There are various experiences and countless therapy sessions I've had that have led me to become increasingly okay with (and even appreciate) being still. Part of my anorexia was overexercising... and it has been a long journey to accept that what I was doing was not healthy. The want to exercise was partly due to body image, but also due to running away from dealing with feelings. Here is a list of some of my thoughts and experiences surrounding the necessity of relaxation.
1. "Something Bigger"
I found something bigger than myself to focus my attention, which has helped me tremendously. The "something bigger" can be family, pets, our jobs, nature, etc. For me, it is God. When I bring myself back to reality, away from my distorted thoughts, I realize that my focus on body image, food, or exercise, is such a small thing compared to the purpose of life and sharing it with others. The values I want to live by: love and generosity, can only be put first when my eating disorder is not.
I was given exercise restriction by my treatment team. This was easier when I was in day treatment, but a lot harder when I had to be accountable and was living on my own. I went through a period of frustration, pouting like a child, acceptance, resistance, and also appreciation. These emotions had their ups and downs and sometimes overlapped. However, in combination with focusing on my spirituality and others, I learned to sit and meditate and not feel anxious or feel the need to think about food every minute. When I complained of not being able to exercise, I then felt guilty because I should be feeling grateful for the body I have and all that I can do.
My most recent vacation to Mexico was very different from other vacations in many ways, but the most eye-opening was that when I was on the plane traveling with my family, I didn't have any anxiety about the amount of exercise I was going to do, the amount I was going to eat, or the limited amount of vegetables accompanying many traditional meals. This feeling continued throughout the vacation. I had a few doubts and hesitations, but ultimately, I felt free. The feeling was so great that I wanted to hold on to this feeling once I got home. I am in the process of working on this - how can I create spontaneity and "free" days with no guilt? I hear all the time that people have "cheat" days, but really, this means we are cheating ourselves from freedom and happiness and spontaneity on every other day. Vacations should not be the exception, this way of life can also be the rule.
4. Being still is healthy
It is mandatory. There are no exceptions. Why do we all lay down to sleep every night? We need sleep to consolidate memories, reenergize the body's cells, clear waste from the brain, and support learning. Resting during the day is also important, to recover from the activity that we engage in: we sit and relax in order to digest our food, have a meal with friends, read a book, listen to teacher, or create (write, paint). I read this quote, I don't remember where:
Q: Doctor, I've heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life. Is this true?
A: Your heart only good for so many beats, and that it... Don't waste on exercise. Everything wear out eventually. Speeding up heart not make you live longer; it like saying you extend life of car by driving faster. Want to live longer? Take nap.
5. Being still versus movement
There is a time for each, and I am starting to realize how much I love calm, body-loving movement, just as much as other activities I love, such as hiking. The appreciation for rest and stillness has also helped me realize that when I am doing activity, this means doing it for enjoyment (stopping when I'm tired, doing it just to be with others, and accepting when things don't work out as planned). I use to hate it, but there is a peacefulness to sitting and just, being. Otherwise, when we are not "being" with our whole bodies, we are just "existing" in our minds.
about the author: Theresa Garcia
My name is Theresa and I am from Walnut Creek, California.
just graduated and earned my Masters in Counseling with concentrations in Marriage and Family Therapy and Clinical Child/School Psychology. In the fall, I will continue to work in a school district and provide mental health support for students K-12. I also assess students for disabilities and collaborate with other professionals.
At Project HEAL, I am a former grant recipient, and am determined to give back by sharing the lessons I've learned from living with an eating disorder.
I am passionate about nature, therapy, and art. I can often be found hiking with my dog, painting, or working! (since my work right now is my passion).