When we are in the process of working through our eating disorder recovery, our anxiety is going to be incredibly high with life feeling as though it’s dishing out threats at every chance. Recovery is hard, Eating Disorders are hard. Our anxiety system evolved because it helped our species survive from both real and perceived threats. In the past, this used to predominantly be due to threats in our physical environment. As we have evolved, we now experience more threats in our emotional environment on a regular basis than our physical environment.
While anxiety is actually a really important system in our body, it is a system that has become over activated and therefore engages in ways that aren’t helpful or beneficial to our wellbeing. For example, many people going through recovery know that the food in front of them isn’t actually going to poison them, and yet the idea of consuming it feels truly terrifying. The challenge with this is that we lose focus on what we are actually dealing with and instead focus on all the possibilities we fear could happen in the future as a result of a present experience. In other words, instead of focusing on what is, we focus on what if.
Can you see how detrimental this can be to your wellbeing? We have no idea how the future is going to unfold, and can’t control things that have not yet happened, and yet we exert every effort to try to prevent ourselves from feeling pain in the future that we end up suffering with painstaking anxiety in the present. It is almost as though there is an unconscious belief that by suffering now you will be less likely to suffer then.
When your mind starts to gallop to what if, I would encourage you to try to slow it down and ask yourself what is in that moment. We can only work with what we have. We can only affect change in the moment we are in. Dwelling on what we can’t control doesn’t change that we can’t control it. It is completely okay for that to be scary and overwhelming at times but it still doesn’t change the reality. While our present decisions direct our path going forward, being anxious about our future prevents us from taking the steps we want to take now to get to where we want to be. We get lost in anxiety, instead of in action.
So give it a try this week. When your mind starts galloping into all the potential future threats, come back to this moment and what is. Remind yourself that, even though the present moment may be hard, you can get through it and be okay in the moment. Recovery is made up of a million different moments where you chose to fight for recovery and yourself.