It seems that we deal with stress daily. We shouldn’t be surprised that our stress sometimes gets the best of us with the countless activities that occupy our time. Between work, school, home, relationships – our minds and bodies are in constant motion. However, stress can become a problem when we find ourselves unable to cope. For those with an eating disorder, negative coping skills can come in the form of destructive mental and behavioral patterns.
What is the connection between stress and eating disorders?
No matter how hard we try, we can’t avoid stress. For someone at risk of developing an eating disorder, stress can lead to increased emotions, and often quickly.
Our bodies have a stress hormone, cortisol, and when released into the body we experience heightened levels of breathing and increased heart rate. If our stress continues, sleep, digestive, cardiovascular, and immune systems can be impacted.
Various social and environmental factors, such as the pressure for the ideal body or hurtful or hateful comments can increase stress and anxiety levels. Without a productive outlet, the stress cycle can continue as feelings continue to escalate. Stress can cause someone to act impulsively, and for someone with an eating disorder, it can lead them to restrict, purge after meals, or engage in binge eating episodes.
We know stress can influence an eating disorder, but it can also be the other way around. Eating disorders can have a severe physical impact on the body, but they can also exacerbate our mental stress. Constant worry about food and weight can lead to considerable anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression – all of which can increase stress levels.
Additionally, the isolation and secrecy that is often associated with an eating disorder can be a trigger for destructive behavior. Individuals with an eating disorder may put on a brave face or maintain an “everything is ok” attitude to hide their disorder. As the struggle to hide the eating disorder becomes tougher, anxiety and stress levels increase.
How do we cope?
Healthy coping skills and problem-solving abilities are needed to combat the stress that can lead to or exacerbate an eating disorder. It is important to understand that we have little ability to control the situation. Viewing our stressors as a challenge instead of a threat and changing the way we respond to circumstances can diffuse some of the stress we experience.
Here are a few easy ways to maintain stress levels in a healthy way and help better control your situation.
Heightened stress causes us to process information differently and feel emotionally and physically drained. One way to calm yourself is to take your clear your mind each day. Be kind and focus on yourself. Take a deep breath and hold for five seconds, then exhale slowly. Clear your mind of negative thoughts, worry, and anxiety.
Other calming strategies include:
- Breathing exercises
These strategies involve how we feel about the stressors that we face each day. The strategies can be as easy as asking yourself if something really needs to cause you stress.
Other emotional strategies can include:
- Journaling about your emotions
- Thinking positively and not blaming yourself for negative events
- Eating disorders often cause individuals to engage in negative self-talk. Write positive, meaningful messages to yourself to help reduce stress.
Small changes can often lead to a huge shift in how you feel. One change leads to another, which leads to positive change that can alter life significantly. these strategies can be very effective for stress relief.
Solution-focused techniques can include the following:
- Practice time-management skills when you feel overwhelmed by a busy schedule
- Talking to someone when you feel stressed
- Try something new each day – a new hobby, read a new book
- Honor your limits and change plans. Permit yourself to do something else if it makes you comfortable.
Magnolia Creek Offers Your Hope
Sometimes our stress does lead to an eating disorder. When this happens, and you need help, Magnolia Creek is here. Our evidence-based therapies can help teach you needed coping skills to manage your eating disorder symptoms. As a result, your bodily functions stabilize, and you regain your health.
Learn more about the hands-on help our professional staff at Magnolia Creek can give you. Most importantly, realize how you can participate in your recovery. Call 866-318-2329 today or complete our contact form for more information.