Moving, transition, change – all are experiences that bring about feelings of chaos and a desire to maintain control. Unfortunately, for those of us with a history of disordered eating, that desire to maintain control can easily manifest through a resurgence of disordered behaviors, and possibly even relapse.
It’s important to be aware of the challenges that may arise during transitional periods prior to the experience in order to adequately prepare for and seek out ways to overcome those challenges. With a plan in place, it is sometimes a little easier to stand strong against the disordered thoughts that creep in during those stressful moments.
Below are four challenges I faced throughout my move, and the ways I have found help me to move past those challenges. Feel free to share any moving or transition challenges and ways you have worked to overcome them!
1. Lack of routine
For me, routine has been key throughout my own recovery, especially in terms of food. When the disordered thoughts get loud, routine keeps me sane during mealtimes, gym time, and downtime. Although there is definitely something to be said for mixing it up and enjoying life outside of routine, during a stressful situation, having one can provide the key to getting through the chaos.
During a stressful situation, such as a move, it’s important to establish a routine quickly. Start small – don’t let the creation of a new routine be an added stressor. Create an easy to implement routine – try waking up or going to sleep at the same time each day, or create a nighttime pre-sleep ritual that begins to rest your mind before you even get in bed. Baby steps that start to have a big impact on the flow of your day.
Be gentle with yourself and don’t force routines too quickly. Allow time to transition, change old habits and learn what works for you in the present moment. Even the smallest routine can offer a sense of stability amidst the chaos of a move, transition, or big life change.
Moving, transitions and changes can be very lonely. Isolating yourself only exacerbates the loneliness. Eating disorders thrive on secrecy and isolation, making loneliness a huge opportunity for disordered thoughts to creep back in.
During the move, transition, or change; make time to meet new people. Put yourself out there and see what happens! This can be terrifying, especially while also coping with the lies eating disorders likes to throw at you. But, know that the more you can do to combat loneliness and isolation, the less opportunity the eating disorder has to feed off of those feelings and grow stronger.
Meeting people can be especially difficult when you throw in worries about trying new foods, restaurants, or social situations. It is helpful to try to stretch your comfort zone (maybe even step out of it for a while) and try not to let strict food rules impact opportunities to meet and socialize with new people. With that said, you know your limits, so pay attention to your mind and body, and honor what it’s telling you, especially if you are at a point where you can separate your thoughts and feelings from your eating disorder!
Connecting with new people can also be difficult if you are moving away from your best friends, support group, and family. Try to keep in mind that the people who love you want to see you thrive in this new place. They will be happy that you are meeting people and not isolating yourself. It is okay to miss them – call them, message them, plan visits – but also, take some time to open yourself up and let others in, and the loneliness will subside!
3. New foods and restaurants
With a new location comes new foods and restaurants. Although it can be hard to move away from the perceived safety of the foods and restaurants you are accustomed to, it is important to work on stretching those recovery muscles and trying new things.
In this transition period of trying new foods and restaurants, try to limit labeling foods and places as “good” or “bad.” Give yourself a chance to try many new things without feeling guilty for choosing a perceived “bad” choice!
If trying new foods and restaurants is a stressor for you, try to make it fun by making it a social activity. Meet a friend for lunch, go to dinner with a coworker, try a donut shop with a friend who is visiting you – the possibilities are endless, and you might feel less anxious than if you were trying the food or restaurant alone.
4. Exploring a new area
With new foods and restaurants also come new gyms, doctors, therapists, jobs, etc. Give yourself time to learn this new area. Find out who and what works for you, and know that you don’t have to commit to the first new doctor or therapist you seek out!
If you are in the process of searching for a new therapist, talk with your current therapist about the possibility of setting up an online session while you are in the searching process. This can help you continue treatment without feeling the added pressure of the need to click with a new therapist immediately.
Prior to your move, work with your therapist to come up with a game plan for the first few weeks you will be in the new location. Know which appointments you need to make immediately, and which ones can wait a little longer. You can even come up with a preliminary list of possible offices you would like to contact ahead of time!
Moves and transitions are stressful. Each of them will come with challenges and stressors that will impact your life and possibly your recovery. It is important to go into each move with a plan for combating and overcoming the challenges and stressors you will face. Have resources available – a therapist, a support group, accountability, or many others.
Most importantly, be patient with yourself. Give yourself time to learn, adjust, and thrive in this new location or environment. Know your limits and know when you need to take a step back and ask for help. Continue to focus on recovery each day, and slowly the challenges and stressors of moving will begin to fade away as you become accustomed to your new location.