Top Tips for Back to School
It's that time of year! When the school year begins again, and along with it comes all the excitement and challenges of another year. Navigating school while in recovery from an eating disorder brings its own set of added challenges. Including the challenges of a demanding performance based environment, as well as social challenges, which can exaggerate perfectionistic self expectations and add stress to life. School can also be an exciting and enjoyable experience, and provides some great opportunities to grow in recovery, and put your recovery skills into practice. You can establish recovery practices into your regular routine, to help keep recovery your focus and priority during the school year. 1. Build a strong support system and use it, including your treatment team, family and friends. Your treatment team could include your doctor, therapist, dietitian or other professionals. With the busy pace of school, it can be easy to push appointments and therapy sessions out of your schedule. Keeping consistent with your treatment team gives you a place to be open about any challenges you’re facing, set goals, highlight accomplishments, gain insights, and problem solve. Family and friends can also be a great support in many ways. When our clients leave treatment they sometimes talk about feeling the need to “prove” to others and themselves that they’re being successful with recovery, and feel the desire to put up a front that “everything is great” rather than being open and honest about both challenges and victories. Being open can help your family and friends understand your recovery process better, help you feel more supported, and remind you that recovery is a process. 2. Establish a meal plan, and use your supports to help you stick with it. If the pressures of school begin to feel stressful, the urges to begin slipping in your meal plan can creep in. Committing to a meal plan and making it part of the routine of your day can help you to stick with it, even if stressors are popping up. Some helpful practices to establish might be eating with others rather than alone, create accountability with your treatment team, pre-plan your meals and snacks and times that these work best with your schedule. And prepare your food in advance if possible, so it’s convenient when you need it. 3. Balance your time including study time, social time and time for self soothing activities to refresh and relax. As a student it can be easy to fall into the traps of procrastinating and then cramming for due dates, or becoming consumed with studying and neglecting social time or rest time. Creating a schedule for your week that includes study time, social time and rest time can help you bring balance to your time management. It can be helpful to create a list of self soothing activities that you enjoy and plan these into your week, such as a massage, pedicure, getting outside into nature, meditation, or deep breathing exercises. Social anxieties can add challenges to spending time with others or attending social events, and can create the urge to socially isolate. This is a great opportunity to use friends for support by open about social challenges, and set goals that feel realistic and rewarding. 4. Be realistic about your work load. Being committed to recovery practices takes time and energy. You might decide that taking a part time course load allows you time for recovery based activities like therapy appointments, journaling exercises, or the balance of time that works best for you with friends and self care activities. There's no "should" with how many courses you need to take, and its important to be realistic with yourself about what balance works best for you. Using these tips will help set you up for a great recovery focused year. Full recovery is possible!