved ones, as the grief can hurt too much. Even though it may work in the short term, the grief will build and can result in physical and mental illness. Try to reach out to another person that knows your lost loved one and talk about positive memories of him or her. Look through old photos and allow yourself to feel any emotion that comes up.
Wishing you happy holidays!
Please take good care of yourselves and be kind to others.
How many of you have a pair of "skinny jeans" in your closet?
I am not talking about the currently popular style of jeans, but that pair of jeans that you can no longer fit into- yet you continue to keep in your closet so you can wear them again-once you have lost weight.
Keeping around such jeans can be extremely triggering and can be very harmful to your recovery.
Oftentimes, recovering from an eating disorder includes having to adjust to a new recovery body. Many people recovering from an eating disorder struggle with getting rid of the clothes they fit into when they were in their eating disorder- their "sick clothes".
Keeping old sick clothes in your closet can be a constant reminder of what your body used to look like and can keep ED alive. Ready to give them up? There are a couple of different ways you can do it. You can always give back to the community by donating the clothes to shelters, thrift stores, etc. My personal favorite way is to keep one particularly triggering piece of clothing and have a "goodbye ceremony".
Make the "goodbye ceremony" fun by writing on the clothing and/or ripping/shredding/cutting it. Whatever you need to do to say goodbye once and for all!
Once you have room in your closet, ask a supportive friend or family member to help you go shopping for new clothes that fit your recovery body. If the sizes of the new clothes are too triggering, you can cut off the labels.
Remember, you are so much more than the size of your clothes and you deserve a life free from your eating disorder!
--Ashley Azin, MA, MS, LMFT