I don’t know about you, but I get stressed quite often. Sometimes, just thinking about stress makes me stressed. I have found myself stressing about the past, present, and future- there really are no limitations to what I stress about. I feel like that is a pretty common occurrence for most people in today’s modern society. The only difference between all of our stresses is how we cope with it. The issue then is when normal stress snowballs into a bigger problem. Unfortunately, it is all too common for excessive stress and difficulty coping to turn an at-risk individual spiraling into a full-blown struggle with an eating disorder.
There are a few different types of stress that we all seem to deal with. There’s the kind of stress we get from work, school, relationships, and all of our daily responsibilities. Then there’s the kind that happens after an unfortunate event, such as with a breakup or being laid off at work. Lastly, there’s the kind of stress that sticks around a little longer, and that can happen after a major accident, potentially fatal situation, or in situations with abuse.
A hormone called cortisol is released into our bloodstream when we are dealing with all different types of stress. Depending on how we mitigate or cope with the stress determines how the cortisol affects us. For instance, let’s say you just found out that you failed a big test (knock on wood!). Immediately, your stress levels increase as you become anxious and upset. That results in a rising heart rate and shortness of breath. Individuals may experience long-term health consequences if stress is left unmanaged, such as increased cardiovascular diseases including high blood pressure, heart attack, or stroke in addition to increased eating disorder behaviors, obesity, and the likelihood of diabetes. If left unmanaged, these symptoms could become detrimental to your health by causing high blood pressure and increasing the likelihood of diabetes. As well, stress can lead to disordered eating behaviors such as food restriction, bingeing, and purging.
With individuals at-risk for eating disorders, stress may come from external and internal factors. External factors that can trigger stress here may include social gatherings or social media. Internal factors could be issues with self-esteem or body image. Regardless of the individual trigger, stress is likely to cause unconscious disordered eating behaviors without the help of coping skills.
Some helpful ways to cope with stress include:
- Meditation– At Eating Disorder Solutions we absolutely love how mindfulness and meditation help to create and foster successful coping skills and internal peace- We even have a weekly Meditation group in our residential treatment program for it! You can learn more about Meditation in our blogs.
- Breathing Exercises– There are many different ways of doing this, but as long as you’re taking slow and deep breaths, you’re doing it right.
- Unplug– This is a great way to decompress after a long day in front of a computer, on the phone, or networking with others. We all know Social Media can be fun, but it is very important to use it wisely like we also discuss in our other blogs.