So, you’ve completed a residential program and then proceeded to step down to PHP (Partial Hospitalization Program) and IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program). Congrats! Now, you’re back to your “real life” at home. You’ve gone from 24/7 structure, care, and accountability to just an hour-long appointment with your therapist, a half-hour chatting with your dietitian, and an occasional visit with your physician and psychiatrist. You were surrounded by peers who understood what it’s like to have an eating disorder, and now you’ve reentered a world where coworkers, friends, and family may not always “get it”. Hopefully, you were warned—this is a tough transition!
Here is something to consider: take what was helpful to you in your intensive treatment and replicate it at home. Was yoga something that you had looked forward to every week? Did that body image group completely change how you thought about yourself? Did the therapeutic meal groups remind you to focus on the social aspect of food? More often than not, these opportunities are available in your community—it’s a matter of seeking them out.
First, ask your outpatient treatment team about potential opportunities. Usually, the eating disorder professional community is a small and tight-knit group. They share resources. They have a pool of people to ask what programs are available- whether it’s a DBT group, a balanced and mindful personal trainer, or a support group you’re looking to attend. Even if it’s not a formal group, you can designate a slot of time to journal at a coffee shop, create your own art therapy, read a recovery-focused book, or have a supportive meal with a friend every week. Think outside of the box!
Next, make your schedule and block out time in your week to do these life-giving, recovery-promoting activities. Think about scheduling them for a time when you’ll need them most, like a Friday night after a long work week. It can be helpful to post the schedule on your refrigerator and enter them as reoccurring events into your phone.
Now if you’re feeling overwhelmed and overscheduled, perhaps take a good hard look at all of your outside commitments and ask yourself – “Is this necessary? Is this helpful, harmful, or irrelevant to my life and recovery?” The “irrelevant” activities aren’t necessarily bad, but they clutter your schedule without fostering joy, peace or health. Try to simplify your work and social calendar, at least for this season of life, so that you have enough time for recovery.
Finally, stick to it! It can be so easy to push these events to the back burner now that you’ve returned to work or school. To prevent this from happening, share your schedule with a friend, partner, or family member and ask them to keep you on track with the commitments. Perhaps you can find a buddy to attend with you every week. Another way to stay the course is to write down all the reasons why the activity is important to you and your recovery and keep the list as a reminder.
Recovery IS important, and with a little planning, determination, support and grace for yourself, you can make the transition.
Image Souce: Flickr