I don’t think I have ever met anyone who has an eating disorder or disordered eating who doesn’t also struggle with anxiety. The challenge with anxiety is that it is what causes most of our suffering. Anxiety is what drives the obsessive thoughts, it’s what fuels the fears about weight and food, it’s what makes so many “normal” parts of life that much more difficult.
While scrolling through instagram one day I found this rather comical chart about anxiety and what we should do vs what we actually do. In many ways it is pretty accurate; most people that I talk to can find anxiety regulation really difficult in the moment. The challenge with regulation is that it takes a lot of intentional inward work. A client of mine said to me this week “I keep hoping you will tell me something I can do that is outside of myself that will make it all better.” Most days I wish I could do this; I wish there was a pill, a tool, a book, an action, that would make recovery easy. The truth, unfortunately, is those things either don’t exist or aren’t enough to make your recovery happen.
Instead, recovery is, in large part, about learning how to recognize and work with your anxiety. It is about taking your anxiety seriously and also recognizing that regulation takes practice. The more you work to realize that your anxiety is just a physiological reaction to a perceived threat (not necessarily a real threat), and the more you learn to regulate your anxiety, the more success you will have in overcoming your eating disorder and staying rooted in your recovery for years to come.
So give it a try, see if you can follow the list on the left and catch yourself when you’re engaging in the items on the right (or your version of those items). Each step towards genuine regulation gets you closer to your freedom.