This is Why Changing Your Routines Will Support Your Recovery

If I’ve learned anything over the past few years, it’s that I am painfully good at falling into ruts. I will wear the same shirts, drive the same way to work, go to the same restaurants, watch the same shows, and make the same weekend plans. While these patterns may feel good at first, eventually they become rituals, and the idea of changing or modifying the way I do things can seem risky, or downright scary.

You might be familiar with this way of thinking: “I take this street to work because if I don’t, I could be late/hit a pothole/get in an accident.” Or “I might not be able to do laundry this week so I shouldn’t wear my new button-down blouse yet.” Or “I don’t want my friends to be disappointed so I’ll suggest the same Thai restaurant for Friday night.”

All these scenarios share a common theme: The “What if?” and the answer to “What if” is, more often than not, an undesirable outcome. By pushing ourselves through these what-if-riddled ruts – that is, changing things up even when we might not want to – we are cultivating our own happiness and fulfillment. Not only that, we are moving forward in recovery.

You might be wondering: Will changing things up help my recovery if the things I change have nothing to do with food or exercise? Yes! In fact, I consider the self-imposed variety that I’m talking about as separate from food and exercise-related recovery work. Both are important, and both have their place in recovery.

  1. Changing your routines injects some fun into your life. If it’s not fun at first, for whatever reason (guilt, for one), it can still be freeing. By just doing something differently, you see that the world as you know it doesn’t end. With time, the routines you thought were holding you together seem less critical, and the new things you’re trying seem more enjoyable.
  2. Switching up the way you do things, or what you wear, or how you interact with another person, helps you build confidence in yourself. That confidence can help you in the short term, as you plow through a work assignment, for instance, and it can also show you how much you are capable of in recovery. I often think of recovery as a long (non-linear) road of small victories, rather than one Eureka! moment.

    Each time you smash a ritual, you chip away at the obsessive, punishing voice of your eating disorder.

    At the same time, you build up your healthy self, your true self, and the voice that keeps you working at recovery.

  3. Confronting non-food and non-exercise rituals can also help you confront food and exercise rituals. As you build up your confidence and the strength of your healthy voice through non-food-and-exercise-ritual-busting, you may feel more capable of confronting feared foods or compulsive exercise. You may see that as your world gets bigger–as you drive another route to work, wear different clothes or suggest a new vacation destination–you are more willing, even eager, to fight against the food-and-exercise rules your eating disorder has laid out for you.
  4. Rebelling against your rituals is similar to changing your environment in that it affirms that the world is bigger than the world your eating disorder has “allowed” you to have. You see that by taking an impromptu weekend trip with a friend, or even by showering early in the morning rather than late at night, you have options. So often the voice of ED tells us things must be done a certain way. By shaking things up, even in small ways, you reject the idea that there is any one way to do things. It may not feel great in the moment, but each time you step outside of that rutted-in comfort zone, you allow so much more excitement and happiness to fill your life.

By confronting your routines, you are asserting your right to direct your own life. When you make a conscious choice to do things differently, despite what the more rigid parts of you say you must do, you are taking the reins of your eating disorder. You are taking back your life, demanding the life you deserve, one button-down blouse at a time.

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  1. says: Plaatjies

    People with low self esteem do not necessarily struggle with eating disorders.I have been struggling with low self-esteem, as a result of an abusive mother-in-law and husband, and has no eating disorders. Had many dark-dark moments in my life.

    Your website has helped me in other ways, though. I will incorporate some of your suggestions and see how it goes.

    Thank you.

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