Embracing Summer in Recovery
The summer months are in full force! For many this may mean longer days soaking up the sun, heading to the beach or enjoying a backyard Bar-B-Q. For most individuals this sounds like a lot of fun, but to others, this time of year can bring on its own set of challenges.
For those struggling with an eating disorder, this time of year can feel very stressful for many reasons.
Whether it’s the increased potential for social outings, the fact that the warmer weather can lead to body image issues related to different kinds of clothing, or the change in schedule and structure that this time of year tends to bring.
The summer months need to be approached with self-compassion and self-care so that it can be an enjoyable time, even for someone who might be struggling.
While it can be hard to avoid these stressors that accompany this time of year, there are plenty of ways to still enjoy the summertime and embrace it fully, no matter where you are in your recovery process.
Below are some tips and ideas on how to approach these summer months in a healthy and positive way.
1. Instead of rushing to figure out all of your summer plans and have every minute sketched out, take some time to just breathe and relax. The change of a season can be a much needed reminder to slow down and do some reflecting.
Identify some areas of your life that you may have been ignoring or putting off to the side, and tend to them in a nurturing way.
Even just taking an hour each day to find some “you” time, to reenergize your spirit is a great way to kick off a new time of year.
Use that space to identify some of the goals you may have for these upcoming months, and begin to slowly brainstorm ways to achieve that. Instead of rushing into making all of your plans ahead of time, really get in tune with what you want your summer to look and feel like—it will make the time so much more rewarding.
2. Try to limit (or even eliminate altogether if you can do it!) the time you spend on social media.
More and more, the images we’re exposed to on both social media and other media outlets, can be so damaging to our self-image, and this becomes even truer in the summer months.
Not only does swimsuit season bring on a plethora of photo shopped pictures, but there is also an increase in people posting their summer outings, which can cause someone who is struggling to socialize to compare themselves in a negative light. It seems that no matter what we’re exposed to on these various media outlets, there is room for negative comparison, which someone who is already struggling with self-image and self-esteem, can be incredibly damaging.
Although it might be tough to avoid entirely, by just setting a small goal to decrease the time you spend each day, can really go a long way. I always encourage people to also remember to view all social media with some skepticism and do some reality checking. More often than not, what is posted on these outlets is so far from what is real, and it can be extremely beneficial to remember that.
3. Ditch any goals right off the bat that have to do with changing your physical appearance for this time of year.
Despite being bombarded by magazines and articles about needing to get that “summer body”; it’s ridiculous and can take away from what summer is really all about. It’s understandable that body image concerns might be slightly elevated around this time of year, but in no way should that lead to any justification to lose weight when you are working towards recovery.
It can easily become a slippery slope, and it’s important to maintain your focus on establishing more confidence in your inner-self, rather than what is on the outside. If need be, utilize your treatment team or other supports for accountability with this, and some added encouragement when necessary.
4. Explore new adventures and activities that involve the outdoors.
It can be difficult during the cooler months to feel trapped inside with little to do, which is why it’s even more important to make it a goal to get outside as much as possible during the summer! Go for peaceful nature walks, find a new park in your area, visit the beach or the lake and enjoy the scenery with a nice book—whatever it may be, get yourself some sunshine and fresh air before the summer ends.
5. Surround yourself with your loved ones!
This can be true for any time of year, but the summertime can be a great time to reconnect with those in your life, whether there are people with whom you may have lost touch with recently or those relationships in your day-to-day life that you can be strengthen. During the summer, schedules tend to be freer which can help initiating these types of plans.
6. HAVE FUN!
Summer is meant to be enjoyed, and so often the eating disorder and all of its monsters take that away from us. Make this summer yours, and take back control. Enjoy every minute you are able to – that’s what summer is all about!
About the Author: Hannah Beaver
Hannah Beaver, LCSW, is the Alumni Coordinator for The Renfrew Centers. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from University of Pittsburgh, and her Master’s degree in Clinical Social Work from Bryn Mawr College. Ms. Beaver is committed to keeping Renfrew’s alumni network strong and connected by facilitating workshops for former patients and their families.