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taking on and surviving (thriving in!) adjustments

Posted Jun 13 2010 10:59am

Oh, adjustment.... it can really be something, can't it!

But there are some good and effective things we can do to help us do well in times of adjustment (all kinds of adjustments- small, medium and large!). And, the super good news is that a lot of these things are easy to do- in that they don't require a lot of effort or time.

Adjustment is hard because it includes so many of the things people who suffer from eating disorders are especially bothered and unnerved by- variation, unknowns/unfamiliarity, change, worries about chaos and being out of control, huge discomfort with having to be flexible and "roll with" things....

There are two main culprits that get to you guys in adjustment: getting WAY too far ahead of yourselves, and being perfectionistic/rigid.

Here's an example. We'll use one from Jenn's comment (nice to have your comments on the blog Jenn :) although I'm guessing it turned out better in real life for Jenn than it does in my example, which is very cool.

Say Jenn is interested in going to a support group. So far so good, right? But then the nightmarish thoughts start: "Omg, what if no one likes me? what if i can't find it? what if i say something dumb? what if they think i'm fat? what if... In some way it's going to be out of my control and I won't know what to do and it will be a catastrophe."

And then, after a miserable run of these horrible 'what if" scenes come to mind, the next phase sets in- the "how do I protect myself from all these horrible things that will probably/definitely happen" phase. This phase includes thoughts and statements like: "Oh forget it, I'll just not go. I better just stay home. Maybe I should go exercise instead." And then, the inevitable: paralysis.

So, what's the antidote? Couple of things, most of which you guys are used to practicing already: don't get ahead of yourselves. Stay right in front of your feet- make decisions about the very next thing that you need to make a decision about, not the thing that you may or may not need to make a decision about 3 months from now. Focus on what you know, and remind yourself of the things that are, and will remain, stable during the transition you are in. 

For instance, in our support group example, Jenn could remind herself that the group will be, what, about 2 hours long or something; that she can leave at any time, that she can keep her phone with her the whole time and go call a friend if she wants to; that she can Mapquest how to get to the group; that she'll be leaving for the group from home and coming back to home afterwards... there's LOTS that stays the same, even during transitions, and that's such a reassuring thing for us humans! 

The other thing is to focus on the fact that even though there is change, it doesn't mean chaos is imminent. Change doesn't mean a slippery slope of out of control anarchy. Sometimes, although this can be a bit anxiety-provoking, it's useful to ask ourselves, "ok, I'm so afraid of things becoming totally out of control, so let me think about how that could actually occur." Usually, what we're doing to ourselves is a free for all of scary free-association stuff, none or most of which couldn't/wouldn't even ever happen. So, if we make ourselves calm down and think rationally about how could things spiral totally out of control from where I am right this second, we realize that it's not really possible for that to happen.

I'm not saying transitions are always easy to go through. I'm only saying that they aren't generally the monstrous ordeal you guys worry they are :)
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