Distraction – Get Busy! There are many different ways you can distract yourself from unpleasant emotions and urges. I like to do multiple things at once including watching copious amounts of television and movies, word puzzles, Sudoku, crocheting, jigsaw puzzles, video games, scrap booking etc. Find something you can get into and get busy with it, the more interactive the better!
One Meal at a time! – Yes, one meal at a time. Disconnect the current meal from all others. What you eat now has NOTHING to do with what you ate earlier or are planning on eating later. I really found it helpful to refer to my meal plan. At every meal and snack I would do the BEST I could to get that meal as accurate as possible. It wasn’t perfect but it definately made it easier. I knew what I had to get in and just focused on that meal.
Delay – Whatever urges you’re having, put them off! Some people find it helpful to put off reactive urges such as purging and over exercising by putting a time limit in front of the symptom. Force yourself to wait 5 minutes before you act. This doesn’t mean that after 5 minutes you can act, but after 5 minutes, reevaluate your urges and see if you even really need to act. Increase the time limit with each success! I like to put off symptoms such as weighing myself and restricting by saying I will think about it at the next meal or the next day. If I want to restrict breakfast I say that I will consider it at lunch time. At lunch time, I say I will consider it at snack time. Put it off as long as you possibly can.
Get Grounded – Where are you? Who is there? What are you doing? Get REALLY aware of your surroundings and immerse yourself in the current moment. Get your mind OUT of your own head and let the intensity of your emotions reduce. Name 10 things of a certain colour, don’t feel better? Pick another colour and repeat. Pick a random number and count backwards from 100 or 1000 by that number. Focus on describing in detail the feeling of your feet on the floor, the feeling of whatever you’re touching. I used to keep a seashell in my pocket and focus on all it’s hills and dents.
Sensational! – Use your senses to help bring you back to earth! Name 5 things that you can small, touch, hear and smell. If you are having intense anxiety, try holding an ice cube or splashing your face with cold water.
Know yourself – Know your weaknesses and strengths. Know when you are going into a potentially risky situation and prepare for it. Know the factors that make you more vulnerable, things like being tired, stressed, bored or home alone.
Coping Phrases – Come up with a few coping phrases or mantras that you can repeat to yourself when you are having a hard time. Some I’ve used are; “you cannot trust your eyes”, “you will survive”, “It took years to get here, it will take time to get out”, “What would <insert name of loved one here> say/do?”, “this is progress, progress is good”, “you are not defined by your body. You have fat, you are not fat”
Opposite Action – When feeling negative emotions (anxiety, depression, fear etc) try to do the opposite of what you want to do. I tend to get antisocial when I am having a hard time so I make it a point to get out of the house and talk to someone. When the last thing I want to do is get out of bed, I get up and get dressed. When I feel the need to be particularly mean to myself, I do something nice for myself like paint my nails. Don’t fake it till you make it, fake it till you become it.
Routine – One of the BIGGEST positive changes in my life. Develop a routine and do your best to stick to it. I got a job with steady hours (Mon-Fri 830-4) and I started planning everything around that! The days I stick to my routine are always the easiest on me emotionally. My day looks like this: Wake up at 6am, walk the dog, feed the pets and myself, shower, go to work. Come home, relax, get dinner ready, watch tv, go to bed around 10/11. On Tuesday’s I go to a mindfulness class, on Wednesdays and Saturdays I go to yoga. I try to keep it as simple as possible!
Breathe – Take a second to think about your breath – really think about it. Watch it enter and leave your body. This breath is with you always, it will never leave you, it will never harm you. Your breath is a constant that is always nourishing your body. Focus on it and remember that it is always there. Notice your breath, is it shallow and quick or slow and deep? Try to deepen your breath and slow it down. Instead of focusing on your shoulders, chest or stomach while breathing, focus on the sensation in your nostrils, or the sound it makes.
For more of my thoughts on coping strategies click here!