By Megan Samuels, EDC Intern and Social Work Graduate Student
As the vaccines for COVID-19 are becoming more available, things are starting to open up again. People are going to the beach, going on vacations, and hanging out with friends and family members. In some stores, fully vaccinated people are even allowed to not wear masks. It has been 14 months of masks, social distancing, hand sanitizer, and some form of isolation.
For an introvert like myself, I enjoyed some aspects of the pandemic, such as being able to stay in my house more often. It was difficult to adjust to not being able to see my friends in person, but I got used to Facetiming, Zooming, and texting friends more often. Now we are in this weird space where a lot of people are vaccinated and starting to go out and about again. What does that mean for introverts like me? A summer full of possibly seeing people in person more often.
This can be even more stressful for people who are in eating disorder recovery. As the weather gets warmer, as it is in Rockville, MD, people are wearing less and less clothing. The summer months can be difficult for people in recovery from an eating disorder or any type of body image distress. Showing more skin and less clothing can be scary! The anxiety that comes around body image could even increase eating disorder behaviors.
So, what can we do about this? I think the first thing to do is to make sure you have a support system in place. This may look like a therapist, a registered dietitian, a psychiatrist, family members, and friends. Or, this may look like a therapist and a romantic partner. Everyone’s life is so unique and complex that our support systems will reflect that uniqueness as well.
Once you have identified your support system, touch base with them. This could look like requesting more therapy appointments during the summer months, having a conversation about coping skills with your therapist, or letting your friends know that summer may bring up some yucky body image thoughts. If your friends do not have experiences with mental health or disordered eating, consider sending them some helpful phrases that they can say to you when you are having a bad body image day.
The next thing that can be helpful this summer is to do a stoplight analysis of your recovery journey. When I use this technique with clients, I usually grab a blank piece of paper and fold the paper so there are 3 rows and 2 columns. For the column on the left side, I would draw a green circle in the first row, a yellow circle in the second row, and a red circle in the third row. These three rows will act like a stoplight. The green light would explain what your life would look like if you were doing well in recovery. The yellow light would explain what your life would look like if you started to revert to unhealthy behaviors, including any warning signs of reverting to past behaviors. The red light would indicate what it would mean to be using unhealthy behaviors and that you would need more support. You would write these warning signs in the right column for each corresponding row.
After solidifying your support system and going over a stoplight analysis with your treatment team, the next thing that could be helpful for you this summer could be to plan lots of self-care activities. If you are anything like me, I physically have to schedule TV time or meditations into my Google calendar, or I will forget to do them! It can be a good idea to incorporate some sort of self-care practice each week or everyday, depending on what you have going on this summer and what is accessible for you. If you find yourself having a crappy body image day, it can be helpful to look at your calendar and remember that you are watching your favorite movie tonight with your best friend. This particular self-care practice, watching a movie with a friend, can distract you from those pesky body image thoughts and can also provide you a space to process your thoughts with your friend, if you feel comfortable doing so.
This summer may look a lot different than last summer in terms of mask usage and social distancing restrictions. Summer also may typically be a challenging time for people working through body image issues. Hopefully, these steps to address body image and eating concerns can help you have a summer that is not consumed by distressing thoughts about food and your body. Recovery from body image and disordered eating is hard work - you got this!
If you are looking for therapy or recovery coaching worldwide, we can help! We are eating disorder and body image experts.
***Disclaimer: Please note that this blog post is for informational and educational purposes only and is not psychological, therapeutic, or medical advice.
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The Eating Disorder Center is a premier outpatient eating disorder therapy center founded by Jennifer Rollin. We specialize in helping teens and adults struggling with anorexia, binge eating disorder, bulimia, OSFED, and body image issues. We provide eating disorder therapy in Rockville, MD, easily accessible to individuals in Potomac, North Potomac, Bethesda, Olney, Silver Spring, Germantown, and Washington D.C. We also provide eating disorder therapy in Arlington, Virginia and virtually throughout Virginia. Additionally, we offer eating disorder therapy virtually in New York (NYC), Florida, Pennsylvania, and California, serving those in cities including Palo Alto, San Francisco, Newport Beach, Los Angeles, Woodland Hills, San Jose, and Beverly Hills. We provide eating disorder recovery coaching via Zoom to people worldwide. Connect with us through our website at www.theeatingdisordercenter.com
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The Eating Disorder Center
We are a premier outpatient eating disorder therapy center in Rockville, Maryland.