Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Manhattan Lead Therapist Colleen Baker, LMSW continues her series with a few more tips to help manage potential challenges and triggers summertime can present while in recovery. To read part one of Colleen’s series, click HERE.
3. The social one: Many of the clients I work with see recovery at any point during the year as an intricate integration of “normal” social functions. These activities can promote heightened anxiety, more pressure to challenge themselves to sit with discomfort and an opportunity to spend time with the people in their lives they find supportive and those who are potentially toxic. When you throw in the expectations that arise socially during the summer months, the pressure to perform, live up to expectations, and manage urges without using symptoms can feel impossible to cope with.
It’s important to explore and establish balance and realistic expectations while also including healthy challenges to expand your comfort zone outside of your apartment and your routine deeply rooted in the eating disorder. Now is the time to explore new activities and opportunities to meet people, to really own your process. Whether that means attending a barbecue for 15 minutes or taking a few minutes breathing back at the umbrella on the beach, it’s ultimately promoting increased distress tolerance and removing more power from your symptoms to challenge what felt natural when the eating disorder was in control. It’s also important that this happens at a pace that feels manageable and not presumptuous. Let your healthy self enjoy the sun, try out the social event, play some badminton and have dinner from the grill, but if that feels like too much, it’s all just a part of the process–maybe this time it’s PM snack on a blanket in Central Park and next time you work up to dinner at the barbeque.
4. The school/work one: It’s no secret that many clients take the time off from school or having a more relaxed schedule at work to focus on recovery over the summer. It’s a great opportunity to prioritize your health and establish significant tracks to guide you into the eventual return to campus. We will always encourage client to utilize the time available to begin their recovery journey, but as a rule, we never like to place a timeline on client’s care. Recovery is not linear and there is no guarantee that a summer of treatment will equal a lifetime of recovery and freedom from an eating disorder. Realistic treatment planning will be key in cases utilizing summer as an opportunity to complete treatment outside of the constraints of the school year. If you can get to a place that feels safe to return to school after a summer of hard work, then great! If it seems like it may take more time, the goal will still be placing recovery first. Making recovery number one, even if that means missing out on school or work at the time, will only benefit you in the end.
No matter what the season, prioritizing your wellness and your recovery is going to take commitment, patience and a fair amount of processing. Every decision you make this summer for your recovery is taking you one step closer to a lifetime of summers, falls, winters and springs filled with a whole lot of whatever you want them to be. I bet your healthy self loves many of the things your eating disorder self has led you to believe are too scary or too overwhelming or “not for you” for some reason. Now’s the time to let your healthy self have its moment in the sun (literally). It starts now and it starts with you. Go have some fun!