Addiction: Coping Mechanisms

A few weeks ago was National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. I will take ANY chance to raise awareness, start the conversation, and advocate for any kind of addiction, but especially eating disorders. When asking my Instagram followers what questions they had regarding eating disorders, one question surfaced multiple times. I'll discuss that question below.

I used to read articles or listen to people talk about this very subject and automatically write them off. "Nope, that won't work." So I understand you are hesitant right now reading this. Let me ask you though: Is what you're currently doing working? My guess is no if you've made your way to this article. Most of you are probably stubborn and hard-headed like moi, so I empathize with you. However, I want to challenge you to attempt these coping skills.

Everyone’s favorite question: Do you still struggle? What are coping mechanisms? How do you keep from falling into old habits? Do you feel triggered?

The answer is yes, of course I still struggle. As I said on my Instagram, for those of us who fight addiction, the hard truth is it’s going to be a fight our whole life. #blessed The great news is it becomes SO MUCH easier to manage and is not as suffocating. The hope is in the demon not being as loud! 💪🏼

As for coping: I believe it is dependent upon the person, what triggers them, and the ed/addiction itself. A common acronym for assessing whether or not you're at high risk in the addiction/mental health world is HALT - Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. Once scanning inward for these four feelings, proceed to the following.

Because my favorite number is fifteen, here are fifteen coping tactics for any addiction while some are specific to eating disorders:

1. Connect with another human DAILY. I challenge you to make this someone other than your significant other. For me it may be my phone call to an aunt, a life chat with a coworker, or a 3.5 hour conversation with a high school classmate. I cultivate meaningful connection with someone daily. I have to.

2. Call people. Get out of your head! Calling requires presence that a text/e-mail doesn’t.

3. Not too much alone time. Everyone should spend time alone but too much is never good. Addiction is isolating as is, and we humans were made for connection. What! So there's validity in my first one? ;)

4. Walk. Physical movement is for everybody and every body. For me though, it allows energy release. There’s something about fresh air and sunshine. Lack of vitamin D (which we get from the sun) has been linked to depression. No wonder there's seasonal depression in the winter.

5. Essential oils. I keep a bottle of lavender at my work desk and put it on my wrists throughout the day. Ask my coworkers. But if I’m feeling extra anxious, I just open the bottle, breathe it in, and take 3 sloooooow breaths.

6. I write. Such a good way to get thoughts/feelings/emotions OUT. We addicts have a messed up way of thinking. Getting our thoughts outside of ourselves make them less powerful. This is especially good if you don't have someone to call/verbally talk things through at that time.

7. I do something that makes me happy. Like record a video of me dancing (and probably post it on my Instagram). Or blare my Sonos as loud as it goes and rap to Eminem in my apartment. #truestory Or FaceTime my Grandpa. We're besties.

8. YOGA. Much anxiety comes from things I can’t control. Yoga gives me control, of my breath and my body's movement. It makes me feel strong, especially when I feel weak. I love to sweat. I love the spiritual connection. I love it all.

9. I don’t keep food in my pantry. I know what foods are not good for me to have in my home. So I’m not going to tempt myself with it. An alcoholic isn’t going to keep bottles of liquor on their counter.

10. I continue counseling/therapy. You know how doctors say to stay on top of the pain with Tylenol? Yeah, same thing. I stay ahead by continuing to process life with my counselor. In my early recovery days I'd feel good and tell myself I've got nothing to say, so I began skipping appointments. Wouldn't be long 'til I found myself there again.

11. Be of service. Whether that’s teaching a yoga class, volunteering at Church, talking through a friend's life event with them, etc. This takes me out of me. I can focus on someone else in a positive way.

12. Get back to my senses. Y'all know anxiety is built up energy right? You know depression is anxiety that's taken over right? If you didn't, now you do. This means we spend too much time not in the present moment. Our senses bring us to the here and now. So, smell something. Feel the wind. Play with clay putty (lots of people did this during my time at the treatment center). Watch a sporting event. Whatever works best for you.

13. Throw the scale way. I know how HARD it is to do this. But I'm so serious when I say how important this is. I promise you it's not making you happier. I think you know that though. Even if it finally is that number you want to see, we know that in a few minutes you'll be thinking that it can be different.

14. Meditation/Prayer. Ugh, mindfulness is like, the most difficult. However, it's a skill that once mastered, can alter everything. Headspace is a free app that I would recommend you testing out for mindfulness. And prayer is pretty self explanatory.

15. Attend support groups. Y'all. While it's great to have support in general, there is NOTHING like support groups of people also going through the same thing. Find meetings near you and GO, even if to just listen. If this freaks you out, reach out to someone you may know going through this now.

Below are links to help you find the most common groups:

Alcoholics Anonymous

Anorexics and Bulimics Anonymous - In person and virtual

Co-dependents Anonymous

Gamblers Anonymous

Narcotics Anonymous

Overeaters Anonymous

Sex Addicts Anonymous

All in all, it's about delaying that urge until it passes. Practice one, two, or all of these tips and I promise that you'll slowly begin to notice change. It's happening today all around us.

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