Returning to school can be a trying time for someone who struggles with an eating disorder. Academic pressure, social anxiety, a new environment and lunchtime can all be triggers to eating disorder behavior. Here are a few tips I've compiled to help ease the transition of going back to school.
- Use your supports. Eating disorders thrive in isolation. If you keep your thoughts to yourself and don't reach out to those who care about you, your symptoms can end up getting worse. Let friends and family know that the start of a new school year can cause some anxiety and you'll need extra support as you adjust.
- Meet your school counselor. Even if you're reluctant to meet with a counselor on a regular basis, it's a good idea to learn about who they are and schedule a meeting in the beginning of the year. This way, you'll be a little familiar with their office location and get a sense of who they are, as well as the kinds of counseling services that are offered at school.
- Have a plan for lunch. Mealtime is particularly difficult for someone struggling with negative body image. Without a plan for lunch, eating disorder thoughts can be especially loud. Eating lunch with friends can be helpful because you can focus on something other than the food. Conversations, laughter and anything that can take the focus off food is the best thing you can do for yourself while having a meal at school.
- Distractions. The start of a new school year can be very overwhelming for many students. Find healthy ways to distract yourself from your stress. Join a club, write in a journal, listen to music before and after school, meet up with friends, get involved in projects. Work on taking focus off of food and your negative body image, and get involved with activities that help get you out of your head.
Mel Strunk is a licensed clinical social worker who treats clients ages 14 and above in Rehoboth Beach. She specializes in eating disorders, anxiety, depression, self-esteem issues and life transitions. For more information, call 610-772-0365 or go to www.melstrunktherapy.com.