Self-care and stress management

Self-care and stress management, by Meagan Mullen, MA, MHC

Managing stress is always difficult, but when you’re struggling with an eating disorder or a related mental illness, it can feel even more overwhelming.

When it comes to mental health, we talk a lot about self-care, and we could probably all list off a few ideas that get thrown around when it comes tor relaxing or de-stressing. But what about when you don’t have the time (or money!) to have a spa day, go out with friends, or even take a bubble bath?

Self-care can be really small—it doesn’t have to be these big, lavish things we read about online or hear advertised on TV. Sometimes, self-care is as simple as brushing your hair, making your bed, or getting outside for some fresh air.

Here are some (small) ways that you can manage stress, relax, or engage in self-care even when the going gets tough!

  1. Fresh air and sunshine. It might not be your favorite thing ever, but sometimes opening a window or going for a quick walk can help shake things up.
  2. Taking a shower. Forget the bubbles, bath salts, beautiful aromas and all that. Taking care of our physical hygiene can often help us feel better mentally, too!
  3. Listen to hunger and fullness cues. This one might not be as easy, especially if you struggle with an eating disorder, but making sure we are fueling ourselves adequately and doing our best to avoid eating disorder behaviors can free up mind space and leave us feeling more energized!
  4. Changing your clothes. If you’ve been wearing the same sweatpants for the last few days (we have ALL been there), it can be nice to put on a fresh outfit. This can leave us feeling
  5. Having a routine. Maybe you’re not a big fan of schedules, but sometimes outlining our days can help us feel a bit more organized.
  6. Take things one day (or hour, minute, second) at a time! It can be easy to fall down the rabbit hole of thinking about all the things we have to do. When your brain starts to get wonky and remind you about ALL OF THAT STUFF, take a deep breath and remember you can’t do a million things at once.
  7. Make a list (if that’s your style)! Sometimes, when our brains try to remind us about the things we still haven’t done, it can be helpful to pick one or two things to manage today. But remember, go at your own pace and don’t be too hard on yourself.
  8. Don’t spend too much time on technology. Maybe this means you should stop scrolling on Instagram and comparing yourself to others. Maybe it means turning off the news and playing a board game. Whatever type of tech is dragging you down, get a minute away from it!
  9. Move your body. This can be another tricky one if you’re someone who has struggled with your relationship with exercise, or if movement can trigger body thoughts. Maybe try going for a gentle walk or even just some simple stretching. Be sure to talk this out with your team if necessary!
  10. Do something creative! This is the part of us that often gets turned off as we grow up. As children, we love to play, be silly, and create art or games or stories. It can be so refreshing to try your hand at a new art form you’ve always been curious about or take some time to get back into something you used to love! You don’t have to be an artist to create!

Again, managing our stress and engaging in self-care can be tough. These suggestions are just a few to get you started and to remind you that self-care doesn’t always have to be so glamorous. You deserve to take moments for yourself throughout the day, even if they’re quick!