Keeping motivated in recovery

They say patience is a virtue and you certainly need it in spades during eating disorder recovery. 

I recently attended a workshop where the facilitator announced that the average recovery time for an individual with an eating disorder is seven years, making them one of the longest lasting mental health conditions. 

It’s common for us to suffer both physical and mental hardship, with the challenging symptoms and effects needing a great deal of time and commitment to improve. 

When someone experiences a restrictive disorder, there’s a high chance they will need to spend months weight restoring before they are healthy enough to engage in a structured recovery programme. Lapses and relapses can also sometimes occur, meaning the sufferer goes through a setback and must spend time rebuilding to get back to where they were before. 

It can be a cyclical process that demands endurance, resilience and bucketsful of love and support from those around us. 

Of course, each set of circumstances is unique and not everybody will spend that amount of time in treatment, but how can we keep positive through the ups and downs? How can we stay on the right track if our brains are screaming at us to revert? What are the most effective ways to remain motivated during recovery?

Remember the reasons you started 

It can be really helpful to make a list of reasons to recover and use it as a reference point when you feel like pulling back.

You can include the negative impact your eating disorder has on your physical health, the space it commandeers in your head and everything that it prevents you from doing. It might also help you to write down what you would like to do once you have progressed on your recovery journey and the things you can enjoy more if you weren’t being restrained by your condition.

Surround yourself with positivity

It can be hard to stay motivated when there are negative people and influences around you. These can be friends and family members, colleagues and online channels.

Whilst it’s very difficult to distance yourself from people, you can choose which profiles to follow on social media and who you engage with digitally more easily and ensure your down-time is not spent being drained by unnecessary comparisons and feelings of inadequacy. If your networks aren’t uplifting and inspiring you, it might time to seek some healthier ones.

Incentivise yourself

It can really help to have an incentive or something to reward your progress with if you start to feel directionless. Whether it’s material like a new item of clothing or gadget, or an experience such as a holiday it can really boost your morale and keep you on the right track. 

You may also benefit from planning to undertake a new qualification or make a lifestyle change like a different career path once your health improves. Whatever feels exciting and motivating, try and factor it into your recovery goals. 

Keep talking 

If you’re finding it all too much or dipping in motivation then it’s key that you confide in someone you trust.

Whether it’s a friend or family member, colleague or medical professional, they can support you to stay on track and remind you of the benefits of recovery. Talking can take the power away from the temptation to revert and this could in turn help to prevent a relapse. 

Self-care 

It’s a massive change that you’re undertaking, trying to improve difficult thoughts and behaviours that have become engrained over the years, so it’s important to look after yourself.

Try to factor 20 minutes into each day to do something for yourself that you will enjoy. It could be a gentle walk outdoors, colouring or crafts, reading, listening to music or a podcast, or taking a warm bath. If it resets your mind and makes you feel calm then that’s going to really help you when it all gets too much. 

Hopefully you can take something away from this blog and use it on your recovery journey.

Remember – resilience is key, setbacks are temporary, and a better life awaits you on the other side.

G x

Happy Volunteers Week!

Without a doubt, First Steps ED has played a huge role in my journey to recovery. 

From attending my first support group five years ago to today, I have so much to thank them for and can’t imagine where my path would have led without their help. 

I’m not quite where I need to be yet, but I’ve come a long way and First Steps has changed my perspective for the better whilst showing immense compassion. 

I owe them such a lot.

It’s this unwavering patience and constant support that inspires me to give something back. It’s hard to thank an organisation that have helped you turn your life around and at times nothing I could think of seemed enough. 

What I do know though, is that First Steps really values their volunteers and the contribution that they make, so giving my time to support such a worthy cause feels like a fitting way to say ‘thank you’. 

It’s not only them that benefits, volunteering has a hugely positive impact on me too in various ways…

It’s so rewarding 

I’ve had several jobs over the years but none have been as fulfilling and rewarding as the voluntary work I’ve done for First Steps. It makes me feel a sense of pride that I’ve spent my time improving peoples’ lives or educating them about eating disorders and the associated mental health difficulties. Not many of my paid roles have offered this same level of satisfaction and left me feeling like I’ve made a difference. 

I’ve made lifelong friends

My voluntary work has brought me into contact with so many fantastic, likeminded people, many of whom I now consider my closest friends. Most of First Steps’ volunteers have lived experience of an eating disorder or caring for somebody with one meaning we share a strong common bond that’s quite unique. I’ve enjoyed countless coffee dates, nights out and even a baby shower and wedding with my fellow volunteers and feel confident that we’ll all be friends for a very long time. 

I can do something I’m passionate about

Volunteering for First Steps has really ignited a passion in me to work in mental health and I doubt I would have realised it without them. When your life is touched by something for such a long time it helps you realise what truly matters to you and for me, it’s improving the lives of fellow sufferers. I love that my work with First Steps allows me to do this and when I can see the impact my efforts are making, it’s incredible. 

It’s a positive distraction

Volunteering to help others is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your own wellbeing. Studies have found that when you stop thinking about your own problems and focus on someone other than yourself, your stress levels start to decrease. I really believe that helping to empower people who may be less fortunate than myself is a great way to calm my busy mind. 

It’s given me great opportunities 

I have no doubt that without First Steps I would never have been offered the amazing opportunities I have. I’ve been entrusted to facilitate my own support groups, input into new services, write blogs and educational materials, be interviewed on the radio and speak to room-fulls of university students, mental health trainees and medical professionals. It’s been remarkable to not only experience these wonderful things but gain confidence and skills from them that will benefit me in both my career and personal life.  

If you’ve been inspired, why not consider volunteering for a charity or community group close to your heart!

G x