Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Philadelphia Primary Therapist Kate Funk offers tips for navigating the upcoming change of seasons and return to school. Kate shares ways to maintain recovery and manage the stress of a new schedule and academic pressure.
As summer fades into fall here on the east coast I can’t help but get excited for cozy knit sweaters, pumpkin flavored coffee, and enjoying the brightly colored changing leaves. For our clients, we know fall often means transition; transition back to school and extra- curricular activities and for parents’ hectic schedules of pickups and drop offs, not to mention less sun light each day which can bring its’ own struggles. In this post I will explore some fall tips for anyone facing recovery.
School can stir up a lot of anxiety, schedules are jam packed, meals and snacks can feel like a burden, and perfectionism flourishes in academic settings. I like to ask clients how they can do things differently. If historically, you took only advanced level classes, how about taking less intense courses? If you always do several clubs and sports, I would ask you to think about what you can sit out of this year. It’s important to realize that by stepping out, you’re actually taking the more courageous road. You are choosing to prioritize your recovery. Recovery is a full time job and in order to manage recovery and school it’s important to look at your schedule realistically and see what you can put on the back burner for now. Just because you step away from a sport or club doesn’t mean you can’t go back to it at another time. In my own experience, I decided to leave school for almost an entire year and work with my Dad while pursuing intensive outpatient treatment. That wasn’t an easy decision for me, but it allowed me to be gentle with myself. That break from school allowed me to start to get to know myself as someone in recovery and not just my eating disorder self. The last thing your eating disorder wants you to do is to be gentle with yourself and that’s exactly what you should do!
A new season is a great opportunity to create new habits and routines. Instead of focusing on past behaviors think about how you could create new habits that are promoting your recovery. This thought can bring up lots of ideas, but maybe look at where some of the harder moments you had in the past and see how you could replace those moments with structure and support. There are countless things you can do to prioritize your recovery in your daily routine; maybe hanging a quote in your car to remind you to stop for lunch, listening to a soothing playlist on your way to school, sitting with friends or teachers at school that have a healthy relationship with food, decorating your locker with art work you made in treatment, preparing to go snacks at the beginning of the week, etc. Recognize that you are in charge of your own actions and how you can you act as if recovery is your number one priority, even when it feels like the furthest thing from a priority. Getting into recovery oriented routines early in the season will make it easy to continue moving forward.
Living with an eating disorder is like living in a fog, unable to connect with the world around you. One thing I liked to think about in my own recovery, was what would “baby Kate do?” and this would especially apply to a change in seasons. Would baby Kate want to go pumpkin picking or drink apple cider? Would baby Kate want to spend time with friends and family? Of course she would! This was a great way for me to get in touch with my soul self and what was really important to me instead of what my eating disorder wanted to do. The fall season is a great time to challenge your recovery with new routines, new activities, and new flavors, but during change and challenges I think sticking to the basics is always key.
Prioritize your treatment, set a schedule and stick with it! Meal plan with your dietitian and supports. Keep your doctor appointments. Life will come up and threaten to shake things out of place, but committing to these basics can help you feel grounded. Stepping back from activities that do not enhance your recovery can only promote your wellness. Look at where you’ve struggled in the past, and see if you can put support in those places. Fall is a time of transition, but transition is an excellent opportunity to step up your recovery and see how you can rewrite old scripts and step into healthy change.